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Environmental Human Rights: News & Updates

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In Guatemala, ongoing protests demanding an orderly transition for President-elect Bernardo Arevalo took a violent turn. One person died and four were injured in clashes on Monday. Arevalo, a reform-oriented leader, won a significant victory in August. However, the independent attorney general's intensified investigations into the election and Arevalo's party raised concerns. Protesters, numbering in the tens of thousands, demanded the resignation of Attorney General Consuelo Porras and other judicial officials accused of politically-motivated inquiries. Armed groups attacked protesters, leading to injuries and fatalities. President-elect Arevalo expressed support for the peaceful demonstrators and called for authorities to ensure their safety.

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Indigenous-led protests in Guatemala City continue for the third week, demanding the resignation of the attorney general and judicial officials accused of undermining democracy. Indigenous authorities have initiated blockades nationwide, fearing efforts to prevent President-elect Bernardo Arévalo from taking office. Despite facing threats and attacks, the demonstrations are marked by resilience and solidarity, featuring music, art, and community support. Protesters vow to stay until officials resign, emphasizing the importance of democracy in their struggle against government corruption and oppression.

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Guatemalan Interior Minister Napoleón Barrientos resigned amid ongoing pro-democracy protests and disagreements within President Alejandro Giammattei's administration on handling roadblocks. Barrientos, favoring dialogue with protesters, stepped down after a shooting near a roadblock. Attorney General Consuelo Porras, demanding immediate blockades removal, had called for Barrientos' dismissal. The unidentified shooters prompted condemnation from Barrientos' ministry. Indigenous groups, protesting alleged interference in elections, vow to maintain roadblocks until Porras and prosecutors resign. The government appointed a replacement, emphasizing adherence to the rule of law. Barrientos' resignation reflects administration weakness amid civil unrest.

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Before Guatemala’s presidential election, candidate Bernardo Arévalo initially had low expectations of winning, preferring to return to his private life after the campaign. However, his unexpected appeal led him to finish second in the initial vote, forcing a runoff which he won by a landslide. Arévalo, a former diplomat and peacemaking expert, is now the president-elect of Guatemala, facing challenges in a country marred by violence, poverty, and a history of civil war. The son of a former president, Arévalo spent his childhood in exile during Guatemala’s military governments, which feared his father’s popularity. He pursued studies in sociology and political sociology, eventually engaging in peacemaking efforts globally. Arévalo became a congressman in 2020 and ran for president, winning on a platform focused on rooting out corruption. His victory has sparked efforts to nullify the election results, with investigations and challenges from various quarters. Despite the challenges, Arévalo, known for his calm demeanor and integrity, vows to tackle corruption, expand social services, and lead Guatemala toward a better future.

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In Philadelphia, a mural at 2200 E. Norris Street celebrates Mariana Cobos, an exceptional Fairtrade banana farmer in Ecuador. Mariana, a rare female farmer in a male-dominated industry, joined AsoGuabo, a Fairtrade banana cooperative, in 2010. Despite challenges, she persisted, contributing significantly to AsoGuabo's success. The cooperative, earning a Fairtrade Premium of $1 per box of bananas, utilized these funds for various initiatives, including farm efficiency improvements and healthcare services. The mural, created by artist Betsy Casañas, embodies Mariana's resilience and the importance of Fairtrade choices in supporting farmers like her. Fairtrade America emphasizes the impact of Fairtrade products, urging consumers to prioritize farmers' well-being.

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This text discusses eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives for Halloween candies, focusing on ingredients, ethical sourcing, carbon commitments, green practices, and packaging. The article suggests brands that prioritize non-GMO and organic ingredients, fair trade practices, and ethical treatment of farmers. It emphasizes the importance of compostable and recycled packaging, along with carbon offset programs and renewable energy usage. The text also mentions options for homemade candies and provides guidance on recycling candy wrappers through programs like TerraCycle. The overall message encourages choosing environmentally conscious candies to make Halloween celebrations greener.
 

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Continuous demonstrations and road blockades in Guatemala intensify as riot police and armed groups attempt to suppress protesters demanding the resignation of Attorney General Consuelo Porras, prosecutors, and Judge Fredy Orellana. Security forces used violence to evict peaceful protesters, including pregnant women and children, demanding the return of democracy and respect for the election results that declared Bernardo Arévalo president and Karin Herrera vice-president. Shock groups associated with political interests also attempted to disperse demonstrators outside the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Guatemala City. Additionally, citizens in different regions, such as Quetzaltenango and Totonicapán, mobilized to prevent riot police from suppressing their right to protest. The government faces accusations of undermining the electoral process and escalating repression against protesters, judges, lawyers, and prosecutors. Business chambers pressure the government to clear highways occupied by protesters. Despite the challenges, peaceful protests and road blockades continue across the country.

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The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization, has released a report naming corporations and foundations involved in building Atlanta's controversial public safety training center, known as "Cop City." The list includes sponsors and donors of the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), the nonprofit overseeing the center's construction. AFSC aims to pressure these entities to divest from the project and invest in community safety instead. The report, compiled with contributions from various organizations, supports the #StopCopCity movement, which advocates for a public vote on the training center. Opponents argue against the center, citing concerns about police militarization, racial injustice, and environmental racism in the predominantly Black neighborhood. The referendum, supported by over 116,000 signatures, remains in legal limbo pending a decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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The 2023 election in Guatemala reflects decades of human rights violations since colonial times, leading to power consolidation among a few for economic interests. Despite this, Guatemalan people, including indigenous groups and civil society organizations, have protested against authoritarian actions by the government. The elections faced challenges, including opposition candidate prohibitions and alleged voter fraud. The government’s actions, collusion between institutions, and attempts to control the justice system pose threats to democracy. The future remains uncertain, with attention focused on key dates: October 31, when Semilla’s suspension could resume, and January 14, 2024, the presidential inauguration, pending resolution of democracy-related issues. Amidst theses challenges, Guatemalan people persist in defending their rights, resisting oppression, and mobilizing for change. NISGUA calls for global solidarity with Guatemalan people in their struggle for democracy.  

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On behalf of IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in 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.

Volunteers with the Rapid Response Network (RRN)—together with IRTF staff—write letters in response to six 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 https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

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