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The ongoing genocide trial against former Guatemalan military general Manuel Benedicto Lucas García, which started on March 25, 2024, in Guatemala City, continues to uncover the military's atrocities during the early 1980s genocide of the Maya Ixil people. Lucas García is being tried for his role in the forced disappearances and massacres in Santa María Nebaj, San Juan Cotzal, and San Gaspar Chajul, with over 844 victims identified.

In April and May, more than 50 survivors and 25 national experts provided evidence through testimonies and research. From June 4 to 13, 2024, around 10 international experts will testify on topics including the credibility of testimonial evidence, anti-subversive warfare doctrine, military intelligence, declassified U.S. documents, environmental damage, and gender and sexual violence impacts.

These testimonies aim to shed light on the atrocities and the role of the Guatemalan armed forces and U.S. complicity. The Maya Ixil people seek justice and acknowledgment of the genocide from the Guatemalan government. The trial is being followed and supported by organizations such as AJR and NISGUA, with coverage available via social media and specific websites.

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On June 1, Nayib Bukele began his second presidential term in El Salvador, despite the constitutional ban on consecutive re-election, and has reformed the electoral system to consolidate his power. While Bukele's populist security policies against gangs are popular, his administration has undermined democratic institutions and human rights. For his second term, Bukele aims to improve the economy and shift from gang wars to fighting corruption.

Corruption remains a significant concern, with El Salvador's ranking on Transparency International’s index falling and a high public perception of corruption, particularly in municipalities and the Legislative Assembly. Bukele's anti-corruption efforts are seen as populist, with doubts about their impartiality due to the close connection between the attorney general and Bukele.

The right to access public information is restricted, impacting transparency. National organizations report that a majority of requests for information on public fund management are denied, and public procurement lacks transparency.

Recommendations for the international community include:

  1. Monitoring the election of the Attorney General and Supreme Court justices to ensure judicial independence.
  2. Promoting greater control by development banks and financial institutions over the use of public funds.
  3. Considering more individual financial sanctions against those linked to corruption.
  4. Urging the prosecutor’s office to pursue investigations initially handled by the expelled International Commission against Impunity in El Salvador (CICIES).
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For years, Garífuna community members and leaders have been threatened, arrested, abducted and murdered. Most notably, in July 2020, four Garífuna men were abducted at gunpoint by men wearing uniforms bearing the logo of a Honduran security forces unit. Instead of calling for an investigation into those responsible, the Honduran Attorney General has called for criminal proceedings against leaders of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH).

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have determined that the Garífuna community’s rights have repeatedly been violated by the Honduran government, yet little has changed regarding their treatment. This resolution condemns the violence toward the Garífuna people while calling for accountability from the Honduran government and other international institutions for their role in these abuses.

In the US House of Represenatives on June 5, Representatives Cori Bush (MO-01), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Jesus “Chuy” García (IL-04), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), and Jamaal Bowman Ed.D. (NY-16) reintroduced a resolution that affirms the rights of the Afro-Indigenous Garífuna people in Honduras. IRTF calls on all US representatives from Ohio to support this resolution. 

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Cultural and territorial rights of the Afro-descendant Indigenous Garífuna people along the Atlantic coast of Honduras are under attack.

Starting in 2003, OFRANEH (Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras) began filing several cases with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (based in Washington, DC) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (based in San Jose, Costa Rica) for their government’s violation of its cultural and territorial rights.  When OFRANEH got their first favorable ruling in 2015, they weren’t exactly hopeful that the administration of the narco-dictator President Juan Orlando Hernández would do anything. But after President Castro, of the left-leaning LIBRE party, took office in January 2022, they did expect advancement of their cause.

A big stumbling block is that the communities that won their cases in the Inter-American Court (2015: Triunfo de la Cruz and Punta Piedra; 2023: San Juan) are fighting private corporations and foreign investors who have a lot at stake. Some have already illegally usurped lands and built tourist resorts. It will be tricky to figure out how to return ancestral lands to the Garífuna people and compensate the companies and investors for their losses. Also at stake is the very security of Garífuna communities. Since Garífuna leaders have become more vocal after the 2015 ruling, the persecution against them has increased—surveillance, intimidation, violence, criminalization.

During the first week of June 2024, a delegation of Garífuna leaders with OFRANEH are visiting US legislators on Capitol Hill to gain support for a US House resolution to affirm the rights of the Garífuna people.

You can read the press release from Rep. Cori Bush who introduced the resolution here.

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President Biden issued an executive order on June 4, 2024, to restrict asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border during surges in crossings, reflecting a major shift in immigration policy. This move is Biden's most restrictive border policy to date and echoes a 2018 effort by Trump that was blocked by the courts. Biden's order was prompted by congressional Republicans blocking bipartisan legislation on border security.

The policy kicks in when daily illegal crossings average 2,500 and suspends the right to seek asylum on U.S. soil, with exceptions for unaccompanied minors, human trafficking victims, and those using a specific app for asylum requests. The American Civil Liberties Union plans to challenge the order in court, arguing it is illegal, as it was under Trump.

This shift underscores the political pressures Biden faces regarding immigration, particularly as he prepares for the upcoming presidential election. The executive order aims to reduce illegal crossings and backlog in the asylum system but has drawn criticism from immigration advocates and some Democrats for undermining asylum protections.

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On June 1, Salvadorans in six countries and five U.S. cities protested the inauguration of Nayib Bukele for a second term, declaring his presidency unconstitutional and illegitimate due to the Salvadoran constitution's prohibition of consecutive terms. Bukele's February 4 win, claimed as historic, only garnered 43% of eligible voters.

Protesters, alongside faith and solidarity organizations, condemned Bukele's State of Exception, citing abuses like 80,000 warrantless arrests and over 300 deaths in state custody. On May 30 and 31, leaders of the National Alliance for a Peaceful El Salvador were arrested preemptively.

Speakers at the Washington, DC rally highlighted the repression reminiscent of the civil war era, with Consuelo Gomez and Ana Sol Gutierrez urging international rejection of Bukele's government. They criticized his policies for increasing poverty and displacement, with recent data showing over 67% of working Salvadorans earn less than $400 monthly. COPPPAL called for a suspension of military and financial support to Bukele’s regime.