Thursday, January 22, 2009

ANNOUCEMENT: BTS AGM 2009

Breaking the Silence friends, please put the BTS Annual Meeting Friday, March 27th, 7pm -Sun., March 29th, 1pm (BTS orientation for newcomers, 6:30pm) on your calendar now. And send in the attached registration to Registrar Yvette Michaud before Fri., March 20th. The sooner the better! After March 20th, please register with Tatamagouche Centre, 1-800-218-2220.

This is the only opportunity in the entire year for BTS members and friends to together learn, be inspired, make decisions, build our far-flung community and have fun, so we urge you to attend! We are privileged to have as our Guatemalan guest this year Maria Dolores Itzep, lawyer with the Rabinal Community Legal Clinic, founded by Jesus Tecu. Maria Dolores works on both genocide cases and cases of domestic violence.

We will also hear stories, formally and informally, from returning Interns and an update from Jackie McVicar, Intern Coordinator and BTS representative in Guatemala. We are fortunate that this year Caren Weisbart, Coordinator of Internationall Human Rights Accompaniment in Guatemala, who is a former BTS Intern, can also join us.

We will further our understanding of solidarity, update our work regarding Canadian mining companies, the Rabinal Scholarship Fund and begin a process of envisioning the future of BTS work, as the Guatemalan and Canadian contexts change! As ever we will have a great fiesta Saturday night!

RE the cost ($150)Tatamagouche Centre is giving us the lowest price possible. It includes acommodation and great food, yet another reason to attend! BTS provides bursaries to those who need them, through the Silent Auction and the sale of Breaking the Silence coffee and Guatemalan crafts during the year. DO NOT STAY AWAY BECAUSE OF COSTS! BREAKING THE SILENCE IS COMMITTED TO ACCESSIBILITY FOR ALL. WE NEED YOU, SO IF YOU NEED TO ASK FOR FINANCIAL SUPPORT, PLEASE DO SO.

AGM Fundraiser We will again have a Silent Auction and Yard Sale. Start thinking now about items to donate to the Silent Auction, everything from Guatemalan goods to jams, jellies, plants, framed photos and artwork. We will also have a BTS version of a Yard Sale, only this time it will be of those beautiful Guatemalan weavings, clothing, etc. that you no longer have space for or are no longer wearing.

Registration Many thanks to Yvette Michaud for agreeing to act as Registrar again this year. We are improving on our scandalous record of last-minute registrations. When you register at the last minute, it is hard for our kitchen and office staff to plan, as well as for the AGM Plannning Ctee. So fill out the attached registration form now, and Email it to Yvette Michaud.

Looking forward to seeing you all at the AGM!

Kathryn

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

URGENT ACTION: Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation January 15, 2009

Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG)
Receives More Death Threats
January 15, 2009


Since 1992, the FAFG has carried out exhumations across Guatemala, digging up the remains of victims of the internal armed conflict in Guatemala, determining - when possible - cause of death and identity. Every exhumation initiates criminal proceedings to determine cause of death and who committed the crime.

Evidence recovered by the FAFG is being used in numerous criminal trials, including the two genocide cases in Guatemalan courts (that are not advancing due to the impunity of the military and powerful economic sectors, and the lack of political will from Guatemalan politicians and the international community) and the genocide case before the Spanish courts that is advancing, … slowly and painfully.

The FAFG has received threats since 2002, and the State of Guatemala has been ordered to provide security for the FAFG and its staff by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Last year, the FAFG received threats on several occasions, the last being text messages via cell phones during the month of June. Fredy and Omar are currently receiving state-sponsored security protection measures, including armed police officers at work and home.

NEW THREATS RECEIVED BY FAFG
January 8, 2009


On Thursday, 8th January 2009, Fredy Peccerelli, Executive Director of the FAFG, received an email with a copy sent to Omar Bertoni Girón, Head of the FAFG's Forensic Anthropology Department. The email contains the following message:

"Bloody bastard fredy, we are watching you fucking revolutionary your families will pay the price we are watching you and we will start with your siblings, first we will kill yani I am sending photos so you don't think it's a joke."

For the first time, the threat was accompanied by a photo taken on January 5, 2009 of a car belonging to Fredy's brother, at a gas station near their homes.

We are asking the Public Prosecutor's Office to conduct an exhaustive investigation of the threats received over the last seven years. To date, no one has been held responsible for the more than 30 direct threats made.

Click here to send a message to the Guatemalan government calling on authorities to investigate the threats against Fredy, Omar, and their families, and bring those responsible to justice, and do its utmost to protect FAFG staff and their families.
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SECOND THREAT IN FOUR DAYS RECEIVED BY FAFG
January 12, 2009


Omar Bertoni Girón, Head of the FAFG's Forensic Anthropology Laboratory, and Fredy Peccerelli, Executive Director of the FAFG, received a death threat via email:

"OK you bastards, you haven't taken us seriously. This will show you. Omar your wife looks very good in red with your daughter. We saw them today in front of the FAFG. You fucking revolutionaries won't stop until we kill you. Fredy your suit won't be of any use to you, after we kill you they will never find you. You have little time left you bastard, first your siblings then you revolutionary anthropologists. Death."

Omar Bertoni Girón is also Fredy Peccerelli's brother-in-law, married to Bianka Peccerelli. She, accompanied by their daughter, dropped off her husband at the FAFG that morning.

Two death threats received on May 19 and 22, 2008 were sent under the same name, but from a different address.

We demand that the Public Prosecutor's Office investigate the origin of the threats thoroughly and, considering the seriousness and detailed nature of this last threat, the heightening of the security provided by the State of Guatemala for the FAFG. This includes contracting an expert on cybernetic security (because the threats were received by email) and two National Police agents (to cover a 24 hour shift) for Fredy's children. (Fredy made this request personally.)

Click here to send a message to the Guatemalan government calling on authorities to investigate the threats against Fredy, Omar, and their families, and bring those responsible to justice, and do its utmost to protect FAFG staff and their families.

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[Information for this Urgent Action has been taken from Rights Action. We appreciate their contribution!]

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Happy New Year from Guatemala! Mark BTS AGM March 27-29 on your calendar

Feliz Ano Nuevo a todas y todos! Happy New Year to you all from Guatemala! Wilf and I welcomed the New Year with BTS members Lynne and Dave Duffy in Antigua. Of course there were fireworks, but also wonderful marimba bands and traditional music and dances.

On Tuesday Jan. 5th, Wilf and I set off from San Marcos with Jackie McVicar, BTS representative in Guatemala, to visit the communities of Sipakapa and San Miguel Ixtahuacan where the Goldcorp mine is located. We left San Marcos at 4:30am on a very cold morning, with frost in the hills. We traveled first to Sipakapa to meet with Mario Tema, the brother of Juan Tema who many of you met when he toured the Maritimes a few years ago. He welcomed us warmly and encouraged BTS to present a resolution once again to the Goldcorp AGM in May. We then traveled on to San Miguel Ixtahuacan, where we met with Javier de Leon. Javier invited us to the first meeting of the year of Indigenous Mayors in the Municipality, where mining and its impacts was a major topic. It as inspiring to see indigenous leaders from every town and village in the Municipality, each carrying his barra (something like a cane), a symbol of the authority given to the Indigenous Mayors by their communities. Each community chooses a new Mayor each year through a processs of consensus decison-making. That morning we also met with a with a community leader who had recently been threatened because of the stance of his organization regarding the mine. This encounter was a sobering reminder of how the presence of the mine has created social conflict. We also heard of other impacts from prostitution to water loss and water contamination.

We arrived back in Guatemala City Thursday afternoon. Friday morning Jackie, Caren Weisbart (BTS member, former Intern and human rights accompanier, now Coordinator of International Human Rights Accompaniment in Guatemala), Wilf and I set off for Rabinal, where we met up with Erin Wolfson, BTS Intern and member of the 2008 BTS delegation. Yesterday the five of us met with members of the New Hope Foundation and had a good meeting with a number of people related to the Fundacion. We had been in Rabinal in December as well, where Maria Dolores Itzep, lawyer with the Rabinal Community Legal Clinic confirmed that shecan attend the AGM at the end of March to share the ongoing work regarding the genocide cases.

Wilf and I also had the good fortune to spend a few hours with one of BTS' oldest friends, Josefina Martinez of the Kaqchikel Presbytery. Josefina was BTS' first guest from Guatemala in 1990, even before we sent delegations to Guatemala. She sends warm greetings to all of you who have connected with her. I look forward to a meeting with the Presbytery women's groups and teachers Eddy and Roaldo this Thursday.

Finally I want to say what a privilege it has been for Wilf and I to see with our own eyes the relationships that Jackie has built with all of our partners. We are thankful for Jackie's commitment, generosity and insights. She walks the talk!

I close by encouraging you all to mark on yoiur calendars now the BTS Annual Gathering Friday, March 27th, 7pm to Sunday, March 29th, 1pm. We are holding our Annual Gathering earlier this year because our terrific Interns (Becky MacMillan - I'jatz and IMEP, Colin Gusikoski - the Rabinal Community Legal Clinic, Erin Wolfson - the New Hope Foundation, Patrick Chasse - Kaqchikel Presbytery) are coming home earlier than in other years, having left NS in early Sept. Having met with Maria Dolores Itzep, we know that she will bring a passionate and inspiring message to us all. Not to mention that it will be great to have both Jackie McVicar and Caren Weisbart with us to share their experiences and insights in Guatemala! We also look forward to a BTS showing of former Intern Hans Olson's new documentary on the Kaqchikel Presbytery women's groups, which he produced for Sakharini, a small NGO that Hans connected with the Kaqchikel Presbytery a few years ago. Wonderful as it is to have such terrific resources persons with us, it is equally important to have your participation, as we recommit ourselves to solidarity with Guatemala and begin to think afresh about who BTS is and what we should be about in the coming months and years!

Abrazos, hugs to each of you.

Kathryn