Thursday, February 27, 2014

Guatemala commemorates victims and 15 yr anniversary of truth commission

February 25 marks the annual Day of Dignity for Victims of the Internal Armed Conflict in Guatemala. In addition, 15 years ago to the day, the UN-sponsored Historical Clarification Commission presented its "Guatemala: Memory of Silence" report. Twelve volumes in total, the report provides findings from a detailed investigation of the acts of violence that occurred during Guatemala's 36-year internal armed conflict. 

On February 25, 1999, the head of the Commission shared before a packed audience at Guatemala's national theater: "The Commission concludes, with great consternation, that within the framework of counterinsurgency operations carried out between 1981 and 1983... agents of the State committed acts of genocide against groups of Maya people."

Further, the Commission revealed, according to their investigation, that the Guatemalan Army was responsible for 93% of deaths during the conflict, while the guerrillas were responsible for 3%. These and other findings would help form the foundation for the historic genocide trial against Ríos Montt that took place from March to May of last year.

This year, Guatemalan human rights defenders and social organizations partnered with musicians, poets and artists for a multi-generational, interactive day of activities to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of "Memory of Silence" and commemorate victims of the internal armed conflict. This year's events were particularly special, reflecting on the genocide trial and its historic sentence, that continues to validate genocide survivors' decades-long struggle seeking truth and justice for crimes of the past.

An emblematic photo of an Ixil woman swearing in
 to the genocide trial helped to set the stage.
"Justice for the disappeared"

The "Mother of the Disappeared" looks over just a few faces of
those disappeared during the internal armed conflict. 

Nearby schools brought students to participate in the day's activities and learn the importance of February 25. Youth were encouraged to get creative and write messages of inspiration on the public sidewalk and street, including: “Peace,” “No to racism,” “Free,” “Yes to life,” “The right to decide,” “I love Guatemala.”

The youth listened on to invited speakers, including Anselmo Roldán Aguilar, president of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR). He shared part of his story as a genocide survivor and explained, "Some say they don't want to remember what happened during the conflict, that's because they did not experience the violence first hand."

While justice in Guatemala has taken a serious hit recently with the fate of current Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz's term limit uncertain and the issue of Ríos Montt's amnesty still unresolved, Roldán shared an inspiring message on behalf of the AJR. He declared: "We will continue fighting to break down the wall of impunity in Guatemala so we can all live in peace."

AJR board members, including President Anselmo Roldán (far right),
take the stage at the Feb. 25 events. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sipakapa is still not for sale...

Neither are San Rafael Las Flores, Nueva Santa Rosa, Mataquescuintla, Jalapa nor Santa Rosa de Lima.

In 2005, the communities of Sipakapa carried out one of the first community consultations on mining in Guatemala, taking a stand against Canadian giant, Goldcorp Inc., and sparking a movement that has resulted in over 70 referenda throughout the country to date.

Communities opposing mining in their territory warn of environmental destruction, poisoned water sources and community division. Goldcorp's Marlin mine, which began extracting gold in 2005, has soundly delivered on all three of the concerns outlined by affected communities, while Tahoe Resources' Escobal mine, which began commercial production a month ago, seems poised to follow suite.

In addition to expanding the Marlin mine to include extraction from underground tunnels, Goldcorp and Guatemalan subsidiary EntreMares, have initiated development of a new open pit project named Los Chocoyos in neighboring Sipakapa. The Los Chocoyos license was granted in 2006 and renewed twice before the Environmental Impact Assessment was approved in February 2013, giving the go ahead for exploitation at the mining site. While Goldcorp lauds the municipal government of Sipakapa for its support of mining, the company fails to recognize that public opinion is divided and widespread opposition exists.

In May 2013, the Maya Sipakapense Council and over one thousand supporters gathered in front of the municipality to express their opposition to the municipal government's proposal to repeat the 2005 community consultation, which voted against mineral exploitation in their territory. In June, thousands marched to celebrate the eighth anniversary of their consultation. In September, hundreds of protesters temporarily blocked the Inter-American Highway to demand an end to Goldcorp's Marlin operations. A month later, community members gathered again to call on the mayor to respond to concerns previously presented by communities and to put an end to the municipal government's stigmatization of community leaders opposing mining. 

Community members gather in the municipal hall to commemorate the 8th
anniversary of the community consultation in Sipakapa (Photo SaraGuate)
Communities opposed to Goldcorp's Los Chocoyos project
 march in Sipakapa (Photo SaraGuate)
In December, representatives from the Maya Sipakapense Council and the Western People's Council (CPO) presented a legal action against the Director of the Ministry of Energy and Mines for violation of the right to free, prior and informed consent as outlined in ILO Convention 169 regarding Indigenous Peoples and supported by a 2011 ruling in Guatemala's Constitutional Court. 

“The Maya Sipakapense People will not allow more abuse and displacement. It is for these reasons that on December 11, 2013, we presented a Constitutional complaint... in order to achieve, in a legal and peaceful way, the annulment of the Los Chocoyos license and the immediate departure of the mining company.” - Press release Maya Sipakapense Council, January 14, 2014

In a political action intended to draw attention to the December legal complaint, thousands of protesters gathered on January 14 to express their opposition to Goldcorp's newest project. Community members from surrounding departments and municipalities, many of whom also oppose Goldcorp projects in their territory, joined the Sipakapense people, to form a peaceful march of an estimated 5,000 people. During the course of the day, a worker was taken into custody by those gathered as a pressure tactic. The police responded by apprehending two protesters. Shortly after, those captured on both sides were released.
Protesters in Pie de la Cuesta demand the suspension
 of Goldcorp's Los Chocoyos mine (Photo CPO)
Protests and marches are often considered a “last resort” by communities that have attempted for years to express their opposition to projects through legal actions and community referenda without results. One reason why protest has become so costly in Guatemala is that community leaders and human rights defenders at the forefront of movements in defense of territory are often slapped with unfounded legal suites filed by companies or their associates with the purpose of undermining and criminalizing social movements.

Not surprisingly, less than a month after the January march, 13 legal cases were filed in San Marcos against community members from Sipakapa for alleged criminal activities carried out on they day of the January 14 protest. The 13 community members include seven people from Pie de la Cuesta, the location of the Los Chocoyos project, the January 14 protest, as well as home to numerous members of the Maya Sipakapense Council. For many, the accusations come as a complete surprise, as they were in the neighboring municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacán holding a press conference on the day of the protest.

As Goldcorp continues to expand, so does community opposition and increased social conflict. Tahoe Resources, a company made up of 40% Goldcorp investment shares and that has structured its management team around ex-Goldcorp employees, most importantly former Glamis Gold CEO Kevin McArthur, is unsurprisingly following in Goldcorp's shameful footsteps. Since Tahoe began the development of its Escobal silver mine in the department of Santa Rosa in southeastern Guatemala, the communities surrounding the project have experienced conflict, violence and massive criminalization of peaceful protest.

Santa Rosa de Lima No se vende - protest on February 14
against Tahoe Resources voluntary royalties (Photo Parlamento Xinca)
Tahoe Resources has brushed off community opposition by claiming that protesters are shipped in from neighboring municipalities who are unaffected by the silver project. The case of Sipakapa and the fact that Tahoe and Goldcorp mining concessions extend into the nearby municipalities of Jalapa, Santa Rosa de Lima and Nueva Santa Rosa, Casillas, Jutiapa and Mataquesquintla, clearly demonstrate that Tahoe will not stop at the Escobal mine. Sipakapa serves as an example that community opposition, despite setback and division, will not stop either.

With information from Breaking the Silence Network

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pressure to construct Xalalá hydroelectric dam; Local opposition remains strong

The following is a summary of an in-depth report published by ACOGUATE on January 22, 2014 and translated by NISGUA. Read the full report, Pressure to Construct Xalalá Hydroelecrtic Dam; Local Opposition Remains Strong

Cultivated fields would be flooded by the Xalalá dam.

Nearly two years after the Guatemalan government announced its renewed interest in constructing the Xalalá Hydroelectric Dam, communities maintain strong opposition to the project in the three affected municipalities: Ixcán, Uspantán, and Cobán. 

The Xalalá Hydroelectric Dam was first proposed in the 1970s. Declared of “national interest,” it figured prominently in the Master Plan for National Electrification and the Northern Transversal Strip (FTN), a political-economic vision for land use, industrialization, and natural resource exploitation. If constructed, the Xalalá Dam would be the second largest hydroelectric dam in the country, producing an estimated 181 megavolts and flooding the lands of some 58 communities in three municipalities.

Community opposition consolidated after the 2007 community consultation held in the municipality of Ixcán, in which more than 90% of the population rejected the construction of hydroelectric dams such as Xalalá. In 2009, the municipality of Uspantán followed suit, holding a community consultation in which 90% of their population also rejected the construction of hydroelectric dams.

Despite the two referenda and strong community opposition to the project, the Xalalá Hydroelectric Dam continued to be a priority both for the Guatemalan government and for companies. Five months after the first referendum in 2007, the State opened bidding for the construction of the Xalalá Dam; one year later the bidding process was closed with no proposals received. 

According to the Association of Communities for Development, Defense of Territory and Natural Resources (ACODET), “No civil servant speaks directly to the damages that communities will suffer; INDE announced the bidding processes as if the communities don't exist. The communities’ position is not to reject something that would bring them benefits - the Xalalá Hydroelectric Dam would flood the best lands and lead to the disappearance of entire communities - it is supporting the right to life and the respect for lands which historically belong to them.”

In 2012, communities reported continued pressures from INDE’s developers, including the offering of development projects conditioned on accepting the dam and other tactics meant to divide the communities; attempts to coopt leaders, inviting them to attend private, all-expense-paid meetings; defamation of local groups and human rights defenders; defamation of information provided by ACODET; continual entrance of unknown persons into the area; helicopter flyovers; and even pressure on the local media, which has favored struggles in defense of territory.

In this context of mounting pressure, on October 18, 2013, INDE's director of project development sent an invitation to community development committees (COCODEs) and social organizations in the area to attend a meeting in Guatemala City "to share experiences with the generation of clean energy”. Instead, communities proposed to carry out this meeting in the Ixcán region and in a format open to the public. On November 13, nineteen INDE representatives arrived in San Juan Chactelá, Ixcán, to present information to some 1,300 leaders and authorities from the affected communities and to hear their position.

This meeting took place after INDE had already signed a contract on November 7 with Brazilian Company Intertechne Constultores S.A. to carry out the geological assessment studies. This information was not shared at the meeting in Chactelá.

The more than 50 communities that would be affected by the construction of the Xalalá Dam continue to express their opposition to the project. The communities  denounce the lack of consultation by INDE and highlight the numerous attempts by communities to obtain more information and communicate their opposition. It was not until November 2013 that INDE even attended a public meeting in the area. The affected communities demand that the State uphold their obligation to assure the right to health, food and a dignified life, and reiterate that these fundamental rights should not be conditioned on accepting the dam.

NISGUA, as part of ACOGUATE, provides human rights accompaniment to  the Association of Communities for Development, Defense of Territory and Natural Resources (ACODET).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Organizations denounce high court decision to remove Attorney General Paz y Paz

Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz
Photo: Ministerio Público

Last week Guatemala's Constitutional Court (CC) emitted a provisional ruling stating that Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz should end her term in May 2014, seven months before schedule. Friday, the CC dismissed an appeal by Paz y Paz to reconsider its ruling.

US Ambassador to Guatemala, Arnold Chacón, immediately released a statement last week announcing that the US Embassy was closely reviewing the ruling and declared: “My government is privileged to have worked with a partner like Dr. Paz y Paz.”

Today, human rights and civil society organizations gathered to express their support for Attorney General Paz y Paz and to call on Congress to uphold the law despite what many consider to be another illegal decision by Guatemala's highest court.

Protest outside Congress Photo: CPR Urbana

Translation by NISGUA


Article 156 of the Political Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala clearly states that: “No official or public employee, civilian or military is obligated to carry out orders that are manifestly illegal or that imply committing a crime.”

By granting a provisional decision based on false facts, the Constitutional Court is committing the crime of malfeasance (breech of legal duty) typified in the Penal Code: 

“Article 462. Malfeasance. The judge, knowingly dictating resolutions contrary to the law or based on false facts, will be sentenced to prison for two to six years.”

As it has been exhaustively analyzed, the Attorney General of the Republic was named for a period of FOUR years on December 9, 2010, which means her period LEGALLY ends on December 9, 2014.

Any contrary decision is illegal and the judges that support such a decision are committing an illegal act outside of the law.


Citizens for dignity and against corruption and impunity

2/11/14 Update: Yesterday afternoon Congress approved the creation of the committee in charge of nominating candidates for the Attorney General office to replace Paz y Paz in May. While 94 Congress deputies voted in favor, many expressed to Guatemalan media that their vote was a reasoned vote, influenced by outside pressures to comply with the Constitutional Court's resolution.

Friday, February 7, 2014

ADH denounces World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank

The Departmental Assembly of Huehuetenango in Defense of Territory and for the Autonomy and Free Determination of the People – ADH – informs the national and international community:

During 1981, 1982, 1983, the Guatemalan Army massacred the Achí communities that lived on the banks of the Chixoy River; 444 people, including youth, children, men and women were executed. The justification of the massacre was the existence of an internal armed conflict, but in reality, they carried out this strategy in order to clean the zone and implant the construction of the Chixoy hydro-electric project. The National Electrification Institute – INDE – was responsible for the execution of this project, having received a loan from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank for almost 1 billion dollars. In 2012, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights condemned the State of Guatemala for the massacres of Rio Negro and called for fulfillment of the reparations to the victims' family members for the damages caused, including the expropriation of land, crops, animals, identity and culture.

On January 17, 2014, after a 32-year community struggle, the Congress and President of the United States made a declaration demanding that the State of Guatemala and Otto Pérez Molina should pay the $154,000,000 in damages to the victims. The response of “ Mr. President “ was immediate: “To give these communities $154,000,000, is like saying that we are going to privilege these communities and leave others out.”  “Mr. President” this is a historic debt owed by the Guatemalan State to the victims of the massacres and the civilized world. The communities of Río Negro continue living in extreme poverty and in inhumane conditions. Your response, “Mr. President”, is irresponsible and aberrant.

Today, February 7, 2014, the Departmental Assembly of Huehuetenango – ADH – and the people of Santa Cruz Barillas, demand that the military government of Otto Pérez Molina respond responsibly and quickly to resolve once and for all the conflict in Barillas. 31 years later, the same methods are being repeated by Hidralia-Hidro Santa Cruz. It is time to end the conflict created by the Spanish company in its attempt to implant two hydro-electric projects in the Q’am’balam River. The conflict has gone on for five years and has resulted in the persecution, intimidation, and co-opting of community leaders. There have been assassinations, imprisonment; there is fear and terror. “Mr. President,” it is necessary to stop these companies.

The sad and terrifying story of Chixoy is related to the current persecution in Barillas through international financial institutions. The World Bank and the Inter- American Development Bank are financing Hidro Santa Cruz through the Inter-American Corporation for Infrastructure Financing (CIFI), which in 2010 provided financing for the Canbalam hydroelectric dam. In 2008, CIFI received an $80,000,000 loan from the International Financial Corporation of the World Bank Group.  In 2001, CIFI received $10,000,000 from the Inter-American Investment Corporation of the Inter-American Development Bank. We believe that these investments are responsible for the human rights violations and the damages suffered by the communities of Barillas.

Mr. Otto Pérez Molina, do you want to continue protecting companies that act illegally? What do you and your government stand to gain? Will you continue to repress the Q’anjob’al and Mestizo communities of Santa Cruz Barillas? Or what are your plans for this region that has been abandoned by the state of Guatemala?

For all of the previous reasons, as the ADH we demand:

A: The end to persecution, repression and criminalization of community leaders.
B: That the Spanish company Hidralia-Hidro Santa Cruz be expelled from the country given the harm it has caused to the communities of Barillas.
C: That Hidralia-Hidro Santa Cruz pay material, physical, physiological and cultural damages to the victims.

We call on:
  • International organizations and the Inter American Commission on Human Rights – IACDH to visit in order to investigate the damages caused by Hidralia-Hidro Santa Cruz and that they issue a public statement.
  • The governments of Europe, Canada and Latin America to investigate and make a public statement against the improper use given to funds provided by the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. 
  • International solidarity organizations to denounce these acts and remain vigilant to the evolution of Otto Pérez Molina’s military government so that he upholds his responsibilities and that the persecution, repression and criminalization ends. 
  • National organization to close our ranks in solidarity and unity of the People.

We demand liberty for our political prisoners.

The people of Barillas are not responsible for the violence; they are the object of a dark plan of repression and criminalization.

We are all Barillas
Life and Territory have no owner

Departmental Assembly of Huehuetenango – ADH – February 7, 2014

ADH denuncia al Banco Mundial y el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo

La Asamblea de los Pueblos de Huehuetenango en Defensa del Territorio y por la Autonomía y La Libre Determinación de los Pueblos – ADH- a la comunidad nacional e internacional INFORMAMOS:

Que en los años 1981, 1982, 1983, las comunidades del pueblo Achi que vivían en las orillas del Rio Chixoy fueron masacradas y 444 personas entre adultos, jóvenes y niños, mujeres y hombres fueron ejecutados por el ejercito de Guatemala. Con la justificación de la existencia de un conflicto armado interno, llevaron a cabo la estrategia de limpiar la zona para implantar la construcción del proyecto hidroeléctrico Chixoy. El Instituto Nacional de Electrificación-INDE- es el responsable de la ejecución de este proyecto habiendo recibido créditos del Banco Mundial y del Banco Interamericano del Desarrollo por un monto de casi un mil millón de dólares. En el año 2012 la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos condenó al Estado de Guatemala por las masacres de Rio Negro y exigían el resarcimiento a los familiares de las victimas por los daños ocasionados en expropiación de tierras, cultivos, animales, identidad y cultura.

Después de 32 años de lucha de las comunidades, el Congreso y el Presidente de los Estados Unidos, el 17 de enero del 2014, se pronunció y exigió al Estado Guatemalteco y a Otto Pérez Molina que debe de pagar 1,200 millones de quetzales en daños a las victimas. La respuesta del “Señor Presidente” no se hizo esperar: “Darles a estas comunidades 1.2 millardos, es como decir que vamos a privilegiar a estas comunidades y las otras se van a quedar por un lado.” “Señor Presidente”, esta es una deuda histórica del Estado Guatemalteco a las victimas de las masacres y al mundo civilizado. Las comunidades del Río Negro continúan viviendo en extrema pobreza en condiciones infrahumanas. Su respuesta, “Señor Presidente”, es irresponsable y aberrante.

Hoy, 7 de febrero de 2014, como Asamblea de Pueblos de Huehuetenango – ADH – y como pueblo de Santa Cruz Barillas, exigimos al gobierno militar de Otto Pérez Molina una respuesta responsable y a tiempo para resolver de una vez por todas el conflicto Barillense. Se están repitiendo los mismos métodos después de 31 años y ya es tiempo de terminar el conflicto generado por la empresa Española, Hidralia-Hidro Santa Cruz que en su intención de implantar dos proyectos hidroeléctricas en el Rio Q’am’balam, lleva cinco años de estar persiguiendo, intimidando, cooptando a lideres y lideresas comunitarias. Ya hay asesinados, encarcelados, hay miedo y terror. “Señor Presidente” es necesario parar a estas empresas.

La triste y aterradora historia de Chixoy se vincula a la actual persecución en Barillas a través de las instituciones financieras internacionales. El Banco Mundial y el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo son las financistas de Hidro Santa Cruz a través de la Corporación Interamericana para el Financiamiento de Infraestructura (CIFI) quien en el año 2010, financió la represa Canbalam. La CIFI recibió una inversión de US$80 millones en 2008, por parte de la Corporación Financiera Internacional (CFI) del Grupo del Banco Mundial, y otra inversión de US$10 millones en 2001 por parte de la Corporación Interamericana de Inversión del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo. Consideramos que estas inversiones también son responsable de violaciones de derechos fundamentales y los daños provocados a las comunidades Barillenses.

Señor Otto Pérez Molina, quiere seguir protegiendo a las empresas con conductas delincuenciales? Que gana usted y su gobierno? Seguirá reprimiendo a las comunidades Q’anjob’ales y Mestizas de Santa Cruz Barillas, o cuales son los planes para esta región tan abandonada por el Estado Guatemalteco?

Por todo la anterior, como ADH exigimos:

A: Que cese la persecución, la represión y la criminalización contra lideres y lideresas comunitarias.
B: Que se expulse del país a la empresa Española Hidralia-Hidro Santa Cruz por todo lo que ha hecho y actuado en contra de las comunidades en Barillas.
C: Que se paguen todos los daños a las victimas: materiales, físicos, psicológicas, identitarias y culturales por parte de Hidralia-Hidro Santa Cruz.

Hacemos un llamado a:

  • Organismos internacionales y a la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos – CIDH, para que visiten e investiguen los daños ocasionados por la empresa Hidralia-Hidro Santa Cruz y que se pronuncie.
  • Los gobiernos de Europa, EEUU, Canadá y América Latina para que investiguen y se pronuncian en contra del mal uso que le dan a los fondos del Banco Mundial y Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo.
  • Las organizaciones solidarias internacionales para que denuncien estos hechos y que estén vigilantes, para ver como evoluciona este gobierno militar de Otto Pérez Molina y para que cumpla con su deber y que cese con la persecución, represión, y criminalización.
  • Las organizaciones nacionales hermanas y cercanas para que cerremos filas en la solidaridad y unidad de los Pueblos.

Exigimos la libertad de nuestros presos políticos.

Los Barillenses no son responsables de la violencia, son objeto de un plan tenebroso de represión y criminalización.

Todos y Todas Somos Barillas
La Vida y el Territorio no Tienen Dueño

Asamblea de los Pueblos de Huehuetenango -ADH- 7 de febrero de 2014

Communities denounce forced labor in San Miguel Ixtahuacán

CALAS and Plurijul denounce mayor of San Miguel Ixtahuacán
Photo: Breaking the Silence

Press Conference Communiqué

Article 4 of the political constitution of the Republic of Guatemala establishes that no person can be subjected to servitude or any other condition which undermines their dignity.

On January 8, 2014, five communities of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, department of San Marcos, where the Marlin Mine (Goldcorp Inc.) operates, presented a complaint against Ovidio Joel Domingo Bámaca, Mayor of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, for the crime of subjecting citizens to involuntary servitude according to article 202 of the criminal code. At the end of January, the Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice transferred the legal process to the Joint Chamber the Appeals Court of San Marcos.

The Chamber will appoint a judge to resolve whether the complaint put forward constitutes a crime that has been committed, and that is hasn’t been submitted for spurious, political or illegitimate reasons. It will then be sent to be investigated by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in San Marcos.

When a person is obliged to do something against his or her will, the crime of servitude is being committed. This offense is punishable by 10 years in prison. It is a public offense, and therefore, the Appeals Court Judge is required to officially forward the complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office of San Marcos.

The Municipal Mayor is also violating Article 6 of the American Convention on Human Rights of the Organizations of American States (OAS) which prohibits absolute and irrevocable prohibition of slavery, servitude and forced labor.

The five communities of Ágel, San Antonio de los Altos, San José Nueva Esperanza, San José Ixcaniche, and Siete Platos of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, San Marcos, are beneficiaries of the precautionary measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – CIDH – on May 20, 2010, which require guaranteed potable water, water for domestic use and water safe for irrigation, in particular water not contaminated by the Marlin Mine operations. However, we are being forced to work without pay to have access to the precautionary measures.

The accused mayor, Ovidio Joel Domingo Bámaca, is forcing the five communities to:

1. Pay for the right to have running water,

2. Work for free to build the infrastructure for the water projects,

3. Give, for free, natural resources from our communal territories to make the construction materials,

4. Pay for the right of way to the owners of the land where the infrastructure for the water projects will be built,

5. Provide free free labor in the construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure of the water projects in our communities.

Guatemala, February 6, 2014.
Plurijur, Maya Sipacapense Council, FREDEMI, CALAS

Translation by Breaking the Silence.

Comunidades denuncian sometimiento a servidumbre en San Miguel Ixtahuacán

CALAS y Plurijur denuncian al alcade de San Miguel Ixtahuacán.
Foto: Rompiendo el Silencio

Comunicado Conferencia de Prensa

La Constitución Política de la República establece en el artículo 4° que, ninguna persona puede ser sometida a servidumbre ni a otra condición que menoscabe su dignidad.

Cinco comunidades de San Miguel Ixtahuacán en San Marcos donde opera la mina Marlin, presentamos el 8 de enero del presente año una denuncia contra el Alcalde Municipal Ovidio Joel Domingo Bámaca por el delito de sometimiento a servidumbre según el artículo 202 del código penal.  La Corte Suprema de Justicia trasladó a finales del mes de enero el proceso a la Sala Mixta de la Corte de Apelaciones del departamento de San Marcos.

La Sala de Apelaciones nombrará a uno de sus Magistrados para resolver si en la denuncia consta la comisión de un acto o hecho constitutivo de delito y no simplemente por razones espurias, políticas o ilegítimas, certificando lo conducente a la Fiscalía Distrital del departamento de San Marcos.

El delito de sometimiento a servidumbre se comete cuando una persona es obligada a realizar algo en contra de su voluntad, castigado con prisión de dos a diez años.  Es un delito de acción pública, por lo tanto, el Magistrado de la Sala de Apelaciones está obligado a certificar lo conducente a la Fiscalía de San Marcos.

El Alcalde Municipal también está violando el artículo 6 de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos de la Organización de Estados Americanos –OEA-, el cual contiene la prohibición absoluta e inderogable de la esclavitud, servidumbre y trabajo forzoso.

Las cinco comunidades de Ágel, San Antonio de los Altos, San José Nueva Esperanza, San José Ixcaniche, y Siete Platos de San Miguel Ixtahuacán, San Marcos, somos beneficiaras de las medidas cautelares otorgadas por la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos –CIDH- el 20 de mayo de 2010 que nos garantizan agua potable, agua para uso doméstico y segura para riego, especialmente no contaminada por las operaciones de la mina Marlin, pero estamos siendo obligadas a trabajar sin gozar de salario para tener derecho a las medidas cautelares.

El Alcalde sindicado Ovidio Joel Domingo Bámaca está obligando a las cinco comunidades a:
(1) pagar por el derecho al chorro de agua,
(2) trabajar gratuitamente para construir la infraestructura de los proyectos de agua,
(3) entregar gratuitamente los recursos naturales de nuestros territorios comunales para fabricar los materiales de construcción,
(4) pagar los derechos de paso a los propietarios de las tierras donde se construirá la infraestructura de los proyectos de agua,
(5) trabajar gratuitamente en la construcción, funcionamiento y mantenimiento de la infraestructura de los proyectos de agua en nuestras comunidades.

Guatemala, 6 de febrero de 2014.

Plurijur, Consejo Maya Sipacapense, FREDEMI, CALAS

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

NISGUA leads delegation with UUCA to Guatemala

UUCA delegates gather with NISGUA staff in Antigua.
All photos: David McTaggart

This past December, NISGUA organized and hosted a ten-day delegation with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (UUCA), home to NISGUA Sponsoring Community, Partners for Arlington and Guatemala (PAG). 
Twelve members of the UUCA congregation formed the delegation and traveled to Guatemala to see NISGUA's work up close and to hear directly from Guatemalan human rights defenders on the ground.

PAG combines strategic local action and advocacy in partnership with the Arlington immigrant community and supports and monitors human rights in Guatemala. PAG has supported over a dozen human rights accompaniers since becoming a NISGUA Sponsoring Community in 2006. In addition, PAG partners with the Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colorado to fundraise for the Guatemala Scholarship Program that benefits youth from families affected by the Maya Achí genocide.

The December delegation met with a total of 13 organizations, dozens of scholarship recipients as well as current NISGUA accompaniers.

One delegate reflected on her experience: "The biggest surprise of the trip was how much of a difference UUCA contributions have made both emotionally and politically…. We were brought to tears over and over as the people we met with greeted us with deep emotion."
UUCA delegates visited Guatemala City, Rabinal, San Rafael las Flores and Antigua.

After a short orientation in Guatemala City, the delegation started its journey of learning and exploration in Rabinal, Baja Verapaz. In coordination with the Association for the Holistic Development of the Victims of the Violence, Maya Achí (ADIVIMA) who runs the Guatemala Scholarship Program, delegates met with PAG's scholarship recipients. Students had the opportunity to publicly address the delegates and share how PAG's support has helped them in completing their studies. The ADIVIMA scholarship program commits to supporting recipients through the duration of their studies and a number of recently graduated students proudly shared their accomplishment with the delegates. The next day, delegates traveled to scholarship recipients’ homes to see the conditions and distance that students have to traverse in order to study.

Delegates were moved to tears by the show of gratitude from the students. As one delegate described: "Our group responded profoundly to the emotion showed by the students of ADIVIMA and their families, and to their hope, grit and determination."

UUCA delegates trek to scholarship recipient's homes in Rabinal.

Seeing student's homes gave delegates a better sense of the journey they make to school.

UUCA delegates had the special opportunity to meet with a NISGUA accompanier working in the Rabinal region alongside Maya Achí genocide survivors and members of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR). Upon returning to Guatemala City, UUCA delegates were able to directly connect with the AJR and hear about their recent victory in the historic genocide trial, as well as reflections on what drives and inspires their ongoing struggle for justice. UUCA is no stranger to the work of the AJR, in fact, they recently opened their church and homes to AJR President Anselmo Roldán Aguilar during NISGUA's fall tour. Providing another opportunity to deepen their relationship, the dinner with the AJR was a true highlight of the delegation.

We further connected UUCA to other areas of NISGUA's work with a visit to communities impacted by Tahoe Resources' Escobal silver mine in San Rafael las Flores.  Delegates met with the Committee in Defense of Life and Peace, made up of community members living closest to the mine site. Community members took delegates to see the project, highlighting the proximity of the mine to crops, water sources and homes. Delegates were further immersed in the issue, with a visit to Santa Rosa de Lima to share with the Catholic Church organization, CODIDENA, responsible for organizing and promoting the community consultation process of 2011 and the ongoing peaceful resistance to the Escobal mine. UUCA and CODIDENA strongly connected through their shared sense of faith and commitment to justice.

Delegates observed the Escobal mine, owned by Tahoe Resources, in San Rafael las Flores.

In addition to  information gathering and relationship building, UUCA delegates took strategic action, meeting with the US embassy and making plans to follow-up on their observations post-delegation. The embassy visit gave delegates the opportunity to express concern around human rights issues revealed throughout the trip - increased militarization, rising repression against communities defending territory and the denial of justice in the genocide case. The meeting laid the groundwork for further sessions, action planning and continued monitoring of the human rights situation upon returning to Arlington.

All twelve delegates made personal commitments to share their experiences in Guatemala with their congregation and community. In fact, UUCA devoted time during its January 5 service for delegates to talk about their trip to Guatemala and share what the thousands of other members of the church could not see. Delegates returned to the US with a truly renewed commitment and inspiration to continue their support for justice in Guatemala.

NISGUA plans to begin outreach for a 2015 delegation later this year and will continue to support groups visiting Guatemala.