Thursday, August 29, 2013

Urgent Communique: Detention of Leaders from Santa Cruz Barillas

On Tuesday, August 27, Saúl Aurelio Méndez Muñoz and Antonio Rogelio Velásquez López, community leaders opposed to the imposition of the Cambalam hydroelectric project, operated by Hidro Santa Cruz, property of Spanish company Hidralia S.A., were arrested outside of a Guatemala City courthouse. Saúl and Antonio had traveled to the capital from Santa Cruz Barillas for a hearing regarding the permanent closure of a previous legal process against them, for which they were arbitrarily detained in May 2012 and unjustly imprisoned for eight months.

Their detention is the continuation of the systematic persecution and criminalization of community leaders defending their right to consultation and self determination. Earlier this year we reported on the unjust detention and imprisonment of Rubén Herrera, another Barillas leader criminalized due to his opposition to the hydroelectric project. Thanks in part to your support, Rubén was released and his case was provisionally closed in May. Today NISGUA stands in solidarity with Saúl and Antonio, and join partner organizations and communities in demanding their immediate release!

Read the NISGUA translation of the urgent communique below. See the original Spanish version here.


Despite repression and human rights violations, the Q'anjobal people of Santa Cruz Barillas have defended their territory through community consultations on the installation of a hydroelectric dam, property of the Spanish company Hidralia S.A.

However, the state does not respect community consultations. As a result, the community has lived through diverse moments of struggle, among those the murder of Barillas resident, Andrés Pedro Miguel, on May 1, 2012, the same day the local population generated a series of disturbances.

The next day, the following people were captured: Antonio Rogelio Velásquez López, Saúl Aurelio Méndez Muñoz, Marcos Mateo Miguel, Ventura Juan, Amado Pedro Miguel, Pedro Nuñez, Joel Gaspar Mateo, Diego Juan Sebastián, Andrés León Andrés.

The nine leaders were illegally detained, an act that has been sufficiently proven in the press, as well as in an international complaint presented in Geneva to the working group on illegal detention, case number 46/2012, which called on the state to liberate the detained. The case also called for the  documentation of all the human rights abuses to which the detained were subjected. As a result the  Human Rights Ombudsman emitted the resolution Ref. Exp. Ord. Gua. 7245-2012/DCP. On January 9, the legal process was provisionally closed and the men were released from prison.

On August 27, the nine men were to appear in front of High Risk Crimes Court A to close the process. While entering the courthouse, Saúl Aurelio Méndez Muñoz and Antonio Rogelio Velásquez López were detained by people dressed as civilians who identified themselves as agents of the Specialized Division for Criminal Investigation (DEIC) of the National Civil Police. The detained were moved outside of the courthouse and sent to the offices of the DEIC where they were photographed, supposedly for the press. However, these actions do not address the situation of their illegal detention.

This act forms part of a constant persecution against the leaders of the resistance in Barillas, Huehuetenango. At its heart, the persecution is the result of political opinions regarding development in the municipality where the population has opposed the extractive model imposed by the state and transnational companies.


The capture of Saúl Aurelio Méndez Muñoz and Antonio Rogelio Velásquez López on August 27, 2013 when they entered the High Risk Crimes Court A in order to conclude their legal process.

The human rights violations against the leaders of Barillas for their legitimate opposition to the installation of the hydroelectric project.

The granting by the Ministry of Energy and Mines of the license for the installation of the hydroelectric dam without the consent of communities that have the legitimate right to determine their own development.


The immediate liberation of Saúl Aurelio Méndez and Antonio Rogelio Velásquez.

An end to the repression against the population of Barillas who are struggling to defend their territory.

The cancellation of the license granted to Hidro Santa Cruz S.A. for the repression that they have carried out against the communities.


Guatemala, August 28, 2013

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