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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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April 2, 2020
#PorelDerechoaDefenderDerechos - As an active member of the Committee for Campesino Development (CODECA), Dominga Ramos Saljoj was a leader in the organized resistance against the privatization of electricity. The British-owned ENERGUATE, which has been waging a defamation campaign against CODECA leaders over the past several years, operates a monopoly in 80% of Guatemala. An assassin knocked on the door of the home of Dominga Ramos, said “This one is for you,” shot her 8 times, and took off on a motorcycle. Her daughter-in-law and grandchildren witnessed the gruesome murder. We must not allow impunity to continue for these assassinations. Dominga Ramos Saljoj - ¡presente!
RRN Case Update
April 1, 2020
January, February, and March RRN case summaries at a glance
On behalf of our 190 Rapid Response Network members, IRTF volunteers write and send six letters each month to government officials in southern Mexico, Colombia, and Central America (with copies to officials in the US). Who is being targeted? indigenous and Afro-descendant leaders, labor organizers, LGBTI rights defenders, women’s rights defenders, journalists, environmental defenders, and others. By signing our names to these crucial letters, human rights crimes are brought to light, perpetrators are brought to justice and lives are spared. Our solidarity is more important than ever. Together, our voices do make a difference.
Skeletons in the Closets of World Bank & Inter-American Development Bank: March 13, 2020 marks 38th anniversary of Chixoy dam/Rio Negro massacres in Guatemala
March 13, 2020
The Chixoy dam was a very profitable investment project of the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in partnership with the U.S.-backed genocidal regimes of Generals Lucas García and Ríos Montt. To clear the way, over 30 Mayan communities were forcibly evicted up and down the river. The village of Río Negro was hit the hardest. The Guatemalan government killed more than 444 villagers over the course of five large-scale massacres in 1981 and 1982. (March 13 is the 20th anniversary of the massacre of 177 Maya Achi children and women.) Since 1994, the Rio Negro survivors have courageously pressured Guatemala’s corrupted legal system to put on trial, find guilty, and send to jail nine former Civil Defense Patrollers (PAC) and military commissioners, mainly from the neighboring village of Xococ. But these were merely the “material authors.” The “intellectual authors” have never been investigated or charged. Not one single military officer in the chain of command, who ordered and carried out the Chixoy dam massacres, was captured, tried and sentenced. Not one official or program officer from the World Bank and IDB was subjected to any investigation into the role of these “development” banks in partnering with the U.S.-backed genocidal regimes of Guatemala (1975-83) in planning and carrying out all aspects of the project. On October 20, 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights did find the Guatemalan government responsible for the Rio Negro/ Chixoy dam massacres and ordered the government to legally investigate the massacres and compensate surviving families. On November 8, 2014, then president and former army general Otto Perez Molina (now in jail on corruption charges) formally apologized on behalf of the government for the human rights violations and sufferings caused by the Chixoy dam project, and signed into law Decree #378-2014, “the Public Policy of Reparations for Communities Affected by the Construction of the Chixoy hydro-electric dam project.” Thirty-eight years later, a measure of reparations has been paid to some of the Chixoy dam victims. But no justice has been done for the roles and responsibilities of the “intellectual authors” in the Guatemalan government, World Bank and IDB that promoted, designed, implemented and profited financially from the project. Pointing out the impunity and corruption of the authors and profiteers of the Chixoy dam crimes highlights the enormity of this global human problem. Across the planet today, governments, “development” banks, corporations and investors push ahead with “resource development projects,” violently displacing populations and destroying habitats, violating a wide range of individual and collective rights, and ravaging Mother Earth.
March 12, 2020
Frontline's "Trafficked in America" screening and discussion. Human trafficking is happening in Ohio. How can we be alert to this crime and what can we do change this alarming trend? All are welcome to this free event. Trafficked in America (2018) . 53 mins The inside story of Guatemalan teens forced to work against their will in Ohio. An investigation of labor trafficking exposes a criminal network that exploited undocumented minors, companies profiting from forced labor, and the US government's role.
March 4, 2020
Fearing for his life, a thin, curly-haired 25-year-old fled to the United States-Mexico border and requested asylum. After nine days in custody, he was put on a plane in McAllen, Texas, and sent to Guatemala. American authorities explained that he would wait there for an “initial screening,” the first step in the U.S. asylum process, and eventually return to stand before a U.S. judge, he said. But it wasn't true. The U.S. government sent him here to apply for Guatemalan asylum under a new Trump administration policy that puts migrants into this Central American country's bare bones asylum system with few resources and fewer options. From the program's start in November through last week, the U.S. government shipped 683 asylum-seekers to Guatemala. That is more than double the number of asylum-seekers processed by Guatemala in all of 2018. But only 14, or about 2% of the foreigners actually pursued asylum here.
February 25, 2020
Attorney Esteban Celada provides legal representation in many sensitive cases concerning crimes against humanity, organized crime, sexual violence and femicide. He collaborates with Mujeres Transformando el Mundo (Women Transforming the World) and several other human rights organizations in Guatemala. Between May 8, 2019 and February 5, 2020, Esteban Celada experienced at least 27 security incidents, including persistent surveillance. One of these incidents occurred on the night of December 21, 2019. Unknown individuals broke into his house while he was away and searched his belongings, especially documents related to his legal work. Esteban Celada is a member of the Group of Litigators against Torture in Latin America (Grupo de Litigantes contra la Tortura en América Latina), an initiative led by lawyers from 10 Latin American countries, who work to combat the systematic use of torture in the region.
February 23, 2020
Indigenous rights defender Julio Gómez Lucas is currently facing false criminal charges of incitement to commit crimes, participation in illegal gatherings of armed persons, protests, assault and attempted murder. The criminalization of environmental and indigenous defenders in Guatemala must end. Julio Gómez Lucas, a leader of the Maya Chuj community of San Mateo Ixtatán, is a member of the Peaceful Resistance of the Microregion of Ixquisis, an organization of indigenous communities formed in response to human rights violations committed by a hydroelectric company. He and his family members have previously been kidnapped and tortured because of his work in defense of land, water, and indigenous rights.
February 21, 2020
Good news... WE JUST PAID ELIAS'S BOND!
Friends, family, and fellow members of the movement,
We did it! Elias will be free from immigration detention after 6 months of incarceration. We are proud of our work but even more, we are proud of Elias and his perseverance in the face of vast injustice.
February 17, 2020
After an irregular rainy season and an unpromising harvest, almost 80% of maize grown in Guatemala’s highland region was lost, according to Oxfam. All that remains for many families are tiny corncobs studded with discoloured grains that look like rotten teeth. Central America is one of the world’s most dangerous regions outside a warzone, where a toxic mix of violence, poverty and corruption has forced millions to flee north in search of security. The threat of famine and the battle for dwindling natural resources are increasingly being recognised as major factors in the exodus
February 15, 2020
SEPA is a volunteer organization that raises money through participation in the Oberlin Farmers Market, through the sale of textiles hand-woven in CopalAA and elsewhere, through a B&B program in Oberlin, and through donations from individuals and churches.