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Anti-Militarism: News & Updates

News Article

Worldwide Guatemala is known to be one of the most corrupt nations in existence. This corruption is deeply rooted in the entrenched economic and political power structure controlled by a ruling elite. Over the years, many ambitious state prosecutors and judges have tried to challenge this web of corruption; most have failed.

In Guatemala opposition to the internal power system is often met with heavy state repression. Human rights defenders, journalists and justice officials are victims of false alligations and persecutions, as the ruling class weaponizes the Guatemalan justice system against them. So far 35 justice officials have gone into exile, in fear to be criminalized for their anti-corruption work, and many more are imprisoned. 

One victim of the systematic misuse of justice against opposition is the former the public prosecutor Virginia Laparra. Before her detention, Laparra was known as her work as the chief prosecutor in the 'Special Prosecutor's Office Against Impunity' of Guatemala (FECI). In early 2022, Guatemalan security forces detained Laparra, charging her with "abuse of authority and violation of the duty of loyalty" after filing complaints against Judge Lesther Castellanos alleging acts of corruption within the judiciary. Initially Laparra was detained together with four other female prosecutors and anti-corruption lawyers. Now, on May 9, Laparra's sentence of four years in prison was reaffirmed after being convicted in an irregular trail. To ensure that Laparra stays in prison, she is under investigation a second time, a case that is being kept confidential by order of the court. This second investigation shows once more how the politically controlled justice system keeps Guatemala chained in corruption. Laparra's lawyer Claudia Gonzáles has criticized her detention in the military prison Matamoras. According to human rights groups and Gonzáles, Laparra needed a surgery while in prison. Leading up to this she was denied the freedom to choose a doctor and necessary medication. This act was later documented by international human rights organizations known for investigating corruption and human rights abuses.

Claudia Gonzáles is a well known anti-corruption fighter. Before her days as a lawyer, Gonzáles worked as a prosecutor at the UN backed 'International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala' (CICIG). Today Gonzáles works as a lawyer representing nine fellow lawyers criminalized for their anti-corruption work and challenging the power structure in the country.

In order to stop this corruption and illegal prosecutions, the international community must put pressure on the Guatemalan ruling class as well as the justice system.

IRTF stands in solidarity with Virginia Laparra and all other criminalized anti-corruption fighters in Guatemala.                  

News Article

El Salvador's human rights violations may have consequences after all. The human rights organization Humanitarian Legal Aid (SJH) is preparing to sue the Salvadoran state on behalf of families whose relatives have been unlawfully arrested and have died in custody or after release. In its lawsuit, the SJH demands that the government of President Bukele take responsibility for all deaths in prison and after release, requests moral and material reparations for families affected, and demands "to clear the name of the innocent people."   

In an effort to collect info for the lawsuit, SJH has published a social media form in which victims and their relatives can confidentially share their experiences and data to support the case. According to SJH, the lawsuit will first be filed with the Salvadoran Attorney General's Office and its Human Rights Ombudsman's Office (PDDH). SJH further said that if the Salvadoran institutions do not respond, the lawsuit will be brought in front of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), based in Washington, DC.     

El Salvador has been in a 'state of exception', which takes away constitutional rights and allows police to arrest anyone on site, for over a year now. This crack down policy is part of Bukele's violent war on gangs which has seen at least 65,000 detentions and hundreds of death's. SJH director Ingrid Escobar has criticized the law and anti-gang efforts, stating that "According to criminologists, investigators and  lawyers, only 8 percent of the people who died belonged to gangs. The rest were innocent citizens who were stigmatized as terrorists.”

We are hopeful that this lawsuit may bring a glimpse of justice to those who have lost their innocent family members to the violent anti-gang war, though we know that no reparations will bring back loved ones. 

News Article

A devastating event took place in Brownsville, Texas, on Sunday morning. Around 8:30 am, a truck ran into a crowd of immigrants sitting on a curbside waiting on a bus, killing eight and wounding 10. It is unclear if the crash, which occurred in front of Brownsville's only overnight immigrant shelter, was intentional or not. According to police reports the SUV ran a red light before hitting the group of mainly Venezuelan immigrants. According to witnesses who survived the incidence, the driver, George Alvarez, had shouted anti-immigrant phrases at them.

After the event Alvarez tried to flee the scene but was held up by some of the witnesses until the police arrived. Alvarez was brought to a hospital before being transported to a jail for questioning. He was later charged withy reckless driving, as well as manslaughter in eight cases. The judge set out a bond of $3.6 million

The event took place just four days before the anti-immigrant policy "Title 42" is set to run out. Only a few days prior, Homeland Security stated that authorities face "extremely challenging" circumstances. It is a fact, that the flow of migrants is causing immense challenges due to a fatal lack of support infrastructure. In Brownsville, the Ozanam Shelter has to manage the release of thousands of immigrants, providing shelter and transportation. In the last few months, the center had to handle 250-380 immigrants seeking shelter every day--an impossible task for a facility with a capacity of 250 individuals. 

Though it is unclear if the incident at the shelter was intentional, it happened at a time in which right-wing politicians and anti-immigrant groups stir up fear of immigration and try to play out working class US citizens against people fleeing violence, hunger and discrimination. This rhetoric of division and fear mongering, paired with the refusal to support immigrants, is an explosive mix leading to violent attacks and discrimination in the US population.      

News Article

On April 6, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), together with H0meland Security, arrested Roberto Antonio Garay Saravia. The former military commander is under investigation by Homeland Security for his participation in the Salvadoran El Mozote massacre in 1981, which saw the murder of at least a 1,000 people, including women and children. From 1981 to 1985 Garay Saravia was a section commander of a specialized counterinsurgency unit known as the Atlácatl Battalion. During his time as commander, Garay Saravia's unit committed numerous atrocities and was deployed in three further missions in which hundreds of civilians were killed. His arrest is surprising since the forces responsible for the massacre were trained by the US, and in most cases the perpetrators of these inhumane crimes are never persecuted.

After investigations by Homeland Security, Garay Saravia was charged with assisting or otherwise participating in extrajudicial killings and willfully misrepresenting this material fact in his immigration application. In a press release, DHS Deputy Secretary John K. Tien stated that “Individuals who have committed atrocities overseas will not find safe haven in the United States.”

Although we are deeply opposed to ICE, we welcome the fact that one of El Salvador's worst war criminals may finally be brought to justice. 

News Article

On behaf of IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in southern Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice.

IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

News Article

For decades, one of the most horrific crimes against humanity ever committed in Central America has gone without consequences. During the Guatemalan civil war, which raged from 1960 until 1996, violent death squads brought terror over the country. Between 1983 and 1985 these feared paramilitaries kidnapped and tortured at least 195 political enemies, before eventually killing most of them. Years went by without any notable investigation efforts to bring those guilty to justice. This was not unexpected, as corruption and injustice runs deep within the country, and many of the perpetrators had influential positions within the government or affiliated organization. 

With this history it was even more surprising when Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez started investigating the case. In 2016, the so called Death Squad Dossier took off, when Gálvez ordered the seizing of critical military documents for the case. The resulting process finally started in 2021 with the arrest of 11 suspects, followed by a second sweep shortly after, in which four more individuals were detained. One year later in May 2022, the first evidence hearing started after which nine of the accused perpetrators were ordered to trial. During the hearings more and more devastating stories came to daylight, including rape, murder and forced displacement. In the period of the Death Squad activity, at least 131 people were forcedly displaced, six of which were later found in military bases.

At first it seemed like this process might finally bring clarity about what happened to the victims and their families, and would bring the criminals to justices, but as Judge Gálvez later had to realize it was all down hill from there on. 

Until today, many of the perpetrators still have important political connections and positions and even work with criminal organizations like "La Cofradia" (The Brotherhood) and are even on the run. These connections often lead to efforts to keep these criminals out of condemnation.

Following the arrest of Toribio Acevedo Ramírez in Panama in 2022, a massive campaign against Gálvez was started to prevent the hearing. Trying to avert a prosecution, the Foundation Against Terror (FCT), a pro-military organization, sought to criminalize Gálvez by bringing charges against him to lift his immunity. Additionally the FCT started a social media campaign to denounce Gálvez and the lawsuit.

After months of immense pressure, Gálvez unexpectedly resigned on November 15, 2022, after 25 years as a judge. In an attempt to escape the threats and allegations, Judge Gálvez left the country and now lives in exile in Europe. 

The resignation of Judge Gálvez opened the door for collaborating judges to dismantle the case; a process started promptly. The new judge assigned to the case started lifting custody orders for five of the defendants due to "health" issues. This de facto release is more than just a punch in the face of all victims, it also undermines the Guatemalan constituti0n under which defendants charged with murder must stay in detention until trial. 

Get deeper insight into the accused perpetrators, their connections to political and criminal organizations, and the general case in the article below.