- About Us
- Rapid Response Network
- Young Adults
- Get Involved
- Memory & Resistance Coalition
You are here
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.
November 22, 2021
We wrote to the attorney general of Guatemala for the second day in a row about more state violence in El Estor. On November 16 the Guatemalan National Police (PNC) forcibly evicted 96 Maya Q’eqchi’ families from Chinebal, in the southern region of El Estor municipality, Izabal Department, which has been under a government-declared state of siege since October 23. The Maya Q’eqchi’ families of Chinebal have resided and farmed on this land at the foot of the Sierra de las Minas mountain range since the 1940s. The eviction (police bulldozing homes, burning families’ personal belongings) stemmed from a longstanding land dispute over rightful ownership of the Palestina Chinebal farm. Businessman Juan Maegeli leases portions of the land to the NaturAceites company to grow African palm trees for palm oil production. Palm plantations are now covering 9% of arable land in Izabal.
November 21, 2021
In our letter to the attorney general of Guatemalan, we joined the voices of our RRN members with organizations from around the world to denounce the state of siege declared by the government of Guatemala and repression carried out against the local indigenous Maya Q’eqchi’ community in El Estor, Izabal Department. Since October 4, residents have been organizing a highway blockade to prevent the passage of machinery on its way to the El Fénix nickel mine, which has been operating illegally since 2005. Police have implemented tactics of intimidation and repression over the past several weeks. Local residents—along with journalists reporting on the protests—have been tear-gassed, beaten and threatened by the excessive number of agents of the National Police and military deployed to the area. Police are enforcing a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Roads in and out of El Estor are controlled by military road-blocks. Lake Izabal is patrolled by naval boats. Drones are flown to monitor neighborhoods and movement of local residents. Tear gas is fired not only at demonstrators but into people’s homes. Some indigenous leaders and journalists have been arrested. Security agents have also been confiscating cellular phones of the residents and journalists to prevent documentation of the events.Both the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have denounced the state of siege, but the violence continues.
November 17, 2021
Thank you to the more than 120 people who attended the IRTF annual Commemoration of the Martyrs online on Sunday, November 7. You helped to create a beautiful and moving tribute to human rights defenders throughout southern Mexico, Central America, and Colombia. Here you will find links to (1) Commemoration program book 2021, (2) Zoom recording of the event, (3) Facebook livestream recording, (4) playlist from the social hour, (5) an additional play list, (6) how you can add your name to urgent human rights letters, (7) donations for the Honduras support fund, (8) IRTF Legacy Circle planned giving fund, and (9) highlights from the speakers' presentations. Thank you!
November 15, 2021
In the midst of a long conflict and recent protest over a nickel mine in El Estor, in eastern Guatemala, police have carried out more than 40 raids and 60 arrests, and the government has declared a 30-day state of emergency. Indigenous Mayan opponents to the mine say they were never properly consulted about the mine and its impacts on their lands, livelihoods and lake, and protested on the town’s main road, refusing passage to mining vehicles. Four police were shot during the police crackdown on protests by what the government blames as armed protestors, although mine opponents say the assailants were not involved in the protest. There are concerns mining operations will pose environmental damages to Guatemala’s largest lake, home to diverse fish, bird, reptile and mammal species, including the endangered Guatemalan black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra).
RRN Case Update
October 31, 2021
October 2021 - RRN Letters Summary
Please see below a summary of the letters we sent to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, 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: -protect people living under threat -demand investigations into human rights crimes -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.
October 28, 2021
In July 2021, the head of the Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity in Guatemala was removed from his position. Subsequently, after fleeing the country for fear of further reprisals, Juan Francisco Sandoval stated that he had gathered evidence showing that President Alejandro Giammattei had received bribes in January from one of the companies involved in the controversial Fénix nickel mining project in El Estor (a mining project ruled illegal by a Guatemalan court in 2019 , but nevertheless continues to operate) and that for this reason he was being persecuted by the State. On October 28, Juan Francisco Sandoval was among the current and former judicial employees of Guatemala who offered testimony to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The Washington-based Guatemala Human Rights Commission-USA (GHRC) provided logistical support for the hearing, which focused on judicial independence in Guatemala. Various human rights organizations, including GHRC, had requested the hearing. Conclusion: citing 189 attacks and 51 legal proceedings against judicial officials, IACHR warned that complaints against judges, prosecutors, and human rights defenders reveal a context of weakening judicial independence in Guatemala. Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño explained the importance of an independent justice system, stating, “There is no rule of law if there is no judicial independence.”
October 28, 2021
In 2017, a red slick spread over Lake Izabal, which the community blamed on pollution from a nickel mine, owned by Switzerland-based Solway Investments. In resulting protests, Cristobal Pop, 44, a fisherman was imprisoned, and his comrade Carlos Maaz shot dead. This month, the community of El Estor in Izabal Department resumed demonstrations, accusing CGN (the domestic subsidiary of Solway) of continuing to mine at El Fénix despite a 2019 Constitutional Court order for it to suspend operations. The court ruled in favor of local communities, who said they had not been consulted about the opening of the mine or its effects on them. The government was ordered to open fresh consultations, but the people of El Estor say they are being excluded.
October 11, 2021
The government of Guatemala is using the National Police (PNC) to intimidate the local Mayan Q’eqchi’ community in El Estor, Izabal Department, which has been organizing opposition to the El Fénix nickel mine for several years. Mining operations are causing contamination of local waterways, namely Lake Izabal. In 2019, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala ruled that the Guatemalan Nickel Company should suspend mining operations until a process of consultation with the local indigenous community is conducted (as required by national and international law). On September 27, 2021 the Ancestral Council of Maya Q’eqchi’ Authorities filed an appeal against Alberto Pimentel Mata, the Minister of Energy and Mines, for his management and bad faith in the pre-consultation process. On October 4, the community set up a road blockade to stop the passage of mining machinery. On October 6, the Guatemalan National Police threatened to evict 94 families (many of them participants of the blockade) from their homes and properties. We are urging that the government (1) issue an order to suspend mining operations, and (2) respect the right of the local Q’eqchi’ community to organize opposition to the mining operations.
October 3, 2021
The United States seeks to push an Anti-Corruption Task Force in Central America, without Central American support, indicates Eric Olson, director of Policies and Strategic Initiatives of the Seattle International Foundation, quoted by El Periódico de Guatemala. This was echoed by National Security Officer for the Western Hemisphere, Juan González, and the special envoy for the Northern Triangle, Ricardo Zúñiga. The officials spoke of working in the region with actors from civil society, private companies and key representatives, to combat corruption as a central part of what Washington wants to do to move towards a Central America that protects human dignity in each country. The US proposes to investigate cases against politicians, officials and members of organized crime who have collaborated or committed crimes in the United States. The news article also quotes the Guatemalan ambassador in Washington, DC, Alfonso Quiñónez, and indicates that he is aware of this situation.
RRN Case Update
September 30, 2021
SEP 2021: RRN letters summaries
SEP 11 2021. COLOMBIA. assassinated: student leader Esteban Mosquera . SEP 12 2021. HONDURAS. forced eviction: campesino families in Guaimaca . SEP 23 2021. HONDURAS. intimidation and assault: Donny Reyes, defender of LGBT rights. SEP 24 2021. GUATEMALA. assassinated: campesino and land rights leader Ramón López Jiménez. SEP 25 2021. COLOMBIA. death threats: journalist José Alberto Tejada. SEP 26 2021. HONDURAS. threatened: journalists Deyni Menjivay and Héctor Madrid