Sunday, July 27, 2008

Human Right Accompaniment Report: Caitlin Power Hancey

Greetings from Guatemala City...

As some of you know, I've been volunteering as a human rights accompanier in Guatemala since mid-June, and will be here until mid-September. This human rights accompaniment is requested by individuals and organizations who are receiving threats and intimidations for their work defending human rights in Guatemala. As foreign accompaniers we offer a dissuasive presence; documentation of any human rights violations that occur; and diffusion of information through international networks based in our home communities. I'm supported by the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, based in Nova Scotia, and in Guatemala I work with the Coordination for International Accompaniment in Guatemala (CAIG-ACOGUATE), a coordination of 9 countries who send international accompaniers to Guatemala. For more info there are some links at the bottom.

When I arrived in mid-June I had no idea where I would be placed in the country, but quickly found out I'd be sent to a remote region in the north of Guatemala, in the tropical lowlands, in the middle of the rainy season. As a Nova Scotian I felt ready for the water and the mud, but not the heat! I was part of a 2-person regional team. My partner was another redhead (you got it...) named Phil from the northwest US, and we accompanied two different organizations with members in several different communities in the region.

I've never been so thankful for rain because when the sun did find it's way out for a few hours a day it was HOT, and travel between the communities usually involves a few hours on foot. The walks were beautiful though--the rain leaves the mountains lush and green with a mist that burns off after a couple of hours of daylight. (Another blessing--the rain doesn't usually start til the mid-afternoon, and goes through the night, cooling things off nicely to sleep.) I was also grateful for Phil's basic knowledge of Q'eqchi' (in over half of the communities we visited many people don't speak Spanish), his months of experience and relationship-building in the region, and that, for the most part, he knew his way around. Thanks to his quick tutoring, I could say 1) good day/night, 2) thank you; and 3) the food is tasty!

Our time was spent visiting key members of the organizations in their homes, eating and sleeping with their families, talking about the ups and downs of their work (or what Canadians eat for breakfast--just toast and jam?!? just milk and cereal?!? no wonder you're so pale!!), documenting and sharing any important news we could, and planning for any special meetings or events. We were always well fed (my favorite were all the wild greens--like chipilín--available during the rainy season and finding their way into random meals), and between the exercise, the heat, and the food, I was asleep before 9 most nights.

One of the organizations we accompany in the region is made up of survivors a series of massacres committed by the national army from 1980-82, part of Guatemala's 36 year internal armed conflict. These massacres took place on a plantation where they lived and worked as mozos colones or indentured labourers. The survivors and their relatives now live in dispersed communities throughout the region and are soliciting government compensation for loss of land, homes, and livelihoods as a result of the massacres through a national reparations program. Though they don't have much faith they're going to get what they ask for, and of course it doesn't undo or repair anything they've gone through, they're not passing up the chance to officially register their losses and demand restitution.

The second organization is made up of over 20 communities along the Chixoy river that will be inundated as the result of the Xalalá hydroelectric project that's planned to start this fall. The communities have not been consulted about the project--the government is only admitting that 7 families' homes will be affected--and the communities are unequivocally opposed. Private bidding for the project closes later this month, and the winning company is due to be announced in August or September (AES Corp. from the US and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú are among those in the running). The project is touted by the Guatemalan government--and specifically by President Alvaro Colóm--as a matter of national interest, and a much needed "clean-energy" response to both the international oil crisis and the national energy crisis.

The communities that will be affected by the dam are a mix of long-standing Q'eqchi' villages, and settlements of indigenous refugees from other areas of Guatemala who returned from exile in Mexico in the mid-1990s. These "returned" communities have spent the last decade and a half rebuilding their lives, clearing land for crops, building new homes, raising families. One returnee told me "With this dam it's like the 70s and 80s all over again--but this time we're not going to take it. We know our legal rights, we speak Spanish now, we're organized, and they won't displace us again."

CAIG-ACOGUATE is short-handed this month, so I've been pulled from my northern regional team to be part of the "short-term" accompaniment team based in the capital city. This means that I'll be responding to punctual accompaniment needs in the city and in various areas of the country, travelling as needed. So far I've only had 2 assignments (for one of them see the SITRAPETEN article on the ACOGUATE blog below if you read Spanish), and I'm currently recovering from a triple-threat of dengue fever, amoebas, and intestinal bacteria, but I'll be back on the road next week! And I look forward to being back on the regional equipo-pelirojo (red-head team) in August as the possibility of the Xalalá project draws closer, and other activities in the region progress.

Hope you're all well, and it'd be great to hear from you too. I know there are weddings, births, barbeques and cold-water beaches I'm missing this summer (I'm serious about missing that cold water), but I'll just have to catch-up extra hard when I get back.

Un abrazo,
Caitlin


More info:

* Breaking the Silence website http://www.breaking-the-silence.ca/ and blog http://breakingthesilencenet.blogspot.com/
* CAIG-ACOGUATE blog (in Spanish) http://acoguate.blogspot.com/
* June 2008 San Francisco Chronicle article about the Xalalá dam written by a former accompanier http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/06/08/MN6110LJAP.DTL&hw=Guatemala'&sn=001&sc=1000

Friday, July 18, 2008

URGENT ACTION:Crackdown on Local Citizens Opposing Goldcorp's "Marlin" Mine Escalates in San Marcos, Guatemala

Nine New Arrest Warrants Issued Against Eight Women and One Man; Community Leaders Receive Death Threats

Urgent Action

Death Threats and Persecution Following Power Disruption to Marlin Mine in San Marcos, Guatemala

Rights Action is extremely concerned for the safety of communities in
resistance to the Goldcorp gold and silver mine, the Marlin Project,
in municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahaucan and Sipakapa in the
department of San Marcos, Guatemala.

They are currently subject to greatly increased death threats, in
particular Javier de Leon and Mario Tema. Though both have been
subject to constant threats and intimidation, over the past few days
the level of threats has increased.

Mario Tema is a community leader in Sipakapa who has been key in
coordinating and legally defending the 2005 community consultation
that overwhelming rejected the presence of the mine in the area. In
the past week five people have warned him of a plot to kill him, and
mine workers have blamed him for resistance actions in San Miguel
Ixtahuacan to which he has no relation.

Javier de Leon is a community leader in San Miguel Ixtahuacan who has
been active in defending traditional Mam authority structures, and in
promoting a community consultation planned to occur in San Miguel
Ixtahuacan this year. Javier has been told he has been sentenced to
death.

We are also extremely concerned for the safety of Gregoria Crifanta
Perez Bamaca, Crifanta Fernandez Perez, Patrocinia Mateo Mejia,
Catalina Perez Hernandez, Olga Bamaca Gonzales, Maria Diaz, Crifanta
Yoc, Marta Perez, and Fernando Bamaca all Mam Maya villager of Agel,
who are currently subject to arrest warrants that have derive from
their legitimate defense of their rights, emblematic of the manner in
which the Guatemalan justice system has been manipulated to promote
the unjust prosecution of communities seeking to defend their rights
from economically and politically influential interests.

In 2004, when the Marlin Project was initiating its presence in San
Marcos, mine representatives approached indigenous Mayan farmers
asking them to grant right of way for electrical lines they planned to
build to supply energy to the mines processing plant. Those who signed
the right of way did not understand what they were signing, they did
not understand that the intention was to install the type of line they
ended up installing, the document was written in Spanish, and they
were addressed in Spanish, a language some of them minimally
understand. In addition, the land which they farm is communal
indigenous land, which due to this special status has special rights
and guarantees against these kinds of activities, rights which have
not been respected by the Guatemalan government or the transnational
corporations with interest in the area, including the World Bank which
funded the project.

In 2005 the company came to install high tension energy lines and
large posts in their lands. The villagers repeatedly and constantly
protested that they did not want the installations in their yards and
that they had not agreed to this. The presence of the lines has been a
source of constant protest by the villagers as the high tension lines
run directly above their homes and represent an imminent threat to
their safety and health.

Rather then protecting the fundamental rights of the villagers, the
Guatemalan government on January 9 and 10, 2008 sent riot police to
force the entry electrical workers in to the yards of the villagers.
When villagers objected to the unwarranted intrusion into their
properties, children, women and men were subject to a violent response
by the police. The community denounced the actions in the District
Attorneys office but has received no response.

Approximately two weeks ago the energy lines were damages and no
longer allowed passage of energy to the mines processing center. The
Company is accusing the women of the actions and they have been
charged with Aggravated Usurpation. The alterations in the flow of
energy have apparently affected the capacity of the mine to operate,
and reportedly operations were suspended July 1.

According to reports in communities surrounding the mine, mine
directors or managers have told the employees that the community
leaders are responsible for the suspension of the work because they
give bad advice to the communities, and have suggested that leaders
should be attacked or killed, particularly focusing on Javier de Leon,
Mario Tema and the Agel villagers.

Earlier this year Javier de Leon was subject to a series of threats.
In March 2008 the Casa del Pueblo / Town Hall, a traditional Mam
authority structure which brings together Mam mayors from all 65
villages that compose San Miguel Ixtahuacan, began planning a
community consultation in reference to the Marlin Mine. Javier de Leon
was President of the Casa del Pueblo in 2007 and as outgoing president
is an advisor this year. Several meetings of the Casa del Pueblo were
attended by mine employees. On March 12, the as Javier walked to his
home after a meeting of the Casa, a motorcyclist attempted to run him
down. On March 29 the same person who drove the motorcycle threatened
to kill Javier, and then motioned to take a gun from his belt. On
March 30, the second consultation planning meeting held by the Casa,
which was attended by members of the mine security force. In the late
afternoon following that meeting, Maquivel community members report
that a car with tinted windows entered the village, stopped a car in
which Javier often rides, at which point an occupant of the car
pointed a gun to the head of the sixteen year old boy driving the
Maquivel truck. The armed man asked if Javier de Leon was in the car,
that they were looking for him. The villagers then noted that several
armed men were in the car.

These threats are not to be taken lightly. On March 13, 2005 a Marlin
mine security guard killed, in front of multiple witnesses, Alvaro
Benigno Sanchez, whose family had actively protested the mine, as he
left an evening church service. This murder was never prosecuted. In
January of 2005 Guatemalan Riot Police killed Raul Castro Bocel with
gunfire during a protest blocking the passage in the highway of mining
equipment in Solola. This extrajudicial execution has never been
prosecuted. In April or May of 2007, Byron Bamaca Perez and his nephew
Marco Tulio Vasquez, who worked as cooks for a company subcontracted
to dig the tunnel associated with the mine, disappeared when sent to
on an errand for the company. Marco Tulio Vasquez had participated in
anti mining protests prior to employment with the mine. Despite months
of inquiries, the company has provided the families with no
information as to their whereabouts. On June 15, 2007 the decapitated
body of Pedro Miguel Cinto, an elderly man who lived in front of the
mines entrance was found by a child pasturing sheep. His head found in
a neighboring department. He and his family had been active against
the mine. When justice authorities found the man's head they
communicated the find through the mining company to the family, an act
which was perceived to be a threat and a warning to those who dared to
protest the mine.

In addition to the extreme violence and complete impunity with which
it occurs, the company has a history of the use of malicious
prosecution to intimidate resistance to the mine. On January 9, 2007,
a group of villagers who live around the mine visited the mine office
to request dialog about the extreme harms the communities neighboring
the mine suffer as a result of its activities. Entire communities were
displaced to make room for the mine, selling land through coercion and
deceit. The communities surrounding the mine have had large cracks
appear in their concrete blocks homes as a result of the constant
explosions that cause the earth to quake. The same explosions raise
enormous amounts of dust that cause respiratory problems.

Rather then respond to the request they were escorted from the mine
office by company security forces. The security forces then followed
them down the road and attacked them a few kilometers away. The men
defended themselves as best they could and escaped what appeared to be
a kidnapping attempt. When the villagers heard of what happened, they
responded in a protests that lasted 10 days.

While the State took no action against the mine security for the
attack on the community representatives, seven of the community
representatives were violently arrested in the homes in pre dawn hours
on February 13. Though the five of the seven were acquitted and two
received sentences they are currently appealing to the Constitutional
Court, all were subject to great hardship and personal expense in the
process.

The manner in which the District Attorneys office prosecuted this
case demonstrates undue bias in favor of the mining company and
discrimination against the indigenous farmers. The charges that five
of the seven faced, and four of the five offenses the remaining two
faced, were charges considered to be minor offenses, offenses which
the Guatemalan justice system encourages the District Attorney to
resolve through alternative non judicial mechanisms, such as
negotiation, especially when, as in this case, the supposed offenders
have no prior record of offenses and there are related special
conditions that aggravated the situation. The attack on the community
representatives by mine security that incited the protest was never
prosecuted.

Another example of malicious prosecution is the case of the Italian
Chemist Flaviano Bianchini, who published a report in late 2006
documenting extremely high levels of contamination in the Tzala River.
Following the report he was subject to s series of death threats, and
then a lawsuit by Glamis Gold, the then owner of the Montana
Exploradora Marlin mine.

In addition to the damages the communities were denouncing during the
January 2007 protests, they have suffered the following damages as a
result of the mines operation. The wells and springs have dried up as
a result of a drop in the water table resulting from the enormous
amounts of water the mine pump to process the gold. The company is
releasing water that has been used with cyanide and arsenic in
processing the gold into the air and river systems. The population
surrounding the mine are suffering from strange skin conditions which
in other areas affected by gold mine have been the first sign of
contamination of their bodies by heavy metals that later provoke
nervous system disorders and other grave illnesses. On July 10, 2008
twenty two mine neighbors visited the National Institute of
Dermatology in Guatemala City for exams of skin conditions that began
to appear approximately 5 months ago, but could not afford to purchase
medicines to relieve the symptoms.

LAST WEEK nine arrest warrants were issued for community members in
the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, department of San Marcos,
Guatemala in an attempt to criminalize and eliminate local resistance
to the Marlin mine, a gold and silver extraction operation in the
area.

The arrest warrants charge eight women and one man with "aggravated
usurpation" for damage done to an electric line feeding into the mine,
which runs through the properties of various community members. On
June 13th, one community member and mother of six blocked the electric
line running through her property after months of attempting to
convince the company remove the electric post from her land. The post
and the electric line were believed to present a threat to the safety
of her home and demonstrate the arrogance with which the mining
company continues to invade territory against the wishes of the
population. Within days, this act of resistance was used by the
company to seek the arrests of eight other community members who have
been involved in denouncing of Canadian mining company Goldcorp Inc.
and its 100% foreign- owned Guatemalan subsidiary Montana Exploradora
for damages and human rights violations caused by the Marlin mine.

These arrest warrants follow the pattern set during an incident in
2007, when 7 men from San Miguel Ixtahuacán — demanding accountability
and compensation from the mining company for acts of coercive land
appropriation in their communities — were targeted and arrested. Five
of the men were ultimately acquitted, while 2 were sentenced to a
Guatemalan form of "house arrest."

Threats Against Local Leaders

Tensions have increased in recent days in the municipalities of San
Miguel Ixthauacán and Sipakapa as a result of these events. Rumors
have spread throughout the communities that allegedly originated from
the local offices of Montana Exploradora and the company's social
programming organization "Sierra Madre," stating that the mine will
have to halt operations for two to three months due to lack of
electricity. These rumors are contributing to an escalating climate of
tension for human rights defenders and community organizers in the
region.

Mario Tema Bautista, a community leader in Sipakapa who opposes the
mine, has received concerning indirect death threats, whereby he has
been told that some mine workers from the community are planning
attacks against him because of the rumored suspension of mining
operations. Community leaders and human rights defenders in San
Miguel Ixtahuacán have received direct threats from groups of
employees of Montana Exploradora as well.

In addition, organizations of affected community members from San
Miguel Ixtahuacán have recently accepted an invitation from the
company to dialogue; however, only under certain conditions. The
conditions demanded by the local organizations included the suspension
of the nine arrest warrants against their fellow community members,
and the suspension of mining operations in order to create the
necessary conditions for true dialogue. At the time of writing this
urgent action, the company still has not responded. Please join us in
demanding from Goldcorp Inc. and Montana Exploradora that they accept
the communities' conditions and enter into dialogue with community
organizers. (See below for complete conditions.)

Background

The Marlin Mine is a project of Canadian mining giant Goldcorp, which
became the 3rd largest mining company in the world after merging with
U.S.-owned Glamis Gold in recent years. Glamis began constructing the
mine in 2004 with a $45 million loan from the World Bank.

The open-pit, cyanide-leaching gold and silver mine guzzles over
250,000 liters of water an hour- comparable to the amount an average
family in the region uses over the course of 22 years.

The mine is located in Mayan Mam and Mayan Sipakapense territory.

Communities in the area have begun to suffer the adverse consequences
of the mine, which, according to local organizations such as ADISMI
(The Association for Integral Development in San Miguel Ixtahuacán)
and the representative governing body of the communities include:

- loss of water sources (over 40 wells have dried up)

- skin diseases, especially amongst children and the elderly

- death of animals and an increase in miscarriages

- Large cracks in homes creating unsafe living conditions

- Increased militarization, the presence of private security,
and social conflict between communities

- Insufficient compensation for land sold to the company by
community members as well as pressure, threats, and coercion by the
company in the acquisition of this land

In addition to threatening the health and wellbeing of surrounding
communities, the mining company and the Guatemalan government have
violated the rights of indigenous peoples, as declared in the
International Labor Organization Covenant 169, the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Guatemalan
Constitution, and Municipal Law. These statutes are meant to secure
the rights of indigenous communities to grant or withhold their free
prior and informed consent for mega-projects on their lands.

In 2005 the municipality of Sipakapa held a community referendum, the
results of which overwhelmingly rejected mining activity on their
territory. The Guatemalan Constitutional Court declared this
referendum valid, but non-binding. The residents of San Miguel
Ixtahuacán were never properly informed or consulted before mining
operations began.

TO HELP SUPPORT THE COMMUNITIES IN DISUADING A POTENTIAL OUTBREAK OF
VIOLENCE, AND TO DEMAND AN END TO THE CRIMINALIZATON OF PROTEST,
PLEASE SEND APPEALS (faxes, letters, phone calls) as soon as possible
(sample letters below):

- Calling for the government of Guatemala to suspend the arrest
warrants for the nine community defenders from San Miguel Ixtahuacán
and stop the criminalization of protest in the area around the Marlin
Mine.

- Urging the Guatemalan government to protect threatened
community leaders and human rights defenders in San Miguel Ixtahuacán
and Sipakapa.

- Demanding that Goldcorp Inc. and its subsidiary Montana
Exploradora clarify their plans for operations in the coming months,
in order to quash the rumors that are fueling conflict between
community members, which could lead to violence in the coming days.

- Urging Goldcorp Inc. and Montana Exploradora to accept the San
Miguel Ixtahuacán affected communities' conditions for negotiations
and enter into dialogue with them on the terms they so clearly lay
out.

APPEALS TO:

Ian Telfer, Chairman of Goldcorp Inc., Kevin MacArthur CEO of Goldcorp
Inc., all directors of Goldcorp Inc.
Goldcorp Inc. Head Office:
Park Place
Suite 3400-666 Burrard Street
Vancouver, B.C. V6C 2X8
Telephone: (604) 696-3000
Facsimile: (604) 696-3001
Email: Directors@Goldcorp.com

Montana Exploradora
20 calle 24-60 zona 10,
Ofibodegas Pradera oficina #20
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Telephone: 2385-6647
Facsimile: 2385-6651
Email marlin01@internett.com

Attorney General
Lic. Juan Luis Florido
Fiscal General de la República y Jefe del Ministerio Público
8ª Avenida 10-67, Antiguo Edificio del Banco de los Trabajadores, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2411 9124; +502 2411 9326
Email: fdguatemala@mp.lex.gob.gt
Salutation: Estimado Fiscal/Dear Sir

Human Rights Ombudsman for department of San Marcos, Guatemala
Rudy Castillo
Telephone: 7760-8087
Facsimile: 7760-8087

Head of the Special Prosecutor's Office on Human Rights, Public
Prosecutor's Office
Rosa María Salazar Marroquín
Jefa de la Sección de Derechos Humanos, Ministerio Público
10ª Calle 10-14, Zona 1, Edificio UP, 5º nivel
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2230 6033 (say "por favor, tono de fax" – business hours
only,GMT+7)
Salutation: Estimada Fiscal/Dear Madam

Sample Letter for Guatemalan government institutions:

Dear _____________,

I am deeply concerned for the safety of Mario Tema Bautista of
Sipakapa and prominent community leaders in the municipality of San
Miguel Ixtahuacán. I am aware that these leaders have experienced
various levels of intimidation, including direct and indirect threats,
due to a rising climate of conflict around the Marlin mine. I am
extremely concerned that these threats are in response to their work
for justice and their efforts to organize for the rights of their
communities.

I urge you today to take immediate action to ensure effective
protection for human rights defenders and, in particular, members of
ADISMI and civic leaders in Sipakapa including Mario Tema Bautista.

Human rights defenders have the right to carry out their activities
without any restrictions or fear of reprisals, as set out in the UN
Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups
and Institutions to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

To this same end, I express my deepest concern for the arrest warrants
in effect for eight women and one man in San Miguel Ixtahuacan:
Gregoria Crisanta Perez Bamaca, Oliga Bamaca, Crisanta Hernandez,
Patrocinia Mateo Mejia, Crisanta Yoc, Marta Perez, Maria Diaz,
Catalina Perez, and Fernando Bacilio Perez Bamaca. I am concerned that
these arrest warrants have been issued in response to the individuals'
participation in community organizations opposing the Marlin mine and
defending community rights in the face of damages caused by the mine,
and not any real criminal act. I ask that you work to put an end to
the criminalization of protest in the areas surrounding the Marlin
mine.

I thank you in advance for your attention and action to protect the
important work of community organizations in San Marcos and all human
rights defenders in Guatemala.

Sincerely,



Sample Letter for Goldcorp Inc. and Montana Exploradora (Guatemalan subsidiary)

Dear _______________________

I send this letter expressing my grave concerns for the situation
currently unfolding in San Marcos, Guatemala, where your gold and
silver "Marlin" mine is located.

I understand that 9 community members opposed to your mine have been
criminalized in recent weeks, though they are innocent of any crime.
On June 13th, one community member, a mother of six, blocked the
electric line running through her property. This act followed months
of her attempting to convince your company to remove the electric post
from her land, which she believed presented a danger to her and her
family. Within days, this act was used by Montana Exporadora to
pursue her arrest and the arrests of eight other community members who
have been involved in the denouncing your company for damages and
human rights violations caused by the Marlin mine. This is
unacceptable business behavior.

In addition, rumors have been flying in recent weeks about the
possible suspension of mining operations. These rumors have created
escalating community tensions leading to an increase in death threats
against community leaders who oppose your mine. It is absolutely
irresponsible for your company to let these rumors fester without
clarifying whether mining operations will or will not be suspended, as
unverified rumors could realistically lead to violence in the coming
days.

I urge that you:

* Call for a suspension of the arrest warrants of the 9 community
defenders and a stop to all criminalization of protest in the area
around the Marlin Mine;

* Clarify your plans for operations in the coming months to your
workers and the communities surrounding the Marlin Mine as soon as
possible, thus squelching the rumors that are currently fueling
conflict and could lead to violence in the coming days;

* Accept the San Miguel Ixtachuacán affected communities'
conditions for negotiations that were recently submitted to you and
enter into dialogue with them on these terms.

A failure to act now to stop the criminalization of community members
who oppose your mine and to squelch rumors leading to potential
violence would only serve to bring strongly into question your
company's commitment to human rights and respect for local
communities.

Sincerely,

Friday, July 11, 2008

URGENT ACTION: Human rights and bio-fuels in Guatemala

CUC National Committee Members Attacked by Gunfire and Kidnapped

Biofuel Agrobusinesses Violently Repress Communities

Rights Action is extremely concerned for the safety of members of the
National Committee of CUC (the Campesino Unity Committee), and for the
safety of members of the Maya Keqchi communities of La Isla, Caserio
el Mirador Semao, Corazon de Mais, and Teleman Punto 15, all in the
municipality of Panzos, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.

Historically the area known as Finca Los Recuerdos has been farmed by
the above mentioned communities as it pertains to their territory.
Approximately three years ago a bio fuel agribusiness, Ingenio
Guadelupe, began cutting forests and planting large extensions of
sugar cane for ethanol production. The indigenous farmers have been
extremely concerned about the damage to the environment provoked by
this business, not to mention the invasion of their territory.

June 30, 2008 a group of approximately 60 Keqchi families entered the
Finca Los Recuerdos at approximately 7 am to establish temporary
shelters and once again begin planting in the area.

The families were viscously attacked by paramilitary security forces
associated with Ingenio Guadelupe. The group of men, women and
children were fired upon and a helicopter property of the company
attacked them flying over the families while only approximately three
to four feet off the ground. In this way the group was forced to
abandon the lands. One 35 year old father for three children,
Cristobal Coc Cuc, was shot and hospitalized.

July 1, at approximately 9 am, the families and representatives CUC,
approximately 200 people total, gathered in Panzos to protest the
violence perpetuated against the communities, and demand prosecution
of those responsible and the clarification of the land title
situation. The peaceful group was again attacked by the paramilitary
forces with the direct participation of Carlos Withman and Guillermo
Urrutia, two managers of the ethanol agro business.

The two company managers, and members of the paramiltary security
force that accompanied them, fired into the peaceful crown, dispersing
them, and seeking out the CUC National Committee members. They shouted
that they intended to kill Aparicio Perez and Rafael Gonzales, both of
whom were able to escape. They then proceeded to kidnap two women,
Maria Martin Domingo and Fabiana Ortiz, members of CUCs National
Committee. The crowd identified the house they were taken to, and held
for several hours. Only CUC initiated legal actions in Guatemala City
did a judge and the police enter the house to liberate the women. The
assailants continue to operate in the region with absolute impunity.

The situation in Panzos is emblematic of the agrarian situation in
Guatemala in which the Guatemalan government acts with complicity with
large landholders and agro businesses to illegally obtain land
belonging to indigenous communities. Violent force either committed
directly by State security forces, or paramilitary illegal actions
tolerated by the State, are used to violently evict communities
without establishing clarity in terms of land rights or much less
protecting the special rights of indigenous communities as guaranteed
by international human rights standards.

The agrarian conflict has become worse in recent years with massive
investment in bio fuel production, both in ethanol via sugar cane and
in bio diesel through african palm production. The rapid growth of bio
fuel industries in Guatemala was stimulated by the interest of the
Inter American Development Bank in bio fuels.

In January 2008, the Inter American Development Bank approved a
technical grant to help Guatemala develop plans to promote the
bio-fuel industry. Over the past several years Inter American
Development Bank and the World Bank have promoted bio-fuels as an
alternative to slow global warning. Communities around the world
immediately began denouncing the deforestation and desertification
bio-fuel production causes. Over the past year the same institutions
promoting bio-fuels began warning that bio-fuels contribute to the
globally rising cost of food. Communities affected by bio fuel
plantation know that the environmental destruction they cause must
contribute to global warming rather then help combat it, not to
mention increasing hunger.

CUCs National Committee member Aparicio Perez has also been directly
affected by violence from the bio fuel industry as his home community
of La Ayuda, Coatepeque is being devastated by the contamination and
desertification caused by neighboring African Palm plantations, and as
a consequence of their protests he has been subject to death threats.
On March 20, 2008 his two sons were pursued by a pick up truck with
tinted windows in an apparent attempt to attack them.

ON July 7 a member of CUC in their Coatepeque region was gunned down
and killed in a public mini bus, a public assassination that
demonstrates the degree of impunity and violence in the area which
leave activists vulnerable.

CUC is a long time partner of Rights Action, it is one of the longest
standing land rights organizations in Guatemala, and has maintained a
clear and constant struggle for the respect for fundamental human
rights for over three decades. Rigoberta Menchu won the Nobel Peace
Prize while working as a member of CUC.

Aparicio Perez has traveled to the United States twice with Rights
Action, first in a speaking tour focused on denouncing the killings of
land rights activists in Eastern Guatemala and most recently to attend
the United States Social Forum. Both Aparicio Perez and Rafael
Gonzales have been active in planning for the Hemispheric Social Forum
scheduled to occur in Guatemala in October 2008.

- SAMPLE LETTER -

Luis Alberto Moreno, President

Inter American Development Bank

1300 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20577, USA
Tel: (202) 623 -3096

Dear President Moreno:

I am extremely concerned that the Inter American Development Bank is
supporting the development of biofuel industry in Guatemala when the
communities affected by bio fuel agro business are under attack,
literally, by biofuel agribusinesses. The Guatemalan government
permits these businesses to perpetrate violence and contaminate and
steal water form the communities.

Example of this is the June 30 attack on the Maya Keqchi communities
of La Isla, Caserio el Mirador Semao, Corazon de Mais, and Teleman
Punto 15, in Panzos by paramilitary security forces associated with
Ingenio Guadelupe, and the violent attack on members of the national
committee of the Comite de Unidad Campesino CUC, the following day.

Bio fuel production in Guatemala only increases deforestation,
desertification and global warming. It also increases hunger, and
violates land rights of indigenous communities and increases violent
repression. Please immediately suspend your support for the bio fuel
industry in Guatemala.

Sincerely,

___

DENUNCIA URGENTE

GUILLERMO URRUTIA DISPARA CONTRA CAMPESINOS Y SECUESTRA A MIEMBRAS
DEL COMITÉ NACIONAL DEL CUC

Today, July 1, when various campesino communities gathered to protest
in Teleman, Alta Verapaz, in protest of the ataque suffered June 30 in
Finca El Recuerdo in which one member of CUC was injured, at about 9
am, , managers of the business Chabil Utzaj, SA, took out their guns
and fired against campesinos and campesinas who were peaceful
protesting in the exit from Teleman to Panzos.

The members of the security force for these men also fired and
kidnaped two women members of the National Committee of CUC, Maria
Martin Domingo and Fabiana Ortiz Sales. The women are detained in a
house with a yellow wooden door located next to the gasoline station
next to the Texaco in the exit of Teleman. They are currently
attempting to capture Rafael Gonzales, Coordinator of CUC, and
Aparicio Perez, both members of CUCs National Committee.

We hold Withman and Urrutia and their paramilitary guards responsible
for our fellow members of CUC who have been injured in the
indiscriminate attack and for the kidnappingg of our fellow members of
CUC already mentioned.

We call on national and international solidarity to pronounce on the
acts.

TO CONFRONT HUNGER

OCCUPY, RESIST AND PRODUCE

Clear Head, Solidarity Heart, and Combative Fist

Of the Farm Workers

Comité de Unidad Campesina

CUC

--------------------

Coatepeque, July 7, 2008

CUC Central

Information about the Assasination of Balvino Chávez

He was assassinated today, Monday Duly 7, close to Caserio los
Cerros, in the highway from Coatepeque to the Pacaya area, at 11:30
am. Our compañero was traveling from Coatepeque to San Vicente
Pacayá in a collective transport minibus he owned. Two men that
traveled on the minibus took out guns and killed him with gunshots,
then fled. According to witnesses, he received 5 of the 10 bullets
fired and two other people were injured, whose names we do not know,
and they were transported tot he Coatepeque hospital.

Friday, July 4, 2008

URGENT ACTION: Goldcorp's Marlin Mine (San Marcos, Guatemala)

Crackdown on Local Citizens Opposing Goldcorp's "Marlin" Mine
Escalates in San Marcos, Guatemala

Nine New Arrest Warrants Issued Against Eight Women and One Man;
Community Leaders Receive Death Threats

Urgent Action

LAST WEEK nine arrest warrants were issued for community members in
the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacán, department of San Marcos,
Guatemala in an attempt to criminalize and eliminate local resistance
to the Marlin mine, a gold and silver extraction operation in the
area.

The arrest warrants charge eight women and one man with "aggravated
usurpation" for damage done to an electric line feeding into the mine,
which runs through the properties of various community members. On
June 13th, one community member and mother of six blocked the electric
line running through her property after months of attempting to
convince the company remove the electric post from her land. The post
and the electric line were believed to present a threat to the safety
of her home and demonstrate the arrogance with which the mining
company continues to invade territory against the wishes of the
population. Within days, this act of resistance was used by the
company to seek the arrests of eight other community members who have
been involved in denouncing of Canadian mining company Goldcorp Inc.
and its 100% foreign- owned Guatemalan subsidiary Montana Exploradora
for damages and human rights violations caused by the Marlin mine.

These arrest warrants follow the pattern set during an incident in
2007, when 7 men from San Miguel Ixtahuacán — demanding accountability
and compensation from the mining company for acts of coercive land
appropriation in their communities — were targeted and arrested. Five
of the men were ultimately acquitted, while 2 were sentenced to a
Guatemalan form of "house arrest."

Threats Against Local Leaders

Tensions have increased in recent days in the municipalities of San
Miguel Ixthauacán and Sipakapa as a result of these events. Rumors
have spread throughout the communities that allegedly originated from
the local offices of Montana Exploradora and the company's social
programming organization "Sierra Madre," stating that the mine will
have to halt operations for two to three months due to lack of
electricity. These rumors are contributing to an escalating climate of
tension for human rights defenders and community organizers in the
region.

Mario Tema Bautista, a community leader in Sipakapa who opposes the
mine, has received concerning indirect death threats, whereby he has
been told that some mine workers from the community are planning
attacks against him because of the rumored suspension of mining
operations. Community leaders and human rights defenders in San
Miguel Ixtahuacán have received direct threats from groups of
employees of Montana Exploradora as well.

In addition, organizations of affected community members from San
Miguel Ixtahuacán have recently accepted an invitation from the
company to dialogue; however, only under certain conditions. The
conditions demanded by the local organizations included the suspension
of the nine arrest warrants against their fellow community members,
and the suspension of mining operations in order to create the
necessary conditions for true dialogue. At the time of writing this
urgent action, the company still has not responded. Please join us in
demanding from Goldcorp Inc. and Montana Exploradora that they accept
the communities' conditions and enter into dialogue with community
organizers. (See below for complete conditions.)

Background

The Marlin Mine is a project of Canadian mining giant Goldcorp, which
became the 3rd largest mining company in the world after merging with
U.S.-owned Glamis Gold in recent years. Glamis began constructing the
mine in 2004 with a $45 million loan from the World Bank.

The open-pit, cyanide-leaching gold and silver mine guzzles over
250,000 liters of water an hour- comparable to the amount an average
family in the region uses over the course of 22 years.

The mine is located in Mayan Mam and Mayan Sipakapense territory.

Communities in the area have begun to suffer the adverse consequences
of the mine, which, according to local organizations such as ADISMI
(The Association for Integral Development in San Miguel Ixtahuacán)
and the representative governing body of the communities include:

- loss of water sources (over 40 wells have dried up)

- skin diseases, especially amongst children and the elderly

- death of animals and an increase in miscarriages

- Large cracks in homes creating unsafe living conditions

- Increased militarization, the presence of private security,
and social conflict between communities

- Insufficient compensation for land sold to the company by
community members as well as pressure, threats, and coercion by the
company in the acquisition of this land

In addition to threatening the health and wellbeing of surrounding
communities, the mining company and the Guatemalan government have
violated the rights of indigenous peoples, as declared in the
International Labor Organization Covenant 169, the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Guatemalan
Constitution, and Municipal Law. These statutes are meant to secure
the rights of indigenous communities to grant or withhold their free
prior and informed consent for mega-projects on their lands.

In 2005 the municipality of Sipakapa held a community referendum, the
results of which overwhelmingly rejected mining activity on their
territory. The Guatemalan Constitutional Court declared this
referendum valid, but non-binding. The residents of San Miguel
Ixtahuacán were never properly informed or consulted before mining
operations began.

TO HELP SUPPORT THE COMMUNITIES IN DISUADING A POTENTIAL OUTBREAK OF
VIOLENCE, AND TO DEMAND AN END TO THE CRIMINALIZATON OF PROTEST,
PLEASE SEND APPEALS (faxes, letters, phone calls) as soon as possible
(sample letters below):

- Calling for the government of Guatemala to suspend the arrest
warrants for the nine community defenders from San Miguel Ixtahuacán
and stop the criminalization of protest in the area around the Marlin
Mine.

- Urging the Guatemalan government to protect threatened
community leaders and human rights defenders in San Miguel Ixtahuacán
and Sipakapa.

- Demanding that Goldcorp Inc. and its subsidiary Montana
Exploradora clarify their plans for operations in the coming months,
in order to quash the rumors that are fueling conflict between
community members, which could lead to violence in the coming days.

- Urging Goldcorp Inc. and Montana Exploradora to accept the San
Miguel Ixtahuacán affected communities' conditions for negotiations
and enter into dialogue with them on the terms they so clearly lay
out.

APPEALS TO:

Ian Telfer, Chairman of Goldcorp Inc., Kevin MacArthur CEO of Goldcorp
Inc., all directors of Goldcorp Inc.
Goldcorp Inc. Head Office:
Park Place
Suite 3400-666 Burrard Street
Vancouver, B.C. V6C 2X8
Telephone: (604) 696-3000
Facsimile: (604) 696-3001
Email: Directors@Goldcorp.com

Montana Exploradora
20 calle 24-60 zona 10,
Ofibodegas Pradera oficina #20
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Telephone: 2385-6647
Facsimile: 2385-6651
Email marlin01@internett.com

Attorney General
Lic. Juan Luis Florido
Fiscal General de la República y Jefe del Ministerio Público
8ª Avenida 10-67, Antiguo Edificio del Banco de los Trabajadores, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2411 9124; +502 2411 9326
Email: fdguatemala@mp.lex.gob.gt
Salutation: Estimado Fiscal/Dear Sir

Human Rights Ombudsman for department of San Marcos, Guatemala
Rudy Castillo
Telephone: 7760-8087
Facsimile: 7760-8087

Head of the Special Prosecutor's Office on Human Rights, Public
Prosecutor's Office
Rosa María Salazar Marroquín
Jefa de la Sección de Derechos Humanos, Ministerio Público
10ª Calle 10-14, Zona 1, Edificio UP, 5º nivel
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2230 6033 (say "por favor, tono de fax" – business hours only,GMT+7)
Salutation: Estimada Fiscal/Dear Madam

Sample Letter for Guatemalan government institutions:

Dear _____________,

I am deeply concerned for the safety of Mario Tema Bautista of
Sipakapa and prominent community leaders in the municipality of San
Miguel Ixtahuacán. I am aware that these leaders have experienced
various levels of intimidation, including direct and indirect threats,
due to a rising climate of conflict around the Marlin mine. I am
extremely concerned that these threats are in response to their work
for justice and their efforts to organize for the rights of their
communities.

I urge you today to take immediate action to ensure effective
protection for human rights defenders and, in particular, members of
ADISMI and civic leaders in Sipakapa including Mario Tema Bautista.

Human rights defenders have the right to carry out their activities
without any restrictions or fear of reprisals, as set out in the UN
Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups
and Institutions to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

To this same end, I express my deepest concern for the arrest warrants
in effect for eight women and one man in San Miguel Ixtahuacan:
Gregoria Crisanta Perez Bamaca, Oliga Bamaca, Crisanta Hernandez,
Patrocinia Mateo Mejia, Crisanta Yoc, Marta Perez, Maria Diaz,
Catalina Perez, and Fernando Bacilio Perez Bamaca. I am concerned that
these arrest warrants have been issued in response to the individuals'
participation in community organizations opposing the Marlin mine and
defending community rights in the face of damages caused by the mine,
and not any real criminal act. I ask that you work to put an end to
the criminalization of protest in the areas surrounding the Marlin
mine.

I thank you in advance for your attention and action to protect the
important work of community organizations in San Marcos and all human
rights defenders in Guatemala.

Sincerely,


Sample Letter for Goldcorp Inc. and Montana Exploradora (Guatemalan subsidiary)

Dear _______________________

I send this letter expressing my grave concerns for the situation
currently unfolding in San Marcos, Guatemala, where your gold and
silver "Marlin" mine is located.

I understand that 9 community members opposed to your mine have been
criminalized in recent weeks, though they are innocent of any crime.
On June 13th, one community member, a mother of six, blocked the
electric line running through her property. This act followed months
of her attempting to convince your company to remove the electric post
from her land, which she believed presented a danger to her and her
family. Within days, this act was used by Montana Exporadora to
pursue her arrest and the arrests of eight other community members who
have been involved in the denouncing your company for damages and
human rights violations caused by the Marlin mine. This is
unacceptable business behavior.

In addition, rumors have been flying in recent weeks about the
possible suspension of mining operations. These rumors have created
escalating community tensions leading to an increase in death threats
against community leaders who oppose your mine. It is absolutely
irresponsible for your company to let these rumors fester without
clarifying whether mining operations will or will not be suspended, as
unverified rumors could realistically lead to violence in the coming
days.

I urge that you:

* Call for a suspension of the arrest warrants of the 9 community
defenders and a stop to all criminalization of protest in the area
around the Marlin Mine;

* Clarify your plans for operations in the coming months to your
workers and the communities surrounding the Marlin Mine as soon as
possible, thus squelching the rumors that are currently fueling
conflict and could lead to violence in the coming days;

* Accept the San Miguel Ixtachuacán affected communities'
conditions for negotiations that were recently submitted to you and
enter into dialogue with them on these terms.

A failure to act now to stop the criminalization of community members
who oppose your mine and to squelch rumors leading to potential
violence would only serve to bring strongly into question your
company's commitment to human rights and respect for local
communities.

Sincerely,


Letter From Communities of San Miguel Ixtahuacan Outlining Conditions
for Dialogue:

Sr. Procurador Auxiliatura Departamental de Derechos Humanos del
Departamento de San Marcos:

La población de San Miguel Ixtahuacan afectada por la minería sabemos
de la propuesta planteada por la Procuraduría de Derechos Humanos para
entrar en una mesa de dialogo. Lo hemos analizado y ante esta
propuesta nuestra respuesta es lo siguiente:

Aceptamos la propuesta de instalar una mesa de diálogo con las
siguientes condiciones:

1) Suspendan las órdenes de captura que la empresa ha presentado
contra ocho mujeres y un hombre de nuestras comunidades. Lo que
estamos haciendo es nada más que un reclamo de los daños que esta
haciendo la empresa, y no son actos criminales.

2) Suspendan sus operaciones mineras de forma inmediata para
propiciar las condiciones de dialogo.

3) Contaremos con la presencia de testigos de honor. Estos testigos
de honor serán de organizaciones e instituciones nacionales e
internacionales en materia de derechos humanos, específicamente de los
pueblos indígenas, tales como: El Movimiento de Trabajadores
Campesinos, Comisión Pastoral Paz y Ecología, La Fundación Rigoberta
Menchú, Asociación de Desarrollo Integral San Miguelense, el Consejo
Municipal de Alcaldes Comunales de San Miguel Ixtahuacan (Alcaldía del
Pueblo) Acompañamiento Internacional de Derechos Humanos (Aco-Guate),
NISGUA, Derechos en Acción, entre otras.

4) Además de los testigos de honor, tendremos como mediadores a las
siguientes personas: la Dra. Rigoberta Menchú Premio Nóbel de la Paz,
El Monseñor Álvaro Ramazzini, y el Dr. Sergio Morales Procurador de
los Derechos Humanos.

5) El lugar para las reuniones de diálogos será la cabecera
departamental de San Marcos.

Letters from Guatemala: Caren Weisbart

Greetings from Guatemala,

Today, for the first time in history in Guatemala, June 30th in Central Park was celebrated as "The National Day of Heroes and Martyrs" and not as Army Day. Over 15 organizations from civil society collaborated to carry out a march through the streets of Guatemala to remember family members and friends, heroes and martyrs, who gave their lives or had them violently taken away from them during the internal armed conflict. People who fought against military oppression through their poetry, their music, their art; through combat. Families who fled their villages, driven out by the military, never to return home again. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, sons and daughters, sisters, brothers. Students, campesinos, journalists, human rights activists, religious leaders. Today, June 30th, their lives were remembered and celebrated.

The past two years, H.I.J.O.S. along with various other organizations have held a parallel march to the army's march - both taking place at the same time and in roughly the same place. In the days leading up to these two marches, there is always an increase in strange phone calls and threatening messages as well as often violent encounters with people paid to intimidate the organizers of the peaceful march and their collaborators. The march, lead by various human rights and social movement groups, in 2006, came at a tumultuous time in Guatemala. A Spanish judge was in town attempting to hear testimonies from witnesses and those accused of genocide. AVEMILGUA, a group of highly influencial army veterans published articles in national newspapers threatening the security of the march and its participants. In 2007, there was a marked increase in the level of political surveillance (organizers being followed and supposed "orejas" or spies sitting outside of their offices keeping track of the people coming and going). Typical military intelligence procedures. What began as a peaceful march last year culminated in a violent confrontation between those protesting the presence of the army in the streets and the soldiers carrying out their march. Several of the protesters were attacked - some with belt buckles - by family members - civilians who were out supporting the army´s march. Tear gas was launched by the army and several people were taken to the hospital.

This year, 2008, was completely different. After a long march culminated in central park, there was music by old and new artists - those repressed before and who live to tell about it and those who continue to receive attacks and continue to sing about it. There were speeches and poetry. People danced. Different organizations including Colectiva de Mujeres Feministas de Izquierdista, FAMDEGUA, GAM, and H.I.J.O.S. set up a variety of visual exhibits of people disappeared during the armed conflict and hands-on exhibits where people could paint about resistance and peace. The air was filled with happiness and hope, solidarity and courage. It was inspiring to see Central Park filled with families, the youth, the elderly and people from all walks of life learning about the atrocities of the past while celebrating the possibilities of the future. Those on stage were filled with a sea of emotion so strong that many began to lose their voices. One rap artist that many of you know, in the middle of an impressive speech about increased criminalization of youth movements had to cut himself off and sing the next song because he said his "heart is too full of emotion."

As the festivities ended and the crowd dispersed, and as the last pick-up truck carrying equipment, banners, paintings, flowers and instruments pulled away, it was replaced by a military vehicle with six soldiers. The next activity scheduled in the park was the changing of the flag, a patriotic tradition of Army Day.

The road to peace in Guatemala is long. People who lost family members in the war - activists and soldiers alike - are faced with a reality that was designed to manipulate, divide and to perpetuate violence. The remilitarization process occurring throughout the country and seen in places like San Juan Sacatepequez, Chiquimula and Izabal reminds me that peace cannot be signed and then forgotten about. The realities and threats of Guatemala at war continue today.

Impunity continues to reign in Guatemala. But it is days like today that remind me that humanity is a potent flower and that giving up hope would be like forgetting the work of so many heroes and martyrs who gave their lives believing that peace is a possibility.

In solidarity,
Caren Weisbart

Thursday, July 3, 2008

URGENT ACTION: HIJOS June 30, 2008

URGENT ACTIONS SECTION:

Here is a communiqué sent by NISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala) with background information and an URGENT ACTION request to respond to these threats.

PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO RESPOND TO THIS ACTION!
(Please note that I have added the addresses of the Canadian Ambassador to Guatemala and of the Foreign Affairs Minister who should both receive a copy of the letters of appeal).

Dear friends of NISGUA,

Over the past few weeks, members of Sons and Daughters for Identity and against Forgetting and Silence (H.I.J.O.S.) have experienced a series of escalating acts of intimidation. We are concerned for their safety and the safety of other members of this year's demilitarization campaign. As some of you know,campaign members have called for the cancellation of the annual military parade held for Army Day on June 30th and for the replacement of this holiday with a National Day for Heroes and Martyrs. This year, the military parade was cancelled and the demilitarization campaign will be holding its own parade and activities. June 30th, as well as the days leading up to and following, can be very tense for those involved.

As the day approaches, please take a moment to respond to the urgent action
below. For additional information, please visit:
http://www.nisgua.org/news_analysis/index.asp?cid=101

Urgent Action
On June 21st, a member of H.I.J.O.S. was threatened as he was walking through
the center of Guatemala City. Two men got out of a grey Nissan pickup and approached him. One of the men held him and prevented him from running away, threatening and questioning him about H.I.J.O.S. and campaign members. The man's statements included, "I just want you to do me a favor and tell those H.I.J.O.S. to stop being ridiculous because they're going to exasperate us and we'll have to kill them," and "We already have you taped." The man then punched the H.I.J.O.S. member in the stomach and, when he fell to the ground, searched his bag and took his cell phone.

Over the past few months, other members of the demilitarization campaign have
also been intimidated. Among other incidents, the e-mail of one member was
hacked into and the hacker sent intimidating messages from the account to the
account's owner indicating that the army had detailed information on all of
the H.I.J.O.S. members.

Background
H.I.J.O.S. was founded in 1999 by youth who were forced into exile or lost
family members due to state repression during the war. The group seeks to
preserve historical memory, fight impunity, memorialize the victims of the war,
and shed light on the human rights violations committed during the conflict.
Because of the sensitive nature of the work, the group has experienced threats
and acts of intimidation in the past, including office break-ins and an
attempted kidnapping in 2005.

This year the group launched a very public demilitarization campaign with the
support of 15 other organizations. Recent campaign events included a caravan
on June 7th passing by the Matamoros military base, a June 8th press conference announcing the collection of over 2,000 signatures in support of the
demilitarization campaign, and a series of radio ads starting on June 17th
announcing plans to hold a march in memory of the heroes and martyrs of the war on June 30th. Members also participated in a number of events to commemorate International Forced Disappearance Day on June 21st.

On June 8th, the government announced the suspension of the military parade,
citing budget shortfalls. H.I.J.O.S. and other members of the demilitarization
campaign are moving forward with the June 30th march and other activities.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS as soon as possible (sample letter below):
- calling for a thorough investigation to identify the intellectual and
material authors of the attack on June 21st.
- urging the government to guarantee the safety of all that participate in the
March in Memory of the Heroes and Martyrs on June 30.
- urging the government to protect human rights defenders, in particular
members of H.I.J.O.S. and the campaign, that have been attacked as a result of
their work for truth and justice.
- calling for respect for the work of human rights defenders.

APPEALS TO:

Minister of the Interior
Sr. Carlos Vinicio Gómez Ruiz, Ministro de Gobernación
6ª Avenida 4-64, nivel 2, Zona 4
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2413 8658
Salutation: Señor Ministro/ Dear Minister

Attorney General
Lic. Juan Luis Florido
Fiscal General de la República y Jefe del Ministerio Público
8ª Avenida 10-67, Antiguo Edificio del Banco de los Trabajadores, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2411 9124; +502 2411 9326
Salutation: Estimado Fiscal/Dear Sir

Head of the Special Prosecutor's Office on Human Rights, Public Prosecutor's Office
Rosa María Salazar Marroquín
Jefa de la Sección de Derechos Humanos, Ministerio Público
10ª Calle 10-14, Zona 1, Edificio UP, 5º nivel
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2230 6033 (say "por favor, tono de fax" – business hours only,GMT+7)
Salutation: Estimada Fiscal/Dear Madam

COPIES TO:

Hon. David Emerson
Foreign Affaire Minister
Fax: 613-943-0219
Email: emersd@parl.gc.ca
Ambassador Kenneth Cook
Ambassador to Guatemala
Fax: 011-502-2365-1211
Email: gtmla@international.gc.ca

H.I.J.O.S.
2a Calle A 7-13, zona 2
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2253 0257
Email: hijosguatemala@gmail.com

Sample Letter

Dear _____________,

I am deeply concerned for the safety of the members of H.I.J.O.S. and others
involved in the demilitarization campaign. I am aware that members of the
campaign have experienced various levels of intimidation and that one
H.I.J.O.S. member was directly threatened on June 21st, 2008. I am extremely
concerned that the threat was in response to their work for truth and justice
and their efforts to organize the March in Memory of the Heroes and Martyrs for
June 30th.

I urge you today to take immediate action to ensure effective protection for
human rights defenders and, in particular, H.I.J.O.S. members and others
involved in the activities planned for June 30th. Further, I urge you to order
an immediate and thorough investigation into the threat made on June 21st.
Those responsible must be identified and brought to justice without further
delay.

Human rights defenders have the right to carry out their activities without any
restrictions or fear of reprisals, as set out in the UN Declaration on the
Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Institutions to Promote
and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Your prompt action to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for threats against H.I.J.O.S. and other human rights defenders is essential to the
realization of human rights in Guatemala.

I thank you in advance for your attention and action to protect the important
work of H.I.J.O.S. and all human rights defenders in Guatemala.
Sincerely,______________--

Military parade cancelled & threat to H.I.J.O.S.
Here is a communiqué sent by H.I.J.O.S. (Hijas e Hijos para la Identitad y la Justicia contra el Olvido y el Silencio - regarding the recent threats and acts of intimidation against them:

BEFORE INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL PUBLIC OPINION
BEFORE THE ORGANIZATIONS THAT MAINTAIN A FRONTAL STRUGGLE AGAINST IMPUNITY
BEFORE DEATH THREATS, H.I.J.O.S. GUATEMALA REMAINS FIRM IN THE STRUGGLE

We energetically denounce that on Saturday, June 21 of this year, around 3:30pm, one of our companions was subject to aggression while he was briefly interrogated about the people who coordinate our actions against military impunity and for the application of justice.

Our companion was detained by two unknown individuals who gout out of Grey Nissan Centra pickup truck with private license plates, where they intercepted him on 8th Avenue and 11 Street in Zone 1. Near the building of the Public Prosecutor.
The assailants, after approaching him, indicated that he should give the message to our organization that if we do not stop our action they would begin to execute our members. Next, he was questioned about the person or people who coordinate our actions. The two individuals beat our companion and later left quietly from the site of the attack.

This type of aggression and threat are given in the context that HIJOS, together with other popular organizations, developed a campaign to stop the military march, to vindicate June 30 as the Day of Heroes and Martyrs of the People, massacred by the Sate, to demand justice and punishment to their aggressors and with that demand the demilitarization of indigenous and peasant communities in the country.

BEFORE THIS SITUATION:

WE DIRECTLY SIGNAL THE GUATEMALAN ARMY AS THE ONLY RESPONSIBLE OF ANY DIRECT OR INDIRECT ATTACK THAT MEMBERS OF OUR ORGANIZATION AND THEIR FAMILIES SUFFER
WE DEMAND THAT THE GUATEMALAN STATE GUARANTEE THE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL INTEGRITY OF OUR MEMBER AND FAMILIES THAT A SERIOUS AND EFFICIENT INVESTIGATION BE MADE INTO THIS CASE AS WELL AS THE PREVIOUS CASES OF BREAK-INS TO OUR OFFICES, WHICH HAVE BEEN PROPERLY DENOUNCED BEFORE THE COMPETENT AUTHORITIES.

Before sister organizations, and before the Guatemalan people survivors of the genocide at the hands of the same army that today threatens, we reiterate our commitment to the struggle for the memory, the truth and the justice that will liberate our history from the oppression against our people, to know the whereabouts of our disappeared martyrs and achieve punishment to their aggressors.

FOR ALL THE DISAPPEARED, NOT IN FORGETTING, NOR IN FORGIVING
Guatemala City, June 23, 2008
H.I.J.O.S. Guatemala
We Do Not Forget
We Do Not Forgive
We Do Not Reconcile

Human Rights Accompaniment Report: Fabienne Doiron (Part 3)

¡Saludos cariñosos a todas y todos!

I hope that this email finds you all well and enjoying the Canadian summer, which I hear has finally started in the Maritimes! This week was my last week of work. I fly out of Guatemala City on July 30th. For the next month or so I will be traveling in the country a bit, visiting friends, saying goodbye – for now – to people and places. In the beginning of October, I will be here again for the Social Forum of the Americas, to be held at San Carlos University in Guatemala City (http://www.forosocialamericas.org/).

As I embark on my "last" month here and begin to prepare to go back to Canada, I find myself thinking about home almost daily. I feel simultaneously quite excited but also slightly apprehensive to be going back. Excited because I haven't seen my family and many good friends since December and I really look forward to spending time with them, traveling a bit (at least through Montreal and the Maritimes) and getting re-acquainted with people and places that I haven't seen in a while – some for almost a year, or longer. Apprehensive because I am going back to a world that I am supposed to understand and where I am expected to "fit in." I think that through the experiences I have known in Guatemala – both this time and last – the way I interpret the world has changed and I have not yet fully "applied" these new understandings to life in Canada. I noticed the other day that when I flip through the newspaper recently, I am not only looking for articles related to CAIG-ACOGUATE's work, but am paying increasing attention to the international section – trying to catch up on what is happening in Canada, what I've missed and understand what I'm going back to.

Working as a human rights accompanier with CAIG-ACOGUATE has been one of the most interesting and deeply challenging experiences I have known – mostly happy, motivating, inspiring and uplifting, but also sometimes sad, discouraging and even infuriating. I feel extremely privileged to have gotten to know so many inspiring and courageous people who tirelessly continue their struggle to achieve social, economic and political justice for crimes of the past and present – despite the fact that the "odds" are clearly stacked against them. While I'm back in Canada in August and September, I will try to share a bit more about the work I was doing here and how I experienced it – both through informal and slightly more formal talks or presentations.

For now, I want to share a few reflections on my last month of work. I am also forwarding a communiqué and an Urgent Action request to respond to recent threats that have been made against H.I.J.O.S. – a capital-based group that works on historical memory, social justice and demilitarization issues, among other issues. This year there will be no military parade to celebrate national Army Day! Instead, tomorrow, June 30th, H.I.J.O.S. along with other organizations will celebrate and remember the Day of Heroes and Martyrs – which they are campaigning to have replace national Army Day. Please take the time to respond to this action, a sample letter is included at the end of this email!

Updates:
- Return to Choatalún
- 30th anniversary of the Panzós massacre & Skye Resources
- June 30th military parade cancelled: threat & Urgent Action in support of H.I.J.O.S. (Located in separate blog)

In solidarity,

Fabienne

***If you want peace, work for justice***


Return to Chaotalún

This week, I returned to Choatalún, a community in which I had worked in December and January. It was great to return there and visit with people I had not seen in a few months. The people we visit in Choatalún are a great example of the inspiring and courageous people that I was talking about above. They have, for the first time in Guatemalan history, succeeded in bringing a case of forced disappearance to trial.

The trial opened in March but is now at a standstill, waiting for a decision by the Constitutional Court on the application of "retroactivity" in this case. (The crime of "forced disappearance" had not yet been typified in Guatemalan law in the early 1980s when the crimes were committed. However, Guatemala had signed on to a number of international treaties that typify the crime of forced disappearance. Additionally, Guatemala's Law on National Reconciliation does not apply a statute of limitations to the crimes of torture, genocide or forced disappearance). In the meantime, the former military commissioner accused in this case is still free and continues to live in the community. The family members of the disappeared – themselves survivors of the genocidal violence unleashed on their community by the Guatemalan State and its Army – are therefore having to continue living side-by-side with their victimizer, who, over 25 years later, continues to hold a position of power within the community: he is the assistant mayor … A microcosm of the larger reality of Guatemala.

Here are a few articles written in English on the Choatalún case: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41551
and http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/good-news/guatemala-disappearance-trial-begins-20080318


30th anniversary Panzós massacre & Skye Resources

Last month, on May 29th, I was in Panzós, Alta Verapaz, for the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of a massacre that claimed 53 lives. For many people, the Panzós massacre of 1978 marked the beginning of a wave of escalating violence that was unleashed on the countryside by the Guatemalan State in the early 1980s. There are many theories of why the soldiers started shooting at the crowd that had assembled in the plaza in front of the municipal building on May 29th, but the fact is that the campesinos (small-farmers) that had gathered there that day had done so to ask the mayor to resolve the long-standing land issue in the area. The presence of Exmibal (subsidiary of Canadian INCO) in the region in the last 1970s and the land expropriations that the nickel mining project entailed did not help ease these tensions and conflicts over access to land.

After the commemoration, as we drove through mile upon mile of private fincas (large estates) on the right side of the road and seemingly unoccupied land on the left side, I could not help but reflect on the decades-long struggle for land in which campesinos in the region – and in most of the country – have been involved. Then I noticed a barbed-wired fence on the left side of the road, with a sign hanging on it that read "No Trespassing – Property of CGN." CGN is the Compañía Guatemalteca de Niquel (Guatemalan Nickel Company), the company that took over Exmibal's land-concessions.

Even though the Exmibal project was abandoned only a few years after the Panzós massacre, the idea of establishing a fully-functioning Nickel mine in the region was given a new impulse this week with the announcement that a merger between Skye Resources (CGN's Canadian parent company) and HudBay is in the works, which would provide the financial capital necessary to put the mine to work – over three decades after the initial land-concessions were granted. In Canada, I am sure this only made the financial news section. The Canadian articles I have seen about the merger do not even mention any social, environmental or human rights concerns related to the mine's operations. However, for those who remember the powerful and shocking images that were published after the CGN-ordered land evictions in El Estor only last year, these are obviously issues of concern.

Articles related to Skye Resources and HudBay merger: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2008/06/23/hudbaysky.html
and http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080624.RHUDBAY24/TPStory/Business

Video and photo essays of 2007 El Estor land evictions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q20YxkM-CGI
and
http://mimundo-jamesrodriguez-esp.blogspot.com/search/label/El%20Estor

Mining Watch's website (for a more balanced look at Canadian mining in Guatemala): http://www.miningwatch.ca/index.php?/Guatemala