News recap: Ixil communities celebrate ancestral resistance during the Day of Dignity; Land defender Angélica Choc appeals the acquittal of Mynor Padilla, accused of murdering her husband; Communities fighting to protect the Oxec and Cahabón Rivers denounce decision by Constitutional Court; On World Environment Day, the IACHR calls for the protection of environmental defenders; NISGUA Sponsoring Communities celebrate decades of commitment to solidarity. This and more in this month’s Solidarity Update.

Solidarity Update: July 5, 2017
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Justice & Accountability 

  • Ixil communities celebrate ancestral resistance during the Day of Dignity

Defense of Life & Territory

  • Land defender Angélica Choc appeals the acquittal of Mynor Padilla, accused of murdering her husband
  • Communities fighting to protect the Oxec and Cahabón Rivers denounce decision by Constitutional Court
  • On World Environment Day, the IACHR calls for the protection of environmental defenders

News from the Grassroots

  • One week left to submit your photos!
  • NISGUA Sponsoring Communities celebrate decades of commitment to solidarity
  • With your support, we met our match!
  • Now accepting applications for human rights accompaniers in Guatemala

Members of H.I.J.O.S. set up 450 chairs in Guatemala City's central square to mark June 21, the day against forced disappearance. Taped to the chairs from the 1980s are some of the faces of the 45,000 students, trade unionists, catechists, community leaders, and revolutionaries who were disappeared by the military during the country's internal armed conflict.  

Photo: CPR Urbana. For a longer photo essay, visit CPR Urbana's blog.


Ixil communities mark the Day of Dignity with celebrations of ancestral resistance

June 22 marks the National Day of Dignity for the Ixil People, in commemoration of the many moments throughout history that Ixil communities have organized to resist colonialism, imperialism, racism, and genocide. From the 1936 uprising against Dictator Jorge Ubico’s vagrancy laws, to the historic 2013 achievement with the genocide verdict, communities use this moment to celebrate cultural resilience.

"For me, this occasion celebrates that we are born here in Ixil territory, that we have the rights to live on these lands and speak Ixil,” explains Pedro del Barrio, a member of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR). “We celebrate this day so that we don’t forget our history, so that these moments remain in the collective memory of the Ixil people, and so that the youth remember that we are Maya. For years, we have risen up, commemorating in order to remind ourselves of this beautiful history – the history of the indigenous peoples in Guatemala.”
On April 22, Earth Day, Angélica Choc prays in front of an alter with a photo of Adolfo Ich Chamán and a sign that reads, "For the defense of Mother Earth and territory."



Land defender Angélica Choc appeals the acquittal of Mynor Padilla, accused of murdering her husband

In April, the former head of security for the Fenix Nickel mine in El Estor, Izabal was acquitted on all charges related to violence outside the mine in 2009. Mynor Padilla stood trial for the murder of community leader Adolfo Ich Chamán, the assault and subsequent paralysis of German Chub Choc, and for causing serious injury to Alejandro Acte Coc and Haroldo Cucul Cucul. At the time, the mine was owned by Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals and operated through its subsidiary, Compañía Guatemalteca de Niquel.
During the trial, weighty evidence was presented against Padilla, including eye-witness testimony, ballistic evidence showing his gun was fired at the scene, and claims from a security officer that Padilla ordered other officers to shoot at community members. Nonetheless, Judge Ana Leticia Peña Ayala found in favor of Padilla.
Unfortunately, this verdict comes as no surprise. Throughout the trial, Judge Ana Leticia Peña Ayala consistently favored Padilla’s interests, openly discriminating against Adolfo’s widow and plaintiff in the case, Angélica Choc, and barring national and international observers from many of the proceedings. What’s more, in her ruling, Peña Ayala called on the public prosecutor’s office to open a criminal investigation against Angélica and German for presenting false testimony. This claim follows a pattern of criminalization of land defenders and could put them at risk of facing criminal charges for their search for justice for Adolfo’s murder and other violence around the mine.

For now, Angélica Choc has appealed the decision. For detailed Spanish-language coverage of the case, read the report by ACOGUATE.

Communities fighting to protect the Oxec and Cahabón Rivers denounce decision by Constitutional Court

On May 26, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Oxec hydroelectric project could sustain provisional operations for one year despite the company’s failure to consult affected communities in Santa María Cahabón, Alta Verapaz. There, communities are challenging the Oxec dam's expansion, citing its impact on their water supply, and fighting to protect the Oxec and Cahabón rivers from a series of proposed and already-constructed projects.
The Court’s decision stands in direct violation of the communities’ right to free, prior, and informed consent, and comes following months of political pressure from economic elites, who have lent their support to the project in national newspaper ads and extensive defamation campaigns against community leaders.
Immediately following the ruling, affected communities held a press conference to denounce the decision. There, Maya Ixil representatives expressed solidarity with the Maya Q’eqchi’ communities of Santa María Cahabón, calling the violation of community rights "a new attempt at genocide" and drawing comparisons to when, in 2013, business elites pressured  the courts  to illegally overturn the historic Ixil genocide sentence.  On June 8, 32 indigenous authorities came together to reject the Court’s decision. They stated that, "Far from strengthening democracy, peace, and the rule of law, [the decision] increases the level of criminalization and aggression against community struggles.”
For more information in Spanish, please read the statements issued by indigenous authorities and civil society organizations

On World Environment Day, the IACHR calls for the protection of environmental defenders

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) marked 2017’s World Environment Day with a statement recognizing the critical work of environmental defenders in promoting democracy and sustainable development, and called on member states to implement the necessary measures to protect their lives and their work. In the statement, the IACHR specifically named the increase in stigmatization and criminalization that indigenous, Afro-descendant, campesino, and other community leaders face for their opposition to extractive activities. Read the press release in English or Spanish here.

A Q’eqchi’ woman in El Estor washes corn as she prepares to make tortillas. Photograph featured in NISGUA's 2017 calendar. 

Photo: James Rodríguez


One week left to submit your photos! 

This year, NISGUA is once again creating a unique calendar to showcase the strength and resolve of our Guatemalan partners, and we invite you to submit your photos! Our 2018 calendar, “Youth in Resistance,” will lift up the important work of youth activists in movements for social and environmental justice. We are seeking photographs that depict the landscapes, territories, and spaces (both urban and rural) that youth are defending, as well as youth movements’ political, cultural, social, artistic, spiritual, and educational activities.

Submission Guidelines: Pictures of individual people must have that person’s permission to use the photo. Group photos of children must have the parents’ permission. Please note that photos submitted for consideration for past calendars will be included for the 2018 calendar, unless otherwise requested.
Submit photo to Deadline for submissions is July 10!
In May, we gave our grassroots base a challenge: raise $25,000 in two weeks and have that impacted doubled by a matching donor. And they responded! Last month, we raised $50,000 to sustain our important international accompaniment and advocacy work in the global struggle for human rights.
From a place of deep gratitude, we thank all of the people who contributed to our May match campaign! 

GAP Sponsoring Communities celebrate decades of commitment to solidarity 

NISGUA congratulates the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington on the 10th anniversary of its Partners for Arlington and Guatemala (PAG). As a sponsoring community for NISGUA's Guatemalan Accompaniment Project, UUCA-PAG has sponsored 18 international accompaniers who, to date, have provided over 100 months of accompaniment to threatened human rights and environmental defenders in Guatemala. We celebrate UUCA's Partners for Arlington and Guatemalan for their deep commitment to solidarity and share in the celebration of our collective work for global justice. 

Sponsoring Communities provide crucial support to GAP volunteers, and are key partners and activists in NISGUA’s grassroots initiatives to amplify the voices of our Guatemala partners and connect social justice struggles in Guatemala with the same struggles in the U.S. Member of UUCA-PAG Chris Sutton shares, "The spirit of accompaniment - go where your presence is requested, stand in solidarity with others as they pursue their work, and help to amplify their voices - has transformed the way we approach social justice partnerships." GAP is always looking to expand the base of support for solidarity with Guatemala and international human rights accompaniment through the creation of new sponsoring Communities; if you are interested in forming a Sponsoring Community, please contact

Now accepting applications for human rights accompaniers in Guatemala! 

Human rights and environmental defenders continue to identify international accompaniment as an effective tool for building safer spaces for their work – a strategy that NISGUA has developed and implemented in partnership with Guatemalan communities for the past 20 years.
In fact, the number of requests for international accompaniment has significantly over the past several years. Are you interested in joining the growing network of GAP volunteers who have responded to this call for over two decades? We are now accepting applications for the next cohort of accompaniers, for 6-month placements throughout 2018.

Applications are due October 15, 2017. Visit our website for more information and details on how to apply.
We're in this for the long haul.
At the center of each of our Solidarity Updates 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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