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Guatemala: News & Updates

Guatemala had the longest and bloodiest civil war in Central American history: 36 years (1960-96). The US-backed military was responsible for a genocide (“scorched earth policy”) that wiped out 200,000 mostly Maya indigenous civilians.  War criminals are still being tried in the courts.

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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, Honduras, and Mexico, 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 https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

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On April 27, a group of progressive Members of Congress called for withholding all military and security aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala in light of “human rights violations” resulting from “state violence.” In parallel letters to the House Appropriations subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations and to the subcommittee on Defense, which will soon propose 2023 spending bills for each department, the members expressed concern regarding “the use of U.S.-trained and equipped security forces for civilian repression” and sought support from committee leadership to “restrict police and military financing” to all three countries.

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In its annual human rights report released last week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has placed Guatemala in chapter  IV.B, reserved for countries that violate aspects of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Analyzing the human rights situation in 2021 in the Organization of American States’ thirty-five member states, the IACHR has grouped Guatemala with Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Explaining its decision to include Guatemala in this section, the IACHR cites “structural situations that seriously affect the use and enjoyment of fundamental rights recognized in the American Declaration, the American Convention or other applicable instruments,” including  “systematic noncompliance of the State with its obligation to combat impunity, attributable to a manifest lack of will.”

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Rights Action has been very involved in funding and supporting Indigenous land and environmental defenders, and their human rights and justice struggles in the Q’eqchi’ territories of eastern Guatemala since 2004. With the immediacy of this recent trip in mind, Rights Action sends this special appeal for their work and struggles. For a number of complex and very unfortunate reasons, the human rights/ repression/ corruption/ impunity situation is even harder in this region, and has been going on longer, than in other regions of Guatemala – Honduras, as well - where people and communities that Rights Action supports are involved in their own community defense struggles.

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On April 26 and 27, Guatemalans demonstrated throughout the country, blocking roads and demanding an end to high food and fuel prices, as well as calling for government accountability and the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei. Protesters carried signs stating “we are the generation that will no longer remain quiet before injustice,” and “if there is no justice for the people, there will be no peace for the government.” Above all, the Paro Multinacional (multinational strike), organized by the Comité de Desarrollo Campesino (Campesino Development Committee, CODECA), demands that the Guatemalan government give voice and recognition to the country’s more than 24 Indigneous nations. A member of CODECA, who preferred not to be named to emphasize the collective nature of the group, claimed that the organization’s fight is one of the right to territory, which goes beyond land and encompasses the right to resources, culture, and history. “It is about more than land to harvest,” he stated, “it is about the people who inhabit it and, above all, the natural resources, which is what the Indigenous communities in Guatemala protect.”

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Please see a summary of the letters we sent to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, El Salvador, 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, and (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 https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

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The US has barred Guatemala's Attorney General Consuelo Porras from entering the country, accusing her of being involved in corruption. The US state department said Ms Porras had "repeatedly obstructed and undermined anti-corruption investigations in Guatemala". Ms Porras has denied any wrongdoing and said that fighting corruption has been her priority. On Monday, she was sworn in for a second four-year term in office.

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