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.
WESTERN REGIONAL ASSEMBLY
We, the western communities that constitute this permanent assembly, want to state our concern over the events that have taken place in the north of the country, which were used by the government to declare a state of siege in 22 municipalities and 5 provinces.
We want to make clear that these acts of violence and the widespread violence in the northeast of the country are linked, and that the Guatemalan state is responsible, due to its inability to protect its borders.
We want to make clear that the Peace Accords concluded that democracy is a necessity in all national territory, and this implies that events that destabilize this incipient democracy should not happen, so that it is not necessary to turn to the restrictive installation of a counterinsurgent state of siege.
We the people declare ourselves against this decision and call upon all national and international organizations to declare themselves as well against this arbitrary decision that only benefits those who — through corruption and impunity — continue to get richer at the cost of the majority of the Guatemalan population.
In cases such as in Santa Cruz Barillas, where this arbitrary state of siege was also used, we have seen that the consequences for the people prevail to this day. The installation of a counterinsurgent state of siege generates extremely repressive conditions, with which those who aim to destabilize the country have all the conditions to operate. Our territories far and wide in this country are threatened by a series of extractive projects that attack human life and natural resources.
We also denounce the way in which attempts to militarize this country are generating an official discourse of hate, which divides us even more as a Guatemalan society and which criminalizes human rights defenders and campesino communities within our territory. The attempt to militarize this country coincides with the presence of the United States military and its advising of the Guatemalan military and police forces.
We, the original peoples, strongly declare ourselves against a state of siege and call upon the general population to be constantly vigilant, because the conditions to persecute leaders have been set, not only in the territories that lie within the state of siege, but also those at a national level.
The repression and militarization of territories through a state of siege will not stop the struggle of the people.
September 11th, 2019
Quiché Huehuetenango Sololá Quetzaltenango San Marcos