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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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News Article

*Thanks to The Associated Press for the article*

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration has struck an agreement with Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala to temporarily surge security forces to their borders in an effort to reduce the tide of migration to the U.S. border.

The agreement comes as the U.S. saw a record number of unaccompanied children attempting to cross the border in March, and the largest number of Border Patrol encounters overall with migrants on the southern border — just under 170,000 — since March 2001. 

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39th anniversary of Rio Negro massacres in Guatemala, carried out by the US-backed genocidal military regimes on behalf of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Banks’s Chixoy hydro-electric dam project. Some 450 people were killed outright. Villagers were killed by machete blows, gang-rapes and beatings, being strangled, small children beaten against rocks, and shot. Thereafter, massacre survivors perished in the surrounding mountains due to hunger and disease, after the final Rio Negro/Chixoy dam massacre in the village of Agua Fria, on September 14, 1982. This slaughter of Rio Negro villagers served as the Chixoy dam project’s “relocation” of the villagers to make way for the filling of the dam flood basin. In total, over 30 Mayan communities were forcibly evicted in whole or part, up and down river from the Chixoy dam wall. No community suffered more than Rio Negro. To this day, neither the World Bank or IDB have accepted any responsibility for Chixoy dam massacres and other deaths, the forced evictions and widespread loss of land, property and livelihood.
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Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), presented her oral update (https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26806&...) as well as her reports on Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras. Few countries in the world were as open to international human rights scrutiny as Colombia, which has the largest UNHCHR in Latin America and serious deadly violence against social leaders. Turning to Guatemala, Ms. Bachelet welcomed measures strengthening access to culturally appropriate health care and providing information in accessible formats and in indigenous languages. Her Office continued to observe the erosion of civic space, with increasing attacks and intimidation against human rights defenders, including journalists in the country. Honduras’ human rights challenges included high levels of violence, impunity, discrimination and lack of access to economic, social and cultural rights. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact of hurricanes Eta and Iota, had exacerbated the obstacles faced by the most vulnerable people.
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It is with great sadness that we share this news. Sister Dianna Ortiz passed away this morning (Feb 19 2021). Sister Dianna was well-known in the Latin America solidarity movement for the past 30 years. "In 1989, while working as a missionary in Guatemala, Sister Dianna Ortiz, an American Ursuline, was abducted by security forces and brutally tortured. Her case attracted international attention-- not because it was so unusual, but because of the explosive charge that the man who intervened with her captors, a mysterious "Alejandro," may have had connections with the US Embassy." (From the book jacket of her autobiography, which she wrote with Patricia Davis, The Blindfold's Eyes: My Journey from Torture to Truth)
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The Latin America Working Group (based in Washington, DC) has been monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights across the region. This blog is focused specifically on the impact of the pandemic on women’s and LGBTQ+ rights. The following are brief summaries that capture the situation for women and members of the LGBTQ+ community since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and to call attention to the lack of support and urgency behind addressing this violence by these governments.
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Civil society and opposition groups are protesting the recent appointment of Judge Mynor Moto to Guatemala’s Constitutional Court. The judge is currently under investigation for obstruction of justice. The Congress put him in place to stack the deck on the country’s highest court. This is the latest salvo by powerful political elites to undermine the country’s judicial institutions. These same elites had lost much of their power over the last decade thanks to high-profile graft investigations by the Attorney General’s Office, the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity, and the now defunct United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The corruption investigations eventually reached all the way to former President Jimmy Morales, the country’s president between 2016 and 2020. Morales launched a crusade to expel the CICIG and to shutter its investigations, which he finally achieved at the end of 2019. The Biden administration is starting to weigh in. Julie Chung, Biden’s Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, stated in a tweet that Moto’s election to the court “threatens the rule of law … and debilitates the integrity of the court.”

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