Thank you for joining us in this May edition of NISGUA’s Solidarity Update. This month has been a month of justice. Not because of access to it, but because despite the lack of it, the people have never ceased to demand it. This month, hundreds of people took to the streets in honor of historical memory and to affirm that THERE WAS A GENOCIDE. This memory feels particularly alive this month, as May marks key anniversaries such as: the historical sentence of Genocide Trial against Ríos Montt, the publication of the Military Diary, the Molina Theissen sentence, and the disappearance of Luis de Leon. In addition, this month marks an important anniversary for the Xinka people. Eight years ago today, the Xinka people made history when they united to say NO TO MINING during a shareholders’ summit for the extractive company threatening to destroy their homelands.
With sorrow, we honor the passing away of Scott Nielsen. He had been a steadfast supporter of NISGUA and accompaniment, all the way back to when the NH-VT GAP Sponsoring Community supported returned refugees in the Ixcán community of Los Angeles. Scott was one of many in the Sponsoring Communities who exemplified the intergenerational quality of our solidarity practice.
Scott Nielsen died at dawn on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22nd, 2023. His wife, Nelia Sargent, and his children, Ben Nielsen and Jenny Nielsen Warshow, surrounded him and he died peacefully in his sleep. His nonviolent activism served many worthy causes including conservation, renewable energy, recycling, fair treatment of people domestically and abroad, and creative ways to reduce the human footprint on the environment. He was willing to be arrested working for the causes he believed in. He taught classes in civil disobedience and nonviolent social change.
“I don’t remember when I first met Scott, but it must have been nearly 40 years ago, after we first moved to New Hampshire. I’m sure it had something to do with Peace and Justice at home or abroad, perhaps nuclear disarmament, or solidarity with the revolution in Nicaragua, or stopping the death squads in El Salvador, or exposing the exploitation of Cree people by Hydro-Quebec, or halting the Seabrook nuke. Scott’s extraordinary generosity has many examples. One that stands out in my mind is his support of NISGUA’s Guatemala Accompaniment Project, and our New Hampshire-Vermont (NH-VT) Sponsoring Community, for nearly the last 30 years. Scott was our treasurer, and made sure the accompaniers we supported received their stipends on time, or early. He expected no extra recognition for the fact that a great portion of the funds for this work were from his own pocket. He inspired increased generosity in those around him.”
Thank you Scott for your humility and generosity.
Scott Nielsen PRESENTE!
“Never again indifferent to injustice and violence”
Words of Monsignor Juan José Gerardi Conedera, a Guatemalan Bishop whose ecclesial service was dedicated to those most oppressed by the capital and colonial powers of the state. He worked to highlight the ceaseless social and human injustices that occurred during the Internal Armed Conflict.
April 26th, 2023 marked the 25 year commemoration of Monsignor Gerardi’s assassination. Two days before he was killed, the Monsignor had presented “Guatemala Nunca Más”(Guatemala Never Again), an unparalleled report that featured the voices of victims to recount the history, causes, and consequences of the Internal Armed Conflict.
Gerardi is an important ancestor of current solidarity movements in Guatemala. He used every platform at his disposal to raise the voices of the people, who despite being persecuted, exiled, and murdered never strayed from their dedication to the truth. Today, this dedication still exists and people relay behind Monsignor’s words: “As long as the truth is not known, the wounds of the past will remain open and unhealed”.
In San Sebastian Park, commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Monsignor Gerardi Conedera. April 26, 2023
Ten years after the historic genocide sentence families and survivors continue to assert: “We have Memory. Yes, there was Genocide.”
On May 10, 2023, activities were carried out across the country to mark the tenth anniversary of the sentence against Efrain Ríos Montt, in which he was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity in 2013. The sentence proved Ríos Montt responsible for the murder of 1,771 Indigenous Maya Ixil people of the municipalities of Santa María Nebaj, San Juan Cotzal and San Gaspar Chajul in the Department of Quiché, between 1982 and 1983.
This year, a caravan was organized by the Ancestral Authorities to tour the aforementioned municipalities. The resounding message of the caravan was to keep “historical memory alive” and never forget what happened in the region at the hands of the army commanded by Ríos Montt.
First stop of the caravan in the center of Chajul. The banner reads “The Ixil people do have memory. Never again Rivers of Blood. Tenth Anniversary of the historic sentence for genocide against the Ixil People”.
While the caravan took place in the Ixil region, a press conference occurred in Guatemala City during which victims and survivors of the Internal Armed Conflict highlighted the historical relevance of the genocide sentence. Those who spoke called on the Guatemalan people not to vote for Zury Ríos, daughter of ex-dictator Ríos Montt, who has repeatedly denied the genocide and the corruption of political parties.
The Xinka people fight to defend their land in the face of Pan American Silver’s business ambitions
On May 10, the shareholders of Pan American Silver had their annual meeting. The Canadian company, which in 2019 bought the mining company Tahoe Resources, has had their operation of the Escobal mine suspended since 2017 due to the opposition of Xinka people in the departments of Santa Rosa, Jutiapa, and Jalapa. After years of Xinka-led resistance against the extractivist project, the Constitutional Court ordered a community consultation under International Labour Organization (ILO) Agreement 169, which mandates a free and informed consultation of Indigenous peoples affected by development projects. This consultation was presented at the recent shareholders’ meeting as a process in which the company has participated as a guarantor of the human rights of the population, omitting that its participation in the consultation is mandatory and a result of organizing by the Xinka people. In 2023, Pan American Silver acquired the Yamana company, giving it control of four more mines in Latin America. In doing so, the company has extended not only its wealth, but also the fight and resistance of Indigenous peoples against its plunder. Although this company presents itself as socially responsible, this year it held its meeting in the midst of protests.
Photo by CPR – Urbana. Anniversary of the community consultation in Nueva Santa Rosa
The Monroe Doctrine in the 21st century
The Monroe Doctrine is based on colonialism and capitalism – pure and simple. Under the United States’ guise of investing in “security cooperation” with countries of the global south, it has justified military invasions, military technical training, and the export of technology and arms. As a result, the U.S. has fed civil wars, the establishment of military dictatorships, human rights violations, and coups against democratic governments.
Therefore, as NISGUA, we honor the lives and transcendence of the people who have been impacted by this policy in Guatemala for more than two centuries. We support the forum “In Search of a New Policy for a New Latin America: Burying 200 years of the Monroe Doctrine”, held on April 29, 2023 at the American University in Washington DC.
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