Solidarity Update: January 2017

Photo: Francisco Simon, Prensa Comunitaria

News recap: Former Kaibil, accused of participating in Dos Erres massacre, arrested in Maryland; Elderly protester killed in the Ixquisis region, Huehuetenango; Former Guatemalan Minister of Energy and Mines arrested in Miami, awaits extradition; As Trump takes office, we stand in our commitment to internationalism.

This and more in this month’s Solidarity Update.

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Solidarity Update: January 23, 2017
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On January 17, an elderly community member was shot and killed in the Ixquisis region of Huehuetenango during a peaceful protest against the imposition of a series of hydroelectric dams. At the request of communities, an observer mission attempted to go to the region to document human rights abuses; international accompaniers with ACOGUATE formed part of the observer mission that, after facing serious threats and a road block en route, was forced to turn back. 

Take a moment to stand with communities in Guatemala who lost an elder to armed repression of peaceful protest. Sign our petition calling for the full investigation into his murder and stay alert for calls for further action. We invite you to read the rest of this month's update for more information.

In solidarity,
The NISGUA team

Justice & Accountability

  • Former Kaibil, accused of participating in Dos Erres massacre, arrested in Maryland
  • Ex-Minister of the Interior, Carlos Vielmann, to be tried in Spain for the extrajudicial execution of prisoners

Defense of Life & Territory

  • Elderly protester killed in the Ixquisis region, Huehuetenango
  • Hydroelectric company Hidro Santa Cruz announces the closing of operations in Guatemala
  • Former Guatemalan Minister of Energy and Mines arrested in Miami, awaits extradition

News from the Grassroots

  • As Trump takes office, we stand in our commitment to internationalism
  • Join us for the 9th annual dinner at Platano restaurant in Berkeley, CA!
  • February 15: Deadline to apply to NISGUA’s 2017 delegation
A family member holds a rose in 2011 while awaiting the verdict in the Dos Erres trial that convicted former members of the Guatemalan military for crimes against humanity.

Photo: AP

JUSTICE & ACCOUNTABILITY

Former Kaibil, accused of participating in Dos Erres massacre, arrested in Maryland


On January 6, José Mardoqueo Ortiz Morales was arrested in the United States for his alleged role as a member of the Kaibil Guatemalan special forces unit that carried out a massacre in the community of Las Dos Erres, Petén. Between December 6-8, 1982, members of the Kaibil unit tortured, raped, and murdered over 200 people – nearly all of the community’s inhabitants.
 
Ortiz has been living as a permanent resident in the U.S. since the late 1990s and has been wanted for his role in the massacre since 2009. To date, several former members of his unit have been convicted of homicide and crimes against humanity in relation to the massacre, while several others are currently serving sentences in the U.S. for naturalization fraud. Now, Ortiz’s permanent residency status may be revoked by a U.S. immigration court, allowing him to be sent back to Guatemala to stand trial.
 
NISGUA accompanied survivors of the Dos Erres massacre and plaintiff organizations during the 2011 trial where three former Kaibiles and a former military commissioner were each sentenced to over 6,000 years in prison for the massacre. Visit our blog for information on the Dos Erres case and regularly follow us on Twitter for updates.

Ex-Minister of the Interior, Carlos Vielmann, to be tried in Spain for the extrajudicial execution of prisoners


Earlier this month, a Spanish court opened the criminal prosecution of Carlos Vielmann, former Guatemalan Minister of the Interior under the 2004-2007 Óscar Berger government. While serving as Minister, Vielmann allegedly used the National Civil Police and prison security officials to carry out extrajudicial assassinations of inmates.
 
Vielmann, who holds dual Spanish-Guatemalan citizenship, was arrested in Madrid in 2010. He is now being tried for planning and overseeing the extrajudicial execution of eight prisoners in two separate incidents in 2005 and 2006. The public prosecutor is requesting that Vielmann be sentenced to 40 years in prison – the maximum penalty in Spain. Erwin Sperisen, Chief of the National Civil Police at the time of the killings, was convicted by a Swiss court in 2014 for the same crimes.
The body of Sebastián Alonso Juan is taken back to his community in Yulchén to be buried. Join NISGUA in denouncing his murder.

Photo: Francisco Simón / Prensa Comunitaria

DEFENSE OF LIFE & TERRITORY

Elderly protester killed in the Ixquisis region, Huehuetenango


On January 17, Sebastián Alonso Juan was shot and killed during a protest organized by communities in resistance to three hydroelectric projects under construction by the company Promoción y Desarrollos Hídricos, Sociedad Anónima (PDH, S.A.). On the afternoon of the protest, members of the National Civil Police and private security for the company opened fire on protesters. In the ensuing firestorm, Juan was hit and injured. Despite the heavy presence of both police and military, no state actors provided any medical aid, leaving Juan to die after several hours of suffering.
 
NISGUA joined other international and national organizations in releasing a statement that same day, calling for a rapid and independent investigation into Juan's murder, investigation into ongoing human rights violations and criminalization related to the construction of the three hydroelectric projects, and their immediate cancellation.

TAKE ACTION! Join NISGUA in calling on the Public Prosecutor’s office to open an investigation into Juan’s killing by taking a few minutes to send a letter to their office.

Hydroelectric company Hidro Santa Cruz announces the closing of operations in Guatemala


On December 22, 2016 Hidro Santa Cruz took out a paid ad in a Guatemalan newspaper, stating that the company had renounced its rights to the Cambalam project in Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango. They claim that their decision was based on technical and economic sustainability studies, which concluded that the project was not viable. In the statement, the company also noted that the project has not gained acceptance among a significant part of the population in the territory affected by construction. 
 
Since 2007, community members from Santa Cruz Barillas and their neighboring allies have resisted the imposition of the Cambalam hydroelectric project, and as a result, many have been threatened, physically harmed, and criminalized. In a statement on the company’s withdrawal, ancestral authorities in the region organized under the Ancestral Plurinational Government (Payxail Yajaw Konob) highlighted a number of concerns regarding the alleged retreat from the region. They are requesting that the Public Prosecutor's office hold the company responsible for the attacks against their communities while Hidro Santa Cruz has been in the area, and that the people be compensated for damages undergone. They also denounce the Guatemalan government for defending the interests of the company rather than the people, and demand the full withdrawal of Hidro Santa Cruz's parent company - Hidralia Ecoener (Spain), who holds concessions for other projects – from the region.

Former Guatemalan Minister of Energy and Mines arrested in Miami, awaits extradition


Erick Archila, former Guatemalan Minister of Energy and Mines, was arrested in the U.S. on December 13, 2016 on an expired tourist visa. While he was released 10 days later on bail, the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s office filed for extradition only after learning of his arrest in early January.
 
Archila is wanted in Guatemala on charges of illicit association and money laundering, accused by the Public Prosecutor’s office and CICIG in 'La Cooperacha' case. Former Minister of the Interior, Mauricio López Bonilla, is currently awaiting trial for the same case. They are believed to have spent millions of dollars of public funds giving luxurious gifts to former President Otto Pérez Molina and former Vice-President Roxanna Baldetti, who are also being tried on charges of corruption.
 
Archila is implicated in a number of other cases of corruption for favoring corporate interests in granting concessions for mega-development projects and government contracts. At the height of the 2015 government corruption scandals, the Center for Legal, Environmental and Social Action (CALAS) filed a complaint against Archila related to his role in granting the Escobal silver mine license to Tahoe Resources. They accused him of violating the Constitution and for breach of duty for having granted Tahoe the license without adequate consideration of more than 250 community complaints against the project.  
 
While Archila’s next court date in the U.S. was originally scheduled for today, his whereabouts are currently unknown.
Women march in 2014 in Guatemala City on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 

Photo: C.P.R. Urbana

NEWS FROM THE GRASSROOTS

As Trump takes office, we stand in our commitment to internationalism


As Donald Trump took office as the 45th president of the United States, members of the NISGUA network joined millions of others across the U.S. and the world in protest. From Seattle, to Washington, D.C., to Oakland, we voiced our opposition to white supremacy, xenophobia, homophobia, and misogyny, and we took to the streets, strongly believing that it is critical that people of conscience in the U.S. stand firm with conviction against hate and for the collective liberation of all people.

In the statement we released shortly after Trump’s election, we said the following: “We recommit to internationalism and solidarity during this time of domestic upheaval and believe that solidarity with social movements in Guatemala is an essential component of our social justice strategy here in the U.S.”

We invite you to read our statement on the election and join us in holding this vision in the years to come! 

Join us for the 9th annual dinner at Platano restaurant in Berkeley, CA!


On January 30, join NISGUA and the Guatemala News and Information Bureau for a night of food, companionship, and reflection during the event, “Crossing Borders: Resistance and Resilience in the Time of Trump.” Paula Worby from the Hesperian Foundation and Sara Campos from the New American Story Project will speak about the forces driving people to leave Central America, the obstacles they have already encountered to get here, and the work to defend the human rights of refugees in the face of the extreme anti-immigrant posture of the new Trump Administration.
 
Visit our website for more information and to purchase your tickets to this benefit dinner in support of NISGUA’s ongoing solidarity work.

February 15: Deadline to apply to NISGUA’s 2017 delegation


Are you an activist or an ally committed to gender justice and interested in bringing an internationalist lens to your local work? Join us this April on NISGUA’s delegation to Guatemala, “Women and the Work of Liberation.” From April 22-29, we invite you to explore the many ways Guatemalan women are organizing to fight against systems of capitalism, racism, and patriarchy, while building visions for a world free from gendered violence, state repression, and environmental degradation.

This delegation will be a unique opportunity for organizations and individuals from the U.S. to engage in horizontal exchange with women-led social movements in Guatemala, while building capacity for organizing and advocacy across borders. 

We strongly encourage women, trans, and gender nonconforming people, queer people, people of color, indigenous people, and working class/low-income people to apply to participate in this delegation. Visit our website for more information and ways to apply! Application deadline has been extended until February 15. 
NISGUA turned 35! Help us celebrate by becoming a sustaining donor. 
At the center of each of our Solidarity Update articles are people facing real risks for speaking out against impunity, state and corporate violence, and working towards justice. We provide international accompaniment and/or advocacy support to all of the organizations and individuals that we write about, as one attempt to dissuade further attacks human rights defenders face for speaking out.

Make a donation to NISGUA today to help answer the calls of our partners for ongoing accompaniment support and much needed advocacy on the long road to justice.
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2017-11-25T19:35:55+00:00January 23rd, 2017|Solidarity Update|

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