GHRC Kicks Off November Speaking Tour with Lorena Cabnal

This week, GHRC kicked off our November Speaking Tour with Lorena Cabnal — an indigenous Xinka woman and community feminist — in Houston, Texas. After earning her degree in Community Social Psychology, Lorena co-founded the Association of Indigenous Women of Santa María Xalapán (AMISMAXAJ) in 2003.

GHRC-speaking-tour

Lorena Cabnal and GHRC Executive Director Kelsey Alford-Jones with Father Gerry, of Maryknoll house, and members of the RPDG and ADOGUAH — co-sponsors of a great event on Monday evening!

At out first event, Lorena discussed the status of Xinka women in Guatemala, as well as her experiences as a community activist. She described seeing a great amount of violence against women, young girls getting pregnant at the ages of 12 or 13, and women with up to 15 children. There were also issues with human trafficking, with young girls being sold into prostitution or into illegal international adoptions.

As Lorena and other members of AMISMAXAJ began to denounce these attacks against women, they also organized against oil extraction on their ancestral lands. The group discovered that there were 31 licenses for exploration for extraction projects in the Jalapa region, and warned the indigenous government that oil and mining projects “will become a serious problem.”

Lorena also explained what she called a “statistical ethnocide” against the Xinka people — the fact that the Xinka were not recognized as an ethnic group until the peace accords were signed in 1996, and that the Guatemalan government estimate of the Xinka population was much lower than a self-organized census found. Continue reading

Ante el estado de sitio en Santa Rosa y Jalapa, Guatemala

La Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala expresa su profunda preocupación frente a la imposición de un estado de sitio en dos municipios del departamento de Jalapa y dos de Santa Rosa, que viene como parte de un patrón de ataques contra las comunidades, sus líderes y otros defensores de derechos humanos.

La Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos (UDEFEGUA), ha registrado 328 agresiones en contra de defensores en lo que va del año 2013. Los que se oponen a proyectos mineros han sido víctimas de una gran parte de estas agresiones. Trágicamente, estos hechos rara vez resultan en investigaciones adecuadas y en la sanción de los responsables, contribuyendo a un ambiente peligroso de impunidad.

Ahora, a un año de haber decretado estado de sitio en el municipio de Barillas Huehuetenango, el día 2 de mayo el gobierno de Otto Pérez Molina, decretó estado de sitio en los municipios de Jalapa y Mataquescuintla del Departamento de Jalapa y los municipios de Casillas y San Rafael las Flores del Departamento de Santa Rosa.

El informe de verificación realizado por Waqib Kej, ha registrado abusos de autoridad, intimidación hacia la población, el uso desmesurado de la fuerza, irrespeto a la población, especialmente hacia las mujeres al momento de realizar los allanamientos a sus casas, robos de bienes y dinero durante los registros de los hogares, incluso se habla de la muerte de un menor de edad, como consecuencia de que su madre, al iniciar labor de parto no pudo salir para ser atendida.

Nos preocupa considerablemente la reiteración del uso de la figura del estado de sitio, sobre todo cuando se aprovecha para perseguir y detener a líderes comunitarios, defensores de derechos humanos de sus comunidades. Las comunidades han sido enfáticas a través de consultas comunitarias de buena fe, que el gobierno no ha querido reconocer y que peor aún obvia y concede licencias a proyectos mineros.

Otro elemento que preocupa son las declaraciones dadas por el Ministro de Gobernación Mauricio López Bonilla y el Presidente de la República a medios de comunicación que pretenden confundir y señalan que el estado de sitio se estableció porque en los lugares se realizan actividades de narcotráfico, sicariato, crimen organizado. Señalan que nada tiene que ver el desacuerdo de la población a la minería, pero ya se han realizado varios allanamientos a las viviendas de lideres. A la vez, han hecho señalamientos directos hacia el Parlamento Xinca y hay órdenes de captura para algunos de sus miembros.

López Bonilla afirmó que las personas capturadas hasta el momento no forman parte de estructuras del narcotráfico, pero sí de bandas dedicadas al sicariato, extorsión y otros delitos. Hay más de 40 órdenes de captura vigentes y hasta el momento se han realizado 18 detenciones.

En Santa Rosa y Jalapa, la gran mayoría de los pobladores afectados por el estado de sitio ejercían su derecho de defender su medio ambiente, en el caso de San Rafael las Flores la población realizaba una manifestación pacífica cerca de las instalaciones del proyecto El Escobal, de la Minera San Rafael, S.A., subsidiaria de la empresa canadiense Tahoe Resources.

Manifestamos nuestra preocupación sobre el uso de la militarización y la suspensión de los derechos constitucionales y exhortamos a las autoridades guatemaltecas para que actúen con respeto a los derechos humanos de la población.

Weekly News Round-Up, March 18-25

Day 1 of Genocide Trial
On March 19, 2013, the historic trial opened against Rios Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez. After almost two hours of delays by the Defense, the trial began. The public prosecutor stated that the objective of military operational plans under Ríos Montt was the destruction of the Mayan Ixil population as part of a counter-insurgency campaign that characterized civilians of this ethnic and linguistic minority as an “internal enemy”. Attorney Edgar Pérez rejected assertions that the act of seeking justice is itself an act of terrorism or an effort to destabilize Guatemalan society. Political pressure on the actors involved has been intense, and just before the trial begain, President Otto Perez Molina’s denied that genocide took place. Perez told reporters: “It is important to state it because I lived it: there was no genocide in Guatemala.” Marcie Mersky, Program Director at the International Center for Transitional Justice, says such comments may influence legal proceedings and are inappropriate.

Lolita Chávez participates in month-long speaking tour in Canada and US
In events in Montreal, Ottowa, Vancouver, BC and Washington, DC, Lolita Chavez spoke about the work of the K’iche’ People’s Council and community resistance to harmful transnational development projects. In an interview with Montreal Gazette, Lolita stated that: “Canadian companies are the main protagonists in this invasion that brings only death and destruction.” A short video interview is available here.

Continue reading

GHRC Condemns Attack against Xinca Leaders in Santa Maria Xalapán

Español abajo

The Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC) condemns the killing of Exaltación Marcos, who along with Roberto González, Rigoberto Aguilar and Roberto López, was kidnapped yesterday evening, March 17, by a group of heavily armed men.

The four leaders were abducted while returning home from a good-faith consultation in the El Volcancito community, San Rafael Las Flores, Guatemala.

Hours after the abduction, Rigoberto Aguilar and Roberto López managed to escape and reach their community.  They had both been badly beaten. Today, Exaltación Marcos was found dead, with his body displaying signs of physical violence. The Santa María Xalapán community now fears for the life of Roberto González, President of the Xinca Parliament, who is still missing.

Continue reading

Weekly News Round Up

Updates on the Genocide Trial:
The trial of Efraín Ríos Mont and José Rodríguez Sánchez for genocide and crimes against humanity on August 14th of this year. Rodríguez Sánchez’s defense filed an injunction against the decision by Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez to send the former military leader to trial. According to Rodríguez Sánchez’s lawyer, Gálvez did not explain the reasons for open debate against his client. Ríos Montt’s defense has now filed a similar legal action in which he claims that the crime he is being charged with does not exist in the legal code. Ríos Montt has also objected to the fact that Judge Patricia Flores is presiding over his appeal to the Court of Constitutionality. His lawyers claim that Flores is unfit to hear his case because she was recused from the proceedings against Héctor Mario López Fuentes, also accused of genocide.

International Crisis Group warns against use of military in maintaining public order
In a recent report featuring the October incident in Totonicapán, the ICG warned about the dangers of using the military to maintain public order in the country, especially where marches and social protests are concerned. Mary Speck, an analyst from ICG, observed that tensions are higher in indigenous areas where issues of mining, access to land, electricity and education have been prominent. She pointed out that these conditions have made the creation of trained civil security forces all the more urgent. The civil security forces should be used to confront protests without the use of violence.

Xincas oppose mining activity
Xinca communities and organizations demanded an end to the licensing of mining projects  in their territory in Santa Rosa, Jutiapa because of environmental damage. Juan Pablo López, director of the Coordinating Council of the Xinka People asked that the Environmenal Ministry consult with the indigenous communities before releasing a decision on environmental impact studies. López says that the San Rafael Las Flores mining company contaminates more than 6 million liters of water in the area daily. Continue reading