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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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by Maria Benevento

The University of Dayton, a Catholic school in Ohio, plans to present its Romero Human Rights AwardApril 11 to three individuals who have worked to investigate those responsible for the El Mozote Massacre during El Salvador's civil war and ensure that they are prosecuted.

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Women from CONAVIGUA - an organisation founded by women whose husbands were killed or disappeared during the armed conflict - and supporters protested Wednesday outside Congress in anticipation of the second reading. They vow to return when the bill is back on the agenda. "Victims have a right to justice. We reject any attempt to grant amnesty. We reject impunity," CONAVIGUA national coordinator Rosalina Tuyuc told reporters at the rally outside the Congress building on Feb 13.
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A woman spreads incense over the remains of 172 unidentified people who were discovered buried at what was once a Guatemalan military camp during the civil war in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala, a day before their formal burial at the same site where they were unearthed. A genetic bank of the unidentified is saving DNA samples from the remains for those searching for relatives...If passed, the proposed Amnesty Law would undo decades of work to provide justice to victims of wartime atrocities; it would represent an unequivocal return to the reign of impunity long sought by the powerful, military-backed networks of corruption that the United States has invested significant resources into dismantling.
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Death of Jakelin Caal in US custody highlights how land conflicts and displacement fuel flight from indigenous villages...The oil extracted from the palm fruits is used for biofuel and in all kinds of household products, from ice cream and instant noodles to lipstick and detergents..."Before there was palm and before there was sugar cane...we farmed watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, tomato, chile, papaya and other crops that helped our families subsist and also generated work," said community leader Albino Mejia...Starting in 2005, palm and sugar cane companies moved in to take over land rights for plantations, raising lease rates for subsistence farmers, and draining water sources used by those small farmers who still had access to land. As a consequence, people have been displaced. Many migrate north to the US.
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For more than a decade, U.S. presidents and lawmakers from both parties agreed that the U.N. International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala—known by its Spanish acronym, CICIG—offered the best hope of confronting a destructive legacy of corruption in the Central American country. The State Department’s regional experts believe the commission has stemmed the flow of immigrants and drugs to the United States. But now, Guatemala’s conservative president, himself an evangelical Christian, has succeeded in shattering the political consensus, forging alliances with a coalition of U.S. conservatives: Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, former U.N. envoy Nikki Haley, Sen. Marco Rubio, evangelical Christians, and conservative think tanks and pundits who share antipathy toward the United Nations and a preference for friendly sovereign states to be able to act as they please.
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The Q’eqchi women of Sepur Zarco were forced into sex slavery during Guatemala's civil war. The trial against the perpetrators ended in the conviction of senior military officers last year. Between 2008 and 2018, Guatemalan courts issued 16 verdicts in human rights cases linked to the 36-year civil conflict (1960-1996), convicting 33 former military officials, military commissioners, and former civil defense patrol members of a series of war crimes, including torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial execution, aggravated sexual violence, and sexual and domestic slavery. A proposed Amnesty Law would terminate all ongoing proceedings against grave crimes committed during the country’s civil war, free all military officials and guerrilla leaders already convicted for these grave crimes, and bar all future investigations into such crimes.
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The 63-year-old Aldana was Guatemala’s top prosecutor from 2014 to 2018. Her biggest successes were the jailing of former President Otto Perez Molina, his Vice President Roxana Baldetti and most of his cabinet on corruption charges. Perez Molina resigned in 2015 and is awaiting trial in corruption cases.
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Though he initially supported CICIG (anti-corruption commission), President Morales reversed course in 2017 when the attorney general and the commission implicated him and his party, the National Convergence Front, in campaign finance violations and sought to lift his immunity. The commission is also investigating his son and his brother on corruption charges, a trial that has now been hobbled—the presiding judges have dismissed CICIG as co-prosecutors in the case.

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