On September 4, 2019, Guatemalan president Jimmy Morales declared a state of siege in 22 municipalities and 5 departments of Guatemala. The decree came after an event in Semuy II, El Estor, Izabal, in which three Guatemalan soldiers were killed and multiple community members were injured and criminalized. There are many conflicting narratives about this event, most of which contradict the state’s version. There is even more confusion about how one single event could rationalize a state of siege over roughly 10% of the Guatemala’s landmass.
Guatemala has five different states of exception that give the government power to limit civil rights. State of siege is the fourth, right before state of war. Social movements have declared their complete rejection of this latest attempt by the state to militarize and criminalize Indigenous communities. Many of our partners have expressed concern that this is just the first step in a new wave of institutionalized violence, and that the state of siege could be slowly applied to the entire country in an effort to repress communities defending their life and territory from resource extraction.
On the day that this letter was published, Jimmy Morales requested that the Guatemalan Congress extend the state of siege to Sololá and increase the time period of the state of siege in the original five departments.
OSCAR BARILLAS, GOVERNOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HUEHUETENANGO,
HUEHUETENANGO, SEPTEMBER 30, 2019
We, the organizations and Indigenous communities that are signatories to this letter: Frente de Resistencia Miguelense FREDEMI, Consejo Maya Sipacapense, Consejo de Pueblo Maya Mam Saq Txotx, Comisión de Agua de Cantel, Grupo de Mujeres Ixijiatz San Pedro la Laguna, Asamblea Departamental de Pueblos Huehuetenango ADH, Asociación Belejeb E y Red de Mujeres Maya Kiche de Momostenango, Acammchi Unodich de Concepción Chiquirichapa, Consejo de Ancianos de Santa Lucía Utatlán , Asociación de Servicios Comunitarios de Salud ASECSA, Red de mujeres de Nahualá, Red de mujeres Ixoquib Noj de Quetzaltenango, Mujeres Mayas y Asociación de Mujeres de Suchitepéquez AMUDESU; Kabla jun noj; IMH Nebaj Quiché; Coordinadora de Comunidades de Sacapulas y Cunen, El Quiché, Consejo de Comunidades de Retalhuleu, Asoprovi y protagonismo Juvenil de Villa Nueva Guatemala, Plataforma Urbana de la ciudad capital; Madre Tierra de Cabricán, Red de Soberanía y Alimentaria de Guatemala REDSAG, Asociación formación para el Desarrollo, Asociación Comunitaria para el desarrollo ASERJUS, Pastoral Social de San Marcos; comunidad de Población en Resistencia CPR Sierra, Cocode de Parcelamiento el Rosario, Champerico, organized in the ASSEMBLY OF PEOPLES WATER LIFE AND TERRITORY, are prepared to receive notifications at 16 Avenue A 7-38 Z.4, Huehuetenango. We appear before you in a respectful manner to pose the following request:
- That a state of siege was approved on Saturday, September 7th of this year by means of government agreement 1-2019 in 22 municipalities and 6 departments in the east and northeast of the country, by deputies of the Congress of the Republic in an unusual meeting outside of regular weekday sessions.
- Furthermore, that the declarations given on Monday, September 9th, by the Minister of Defense Luis Miguel Ralda are very grave and signal that the state of Guatemala did not have specific information about the threat and danger that authorized them to establish a state of siege. “The declarations from the Minister of Defense are a sign that the state of siege does not follow requirements to be instituted legally and constitutes an arbitrary action because the strict necessity to have it declared was not justified since such a measure puts communities in danger.”
- This state of siege is a direct attack to the right to resist and is a discrimination of political nature and in some cases of racial nature, such as the attack against the Indigenous Q’eqchi community. The state of siege creates a humanitarian crisis in the territories where it is implemented and is an unnecessary limitation of human rights.
- Also, as the Assembly of Peoples, we consider that the measure is completely disproportionate due to the fact that the event occurred in only one place. There was no reason to extend the state of siege to other departments or municipalities, which has given rise to a wave of repression and persecution of leaders, Indigenous people, individual and community defenders of human and land rights, and implemented militarization once again in order to control communities and their constitutional rights.
- We add that the state of siege obeys the Public Order law, which was promulgated during the period of the Internal Armed Conflict in the year 1965. This law effectively turns the state of siege into a tool of counterinsurgency which aims to restrict and neutralize all types of organized movement in communities and civil society in general. In addition, see the measures decreed by the Minister of Defense as potentially dangerous, especially number 7 regarding updated focus areas for invasions and usurpations of private property for purposes of displacement.
Article 28.- Right to Petition. The people of the Republic of Guatemala have a right to direct, individually or collectively, demands to authority, which is obligated to process them and should resolve them in compliance with the law. In administrative matters the term to resolve petitions and notify resolutions cannot exceed 30 days.
- That this statement is considered presented, including the request to suspend and not prolong the state of siege in the six affected departments and twenty-two affected municipalities.
- That our presented statement also includes a complete rejection of the state of siege decreed by the government of Guatemala and ratified by the Congress of the Republic, standing in solidarity with the territories that are suffering under it.
- That the State of Guatemala takes responsibility for the atrocities and human rights violations committed against Indigenous communities and civil society in general during this state of siege.
- That the government of Guatemala stops acting in the interest of mining companies, mono-culture agriculture, hydroelectric dams, and petroleum extractions, which depend on military deployments that guarantee these repressive decisions, especially in the areas affected by the state of siege.
- That the military deployments in Western territories such as Sololá and Huehuetenango cease. These deployments promote counterinsurgency instead of domestic security and peace, which the Guatemalan people desire.
- That the state of siege not be prolonged past its 30 days and that it not be expanded to other territories.
Huehuetenango, September 30, 2019.