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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.
Learn more here.
May 2, 2021
The countries of Latin America commemorated International Labor Day on May 1 with restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic but with firm claims of a speedy economic recovery. Colombia again witnessed demonstrations but, unlike the previous three days of protests against the tax reform proposed by the government, they took place calmly and without major incident on May Day in different cities, where better labor conditions were demanded. Hundreds of Honduran workers marched to demand that the government promote “mass vaccination” against COVID-19 and other measures to mitigate the crises caused by the pandemic. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Latin America in March 2020, the region has lowered its gross domestic product to 2010 levels, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, 57 percent of employment is precarious and poverty has returned to the levels of 15 years ago, according to the secretary general of the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI) for Education, Science and Culture, Mariano Jabonero, in a recent interview with EFE.
April 29, 2021
In Quiché Department, Indigenous journalist Anastasia Mejía Tiriquiz faces up to 12 years in prison on trumped up charges following an arrest in August 2020 while reporting on an Indigenous-led protest against a local mayor’s alleged corruption in distribution of COVID-19 assistance. Her trial has been delayed multiple times. We believe that the judicial delays and continued obstacles to Anastasia Mejía’s reporting are attempts to silence the voices of Indigenous peoples, to conceal information on corruption and human rights abuses, and to generate fear among communities. This is the third letter we have written regarding the journalist’s false criminalization since September 2020.
April 12, 2021
*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.
April 10, 2021
As we continue to face a refugee crisis on the U.S. southern border, it is imperative to address the destabilizing threat posed by environmental degradation in Central America. In particular, climate change and illegal cattle ranching—often by organized crime and narcotrafficking entities—is driving forest destruction and lawlessness within Central America’s largest wildernesses, directly imperiling the physical, cultural, food and water security of local communities and Indigenous peoples.
March 16, 2021
President Biden has taken steps to address some urgent needs in the immigration system, but deportations and expulsions continue. Previous and current administrations have failed in their legal duty to protect the human rights of all migrants, particularly Indigenous peoples. The Biden administration needs to recognize, consult, and directly engage with the leadership of Indigenous and Black migrants.
Thank you NISGUA for the petition and image.
Guatemala: 39th anniversary of Rio Negro massacres, carried out by the US-backed genocidal military regimes
March 13, 2021
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.
Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras: Human Rights Council Starts General Debate on the High Commissioner’s Oral Update
February 26, 2021
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.
February 19, 2021
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)
Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras: A Pandemic within a Pandemic: Violence in Latin America against Women and the LGBTQ+ Community during COVID-19
February 12, 2021
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.
February 11, 2021
Unknown men arrived at the home Julio David González Arango and shot him. Why? Julio González is a member of a movement called the Peaceful Resistance which for the past decade has been actively organizing opposition to the environmental harms caused by the Escobal silver mine, owned by the Canada-based multinational Pan American Silver. Fortunately, Julio González survived. But the very next day, two other members of the environmental resistance movement received death threats by text message: "you will be next." IRTF wrote to authorities in Guatemala, urging that they 1) conduct a complete, independent, and impartial investigation into the assassination attempt and death threats, publish the results, and bring those responsible to justice; 2) ensure that Pan American Silver respects a 2018 order of the Constitutional Court to halt mining operations and puts a stop to all its public relations work that is increasing tension in the region and is contributing to the insecurity of the residents. IRTF is also among 195 organizations from across the Americas that signed a letter directed at the leadership of Pan American Silver.