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October 11, 2021
In summer 2021, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris came to Central America and told would-be migrants: “Do not come.” More recently, photos of U.S. Border Patrol agents whipping Haitian refugees in the Texas desert brutally drove that message home. This anti-migrant message is dehumanizing and wrong. But the truth is, many of us would love nothing more than to stay in our homes. It’s Washington that’s making it difficult. The Garifuna are being forcibly displaced from our beautiful traditional lands along the Caribbean coast of Honduras. Our livelihoods are threatened by the expansion of the global tourist industry, African palm plantations, so-called “Special Economic Development and Employment Zones” (also called Model Cities), and drug cartels that run cocaine through our territories, destined for U.S. markets.
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 5, 2021
The National Assembly voted (63 out of 84) to approve reforms to the Judicial Careers Law to forcibly retire judicial employees who are older than 60 years of age or who have more than 30 years of service. This decision is also having negative repercussions on cases of major national and international interest like the case of the El Mozote Massacre, whose judge is among those unconstitutionally ousted by changes to the law. In response to the decision by the legislative body, the Judge of San Francisco Gotera, Jorge Guzmán, has announced his resignation as the judge overseeing the case of the El Mozote Massacre, indicating that he will not return to office unless the reforms to the Judicial Careers Law are repealed. The Association in Defense of Human Rights of El Mozote also lamented the recent reforms given that Judge Guzmán “is the only person who has accumulated enough evidence to move forward the case of the El Mozote Massacre."
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.
September 30, 2021
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued broad new directives to immigration officers Thursday saying that the fact that someone is an undocumented immigrant “should not alone be the basis” of a decision to detain and deport them from the United States.The Biden administration will continue to prioritize the arrest and deportation of immigrants who pose a threat to national security and public safety and those who recently crossed a border illegally into the United States, Mayorkas said in an interview. Mayorkas said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers should not attempt to arrest and deport farmworkers, the elderly and others who were vulnerable to deportation under the Trump administration, which allowed agents to arrest anyone in the United States illegally. He also said agents should avoid detaining immigrants who land on their radar because they spoke out against “unscrupulous” landlords or employers, or at public demonstrations. The new rules take effect Nov. 29.
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
September 27, 2021
On Tuesday, September 7, said law came into effect, despite its unpopularity. In a survey conducted by the Central American University (UCA) in August, 95.9% of the population believed that the adoption of bitcoin should be voluntary. This study also revealed that more than half of the population, 54.3%, believed that the prices of basic foodstuffs would increase with the introduction of bitcoin as legal tender. In addition, different social organizations expressed their concern over the fact that bitcoin is an extremely volatile cryptocurrency.
September 26, 2021
In Honduras, there is a systemic attempt to silence the voices of those who stand up for environmental and social justice causes, including the journalists who report on such causes. In San Pedro Sula: TV reporter Deyni Menjivar was threatened by a private security guard while covering a demonstration by environmental defenders who were demanding action against the construction of a new upscale housing development in a forest reserve. In Choloma: TV reporter Hector Madrid was followed and threatened after reporting on community opposition to the ZEDEs (Employment and Economic Development Zones), which are autonomous zones ceded by the government to private companies. We are urging that authorities in Honduras (1) adopt and uphold prevention mechanisms to avoid violence against those who work in the media, and (2) train public officials, especially the police and security forces, on the guidelines for conduct for respecting the rights of public assembly and respect for freedom of expression.
September 25, 2021
The targeting of journalists—especially if the police are involved—raises serious issues about freedom of the press and the ability of the press to hold Colombian authorities to account for the brutal treatment of demonstrators these past several months. José Alberto Tejada’s investigative reporting has been crucial in denouncing human rights violations committed by government security forces against demonstrators during the Colombian National Strike that began in April. High level government officials publicly accuse him of spreading “fake news.” Meanwhile, the InterChurch Commission for Justice and Peace has received credible information about an ongoing plan to assassinate the journalist from Channel 2 in Cali; a sum of thirty million Colombian pesos has already been paid to hitmen. Last month, a team of volunteer security guards observed a man on a red motorcycle drawing a gun near the journalist’s residence at 1:30 a.m. When they intercepted him, the motorcyclist fled to a nearby public establishment where several police officers were gathered. When the man arrived, the officers departed.
September 24, 2021
Ramón López Jiménez, a 44-year-old father of three small children and rural community leader in Jalapa Department, left home to work early in the morning of September 20. When he had not returned home in the afternoon, his family went out to look for him. His dead body, showing signs of gunshots and machete wounds, was discovered in a gutter near a creek near the Volcán de Paz in the village of La Paz, Santa María Xalapán. Ramón López Jiménez served as treasurer for the Jalapa chapter of CODECA (Committee for Campesino Development) in Jalapa. His assassination on September 20 occurred just five days after CODECA chapters throughout the country held public demonstrations against the government on the occasion of the bicentennial of Central America’s independence from Spain. His is the 21st assassination of CODECA members since 2018. To date, there has been no justice in any of the cases.