Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Guatemala’s Constitutional Court set to hear arguments regarding fate of genocide trial

This morning, the Constitutional Court (CC), Guatemala’s highest court, will hear arguments regarding the April 2013 decision by Judge Carol Patricia Flores to set the genocide case back to a pre-trial phase. The mid-trial ruling cited technical errors in the judicial process and stated that the case should return to November 2011, before Ríos Montt had ever been indicted.

Plaintiffs on the case, the Center for Human Rights Legal Action and the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR), immediately appealed Flores' ruling. One member of the AJR reacted to the controversial decision stating, "[Judge Flores] only wants to help impunity continue to reign in Guatemala and that is why we, the victims, have to break this noose of impunity, this beast that has for so long ruled Guatemala."

If the CC upholds Judge Flores’ ruling, witness and expert testimony that formed the basis for the historic genocide sentence will effectively be erased and Ríos Montt will be free.
After hearing arguments by the prosecution and the defense, the CC will have 5 days to come to their final resolution; however, the Court notoriously emits their decision late, leaving the involved parties and the public waiting in suspense.

The 13-year struggle of the survivors did not end with the Constitutional Court’s controversial decision to annul the genocide trial last May. Six months later, the Association for Justice and Reconciliation denounced the Guatemalan State for the denial of justice to the Maya Ixil people by filing a formal complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The complaint cited a number of deficiencies in the genocide trial process, including excessive delays and the denial of the right to justice of the witnesses who gave their testimony in court.

Meanwhile, Guatemala’s justice system continues to feel the impacts of the national and international struggle for historical memory, prompted by the groundbreaking genocide trial. The ongoing legal debate regarding the possibility of amnesty for Ríos Montt, despite national and international laws that prohibit amnesty for war crimes, is just one example. The decision on amnesty, which threatens to permanently undermine survivors’ decades-long work for justice, is yet to be resolved, as nearly one hundred judges have recused themselves from hearing the issue. Furthermore, the February decision to end current Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz's term early has once again called into question the impartiality of the Constitutional Court and has instilled a sense of uncertainty as to the future of human rights cases in national courts.
The AJR commemorates the one year anniversary of the start of genocide trial.
Photo: Cristina Chiqun, March 19, 2014
Despite considerable setbacks since the start of the genocide trial and well beyond the annulment of the verdict, survivors remain positive and committed to ending the reign of impunity in Guatemala. The monumental weight of the genocide sentence continues to validate their struggle in search of truth and justice. 
“When the trial started, I was pleased because I knew that the truth had reached the people of Guatemala, and not just Guatemala but the world. This made me satisfied because what we suffered was acknowledged… They were able to annul the sentence politically but historically no one will take it away from us, the sentence remains in our hearts. One year after the historic trial, we remain strong in order to keep fighting and demanding justice in Guatemala.” - Benjamín Manuel Gerónimo, Vice-President of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation

NISGUA has provided human rights accompaniment to the witness organization, the Association for Justice and Reconciliation, and their lawyers, the Center for Human Rights Legal Action since 2000. Review our archival coverage of the historic genocide trial here

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

‘On the Road for Justice’ Speaking Tour to Bring Attention to Guatemala Mining Conflict, Need for Remedy in Canada

(Ottawa) How is it that when community leaders wrongfully targeted in the wake of violence connected with Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver mine in Guatemala they spend months in jail, while the company’s former head of security, accused of ordering guards to open fire on protesters last April, is first given house arrest and then allowed to avoid prison by arguing that he is sick?

This is just one of the stark asymmetries in the current conflict between the Toronto-listed mining firm and communities in southeastern Guatemala, where repression and violence have been the outcome of efforts to install the project without social support.

More than half of the communities in the municipality of San Rafael las Flores, where the Escobal project is located, have declared opposition to the mine. In neighbouring municipalities, in the departments of Santa Rosa and Jalapa, the majority of the population has voted against the mine in municipal referenda.
Nonetheless, Tahoe Resources reported in January that the Escobal mine is operational, claiming that “unanticipated social issues have been addressed.” According to local reports, the only thing that Tahoe Resources seems to have resolved is how to mine despite ongoing conflict in Guatemala, where the company and its principal investor, Goldcorp, wield considerable political and economic influence.

This conflict brings to the forefront the need for the Canadian government to facilitate access to justice for abuses committed abroad. The tour of a group of Guatemalans to include stops in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia will link to the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability’s Open for Justice campaign. The CNCA campaign calls for laws to allow access to Canadian courts for people who have been harmed by the international operations of Canadian companies. It also calls for the creation of an extractive-sector Ombuds office in Canada mandated to investigate accusations of abuses and make recommendations to the government and the companies involved.

To provide a first hand community account of the situation around the Escobal mine, lawyer Rafael Maldonado from the Guatemalan Centre for Environmental, Social, and Legal Action (CALAS) will visit Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal to talk about the current state of Canadian mining conflicts in Guatemala.

Mr. Maldonado has defended numerous community members who have been criminalized for their opposition to the Tahoe project and represents plaintiffs in the case against Alberto Rotondo, who is facing charges for aggravated assault against six community members. Mr. Maldonado also represents communities in a case of industrial contamination against the mine.

Mr. Oscar Morales will join Mr. Maldonado in Toronto and then travel to Kingston, Peterborough and Vancouver. Mr. Morales is Coordinator of the Committee in Defense of Life and Peace in San Rafael Las Flores, as well as a community advocate and agronomist who is deeply concerned about the environmental and social impacts of Tahoe's mine. He has worked to support the six men shot by mine security in April 2013 and has been an advocate for the community consultations that have taken place throughout Santa Rosa.

Ms. Celeste Gutierrez from the Diocesan Committee in Defense of Nature (CODIDENA) from Santa Rosa will also participate in the events in Toronto and then travel to the Maritimes. Ms. Gutierrez will speak on CODIDENA's work to educate communities on the impacts of mining projects, her experiences organizing community consultations in Santa Rosa and the risks for human rights defenders in Guatemala.

For more information or to arrange interviews with the delegation:
  • Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 569-3439, jen(at)

This speaking tour would not be possible without the support and hard work of the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) at Osgoode Hall Law School, the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network (BTS), and the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA).

Public events:


Tues Mar 18th from 6:30-8pm

25One Community, 2nd Floor, 251 Bank St

Organized by Octopus Books, MiningWatch Canada, CNCA, the Public Service Alliance of Canada Social Justice Fund, Education in Action and the Americas Policy Group


Thurs Mar 20th from 7-9pm

Koffler House, Room 108, University of Toronto, 569 Spadina Crescent

Organized by the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN), BTS, NISGUA and friends


Sun Mar 23rd at 10:30am

Edgewood Oxford United Church, 3055 Connaught Ave.

Organized by the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network


Mon Mar 24th from 1:30-3pm

Providence Motherhouse Auditorium, 1200 Princess St (across from the Peach Tree Inn)

Organized by the Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Office of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul


Mon Mar 24th from 6:30-8:30pm

Sadleir House, 751 George St. N.

with a short film screening and Q&A to follow

Organized by Canadians for Mining Awareness


Mon Mar 24th from 6:30-9pm

Salle D-R200, UQAM (1430, rue Saint-Denis)

with Alain Deneault, author of 'Canada: A New Tax Haven'

Organized by the Projet Accompagnement Québec Guatemala and the Social Justice Committee of Montreal


Mon Mar 24th at 7pm

Event at the Tatamagouche Centre, Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

Organized by the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network


Tues Mar 25th at 7pm

Room 150, Coady International Institute

Organized by the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network


Wed Mar 26th from 5:15-8pm

CAWP Room 2916, Forest Science Centre, University of British Columbia

with a screening of "Gold Fever"

Organized by the Forestry Graduate Students Association at UBC


Wed Mar 26th at 5:30pm
James Dunn Hall, room TBA, St. Thomas University

Organized by the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network


Sat Mar 29th from 7-9pm

Two Nations, One Struggle

Grandview Calvary Baptist Church, 1803 East 1st Ave

with Marilyn Baptiste, council of Xeni Gwet'in, Tŝilhqot’in Nation

Organized by Cafe Rebelde, with support from Amnesty International, the Mining Justice Alliance, the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights and Streams of Justice

Find a one page backgrounder here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

ADH expresses solidarity with Santa Cruz Barillas political prisoners

We demand liberty for our leaders; they have not committed crimes
Photo: ADH

Departmental Assembly of Huehuetenango Communiqué in Solidarity with the Civil Society Movement of Santa Cruz Barillas

Today, March 4, 2014, we attended two hearings in which the cases would be presented of six leaders from Santa Cruz Barillas who are persecuted by Guatemalan injustice and Hidro Santa Cruz. We accompany the men and women who have dedicated themselves to their cause, our cause. The hearings were suspended, but that doesn’t mean that our presence or our voice is not useful. Saúl Méndez, Rogelio Velásquez, Adalberto “Don Tello” Villatoro, Francisco “Chico Palas” Juan, Arturo Pablo and Diego Marcos are each accused of different crimes by the Spanish company Hidro Cruz. The orchestrated “legal” cases form part of a strategy of criminalization in order to undermine the defense of territory.

The persecution, criminalization and repression carried out by Otto Pérez Molina’s military government and the Guatemalan state aim to minimize or put an end to the opposition to the implementation of mining exploitation projects, like in the cases of the resistances at San José del Golfo, San Rafael las Flores or in other cases of natural resources like water in hydroelectric projects like Cambalan I and Cambalan II in Santa Cruz Barillas.

We, as indigenous peoples, have never understood the Guatemala justice system because it is blind, mute and deaf when it deals with defending our rights. The historic aggression that is once again emphasized by the Guatemalan state against the Chuj, Q’anjob’al, Akateko and Mestizo people in northern Huehuetenango is no more than the continued utilization of all the institutional resources that political actors have at their reach to continue with the pillaging and plundering of our territories. Our history, our territory and our lives are in danger and that is why we respond pacifically at the outrageous concept that to national and foreign companies we are objects.

We, the people, have not called the companies to our territories, nor have we needed the state, because it has always abandoned us, what we want is to live in peace and continue constructing our own path toward the good life (el buen vivir).

This government, like others, will not stop us; the struggle of Barrillas and its leaders is everyone’s struggle. No to criminalization; yes to the liberation of our political prisoners.

Departmental Assembly of Huehuetenango

March 4, 2014

La ADH expresa su solidaridad con presos políticos de Santa Cruz Barillas

Foto: ADH

Comunicado Asamblea de Pueblos de Huehuetenango, ADH, en Solidaridad con el Movimiento fe la Sociedad Civil de Santa Cruz Barillas

El día de hoy, 4 de marzo de 2014, acudimos a dos audiencias en las que se ventilan los casos de seis líderes de Santa Cruz Barillas, que son perseguidos por la injusticia guatemalteca e hidro santa cruz. Los acompañamos mujeres y hombres que hacemos de su causa, nuestra causa. Las audiencias fueron suspendidas, pero no por ello deja de tener sentido nuestra presencia y palabra. Saúl Méndez, Rogelio Velásquez, Adalberto “Don Tello” Villatoro, Francisco “Chico Palas” Juan, Arturo Pablo y Diego Marcos, son acusados de diferentes delitos por la empresa española hidro cruz. Son casos “legales” orquestados que forman parte de una estrategia de criminalización para debilitar la defensa del territorio. 

La persecución, criminalización y represión por parte del gobierno militar de Otto Pérez Molina y del Estado guatemalteco, tiene como objetivo minimizar y o acabar con la oposición a la implantación de proyectos de explotación minera, como los casos de resistencia en San José del Golfo y San Rafael Las Flores o el de otros bienes naturales como el agua en el caso de proyectos hidroeléctricos como Cambalan I y Cambalan II en Santa Cruz Barillas. 

Nosotros, como Pueblos nunca hemos entendido a la justicia guatemalteca porque es ciega, muda y sorda cuando de defender nuestros derechos se trata. La agresión histórica y que hoy nuevamente se acentúa en contra de los Pueblos Chuj, Q´anjob´al, Akateko y Mestizo del Norte de Huehuetenango por parte del Estado guatemalteco, no es más que la continuidad de la utilización de todos los recursos institucionales que sus operadores políticos tienen a su alcance para continuar con el saqueo y despojo de nuestros territorios. Nuestra historia, nuestra tierra y nuestra Vida están en peligro y por ello es que respondemos pacíficamente al atropello de que somos objeto por parte de empresarios nacionales y extranjeros. 

Nosotros los Pueblos no hemos llamado a las empresas a nuestros territorios, ni nunca hemos necesitado al Estado, porque éste siempre nos abandonó, lo que queremos es vivir en paz y seguir construyendo nuestro propio camino hacia el buen vivir. 

Este gobierno como otros no nos detendrá, la lucha del pueblo de Barillas y sus líderes es de todos. No a la criminalización y sí a la liberación de nuestros presos políticos. 

Asamblea de Pueblos de Huehuetenango, ADH. 

4 de marzo de 2014 

Monday, March 3, 2014

ACODET denounces attempt to militarize communities opposing Xalalá dam

According to a secret contract signed between Guatemala's National Electrification Institute (INDE) and Brazilian Intertechne Consultores S.A., geological studies necessary to begin construction on the Xalalá dam are to begin in March 2014. Communities organized in defense of territory, who have opposed the dam's construction for years, denounced the arrival of a military and police convoy to the region on February 25. They roundly reject the government's suggestion of drug activity in their communities and question the timing and location of the incursion.

Read the full communiqué from the Association for Development, Defense of Territory and Natural Resources (ACODET) below.

This past Tuesday, February 25, 2014, [Guatemalan radio station] Radio Sonora reported an announcement by the Minister of the Interior stating that he had received a complaint regarding the presence of drug traffickers in the community of Xalalá, in the municipality of Ixcán. He stated that Mr. Enrique Cajbón had filed the complaint. Radio Sonora began circulating this information before noon.

Around 5 PM the same day, a convoy made up of one truck and four army pick-ups, together with two National Civilian Police (PNC) vehicles, arrived at the crossing near the Copón River bridge, near communities threatened by the construction of the Xalalá dam.

Our community authorities approached those in charge of the army and police contingent to ask for an explanation of their presence in our territory. They responded that they had received a citizen complaint denouncing a supposed shipment of drugs destined for the community of Xalalá. After Mr. Enrique Cajbón presented himself to the authorities, the police admitted that Mr. Cajbón was not the person who filed the complaint and they promised to present a copy of the complaint to our community authorities the next day. After signing an agreement of clarification with our community authorities, the army and police returned to Playa Grande, Ixcán. The next day, local authorities went to the National Police station in Ixcán, but were not provided a copy of the complaint. As a result of our authorities’ instance that they be given a copy of the complaint, the agent, who the day before had promised to produce the document, warned that helicopters might land in our communities in the coming days.

It is relevant to mention that last November the Guatemalan National Electrification Institute (INDE) signed a contract with Brazilian company, Intertechne Consultores S.A., to complete feasibility assessments for the Xalalá dam. The geological feasibility studies are scheduled to be carried out in March 2014 in the communities that make up our territory. The community of Xalalá, in the municipality of Ixcán, is the precise location that INDE used at the beginning of the 80s to carry out the first geological studies on the Xalalá hydroelectric project.

In light of these events, we, the Maya Q’eqchi’ communities threatened by the construction of the Xalalá dam, organized in the association ACODET express:
  1. In our communities we all know one another. We use our lands to produce our food, we do not know of, nor do we accept, the presence of organized crime groups or use of our territory by such groups.
  2. No clandestine landing strip exists in Xalalá. There is a green space in the center of the community that was previously used as a landing strip but is currently used as a football field and communal space for grazing our domesticated animals. It is not equipped for small plane landings.
  3. Mr. Enrique Cajbón, a Maya Q’eqchi’ member of the ancestral indigenous authority of the community of Xalalá, never filed the alleged complaint. No other members of our local authorities were informed of such a complaint, nor was the army’s protection requested.
  4. We find it very strange that the Ministry of the Interior published via the radio, and with anticipation, plans for an operative supposedly intended to capture drug traffickers.
  5. Based on these events, we believe that the government is trying to frighten our communities, delegitimize our resistance to the imposition of the Xalalá dam and justify a military presence in our territory.
  6. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states: “Military activities shall not take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples, unless justified by a relevant public interest or otherwise freely agreed with or requested by the indigenous peoples concerned. States shall undertake effective consultations with the indigenous peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, prior to using their lands or territories for military activities.” (Article 30)

Association for Development, Defense of Territory and Natural Resources


Playa Grande, Ixcán February 28, 2014

ACODET denuncia un intento de militarizar las comunidades que resisten la construcción de la represa Xalalá

Según el contrato firmado secretamente entre el Instituto Nacional de Electrificación (INDE) y la empresa brasileña Intertechne Consultores S.A., los estudios de factibilidad para la represa Xalalá debería comenzar en marzo de 2014. Las comunidades organizadas en defensa de su territorio, que por muchos años han luchado en contra de la construcción de la represa, denunciaron la llegada del ejercito y la Policía Nacional Civil en la región el 25 de febrero. Las comunidades rechazan por completo la acusación del gobierno de actividad narcotraficante en sus territorios.

A continuación, compartimos el comunicado entero de la Asociación de Comunidades para el Desarrollo y Defensa del Territorio (ACODET).

El pasado martes 25 de febrero de 2014, la Radio Sonora difundió notas donde el Ministerio de Gobernación, anunciaba haber recibido denuncia sobre la presencia de narcotraficantes en la comunidad Xalalá, municipio de Ixcán, atribuyendo la denuncia al señor Enrique Cajbón. Estos avisos se empezaron a transmitir desde antes del mediodía. 

Alrededor de las cinco de la tarde de ese mismo día un convoy integrado por un camión y cuatro pickup del ejército y dos vehículos de la PNC, llegaron al cruce cercano al puente del río Copón, en área de comunidades amenazadas por la construcción de la represa Xalalá. 

Las autoridades de nuestras comunidades se dirigieron a los encargados del contingente militar y policía para preguntarles sobre el motivo de su presencia en nuestro territorio, a lo que ellos respondieron que habían recibido una denuncia ciudadana sobre un supuesto desembarco de droga en la comunidad Xalalá. Al presentarse el señor Enrique Cajbón, ante los policías reconocieron que él no es el denunciante y se comprometieron a entregar al día siguiente copia de la denuncia a nuestras autoridades comunitarias. Después de firmar un acta de aclaratoria junto a nuestras autoridades comunitarias, el ejército y policías regresaron a Playa Grande, Ixcán. Al día siguiente nuestras autoridades comunitarias se presentaron en la subestación de la PNC en Ixcán, pero no les entregaron copia de la denuncia. Ante la insistencia de nuestras autoridades para que le proporcionen la copia el agente que se comprometió el día anterior les advirtió que en próximos días podrían aterrizar helicópteros en terrenos de nuestras comunidades. 

Cabe recordar que el pasado mes de noviembre el INDE firmó un contrato con la empresa brasileña Intertechne Consultores S.A. para realizar estudios de factibilidad para la represa Xalalá, los cuales incluyen los estudios geológicos que deben realizarse en territorio de nuestras comunidades, el cual está programado para el mes de marzo del 2014, y que el lugar que el INDE utilizó a principios de los 80s para la realización de los primeros estudios geológicos del Proyecto Hidroeléctrico Xalalá, se encuentra precisamente en terrenos de la comunidad Xalalá, municipio de Ixcán. 

Ante estos hechos nosotros las comunidades maya q’eqchi’ amenazadas por la construcción de la represa Xalalá, agrupadas en la Asociación ACODET 

M A N I F E S T A M O S 

  1. Que en nuestras comunidades todos nos conocemos, usamos la tierra para producir nuestros alimentos, no sabemos, ni aceptamos la presencia o uso de nuestro territorio por parte de grupos del crimen organizado. 
  2. Que en Xalalá no existe ninguna pista clandestina. Hay en el centro de la comunidad un área verde que en el pasado se usó como pista de aterrizaje y que actualmente nos sirve como campo de fútbol, espacio comunitario para pastoreo de nuestros animales domésticos y que no está habilitada para aterrizaje de avionetas. 
  3. Que el señor Enrique Cajbón es miembro de la autoridad indígena ancestral de la comunidad indígena Q´eqchi’ Xalalá y en ningún momento presentó la supuesta denuncia, como ninguno de los demás miembros de las autoridades de nuestras comunidades fueron informada de dicha denuncia, ni solicitaron protección del ejército. 
  4. Que nos resulta muy extraño que el ministerio de gobernación publique por medio de la radio y con anticipación, la realización de un operativo que supuestamente sería para la captura de narcotraficantes. 
  5. Que con estos hechos entendemos que el gobierno lo que trata es de atemorizar a nuestras comunidades, desprestigiar nuestra lucha ante la imposición de la represa Xalalá y justificar la presencia de efectivos militares en nuestro territorio. 
  6. Que la Declaración de las Naciones Unidas sobre los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas dice “No se desarrollarán actividades militares en las tierras o territorios de los pueblos indígenas, a menos que lo justifique una amenaza importante para el interés público, o que se hayan acordado libremente con los pueblos indígenas interesados, o que éstos lo hayan solicitado, y que los Estados celebrarán consultas eficaces con los pueblos indígenas interesados, por los procedimientos apropiados y en particular por medio de sus instituciones representativas, antes de utilizar sus tierras o territorios para actividades militares”. (artículo 30). 

Asociación de Comunidades para el Desarrollo y Defensa del Territorio 

A C O D E T 

Playa Grande, Ixcán 28 de febrero 2014