Indigenous rights community attacked and defenders harassed

Indigenous community's rights violated

Local communities in Guatemala continue to face threats and violence from companies and other interest groups. There are numerous cases of land rights violations in the country that either involve the government or where the authorities take no action to protect citizens whose rights are being violated. In a recent example, Comité de Unidad Campesina reported that on 20th November 2017, security guards from a private security company attacked the Semuy Maya Qe'chi community in the town of Cahabón. Community members had been evicted from their land earlier that month and had moved to live along the side of the road. During the attack, it was reported that one member of the community was held hostage and threatened but later rescued. The security guards opened fire, killing community member Emilio Toc Pop and injuring Ricardo Maquin. 

Association

As previously reported on the Monitor, indigenous and environmental activist Juan Caal Suram was arrested on 11th October 2017 accused by a private company of illegal association and damage to private property after participating in a protest on 27th May 2017. On 23rd November, a court heard Caal’s case in which he was fined, put under house arrest on 1st December and banned from travel. 

In a separate incident, it was reported that on 17th January 2018, Maria Magdalena Cuc Choc was arbitrarily arrested upon leaving a courtroom where she was serving as a Q’eqchi’- Spanish translator in a hearing. Cuc Choc is a recognised land rights activist and indigenous leader. She was detained by police and accused of "aggravated trespassing, threats and illegal detention". She was later released on bail. 

Peaceful Assembly

On 15th January, Comité de Desarrollo Campesino reported that a driver of a private company (GUATEX) hit a demonstrator with a company truck during a protest against President Jimmy Morales that took place in Jutiapa. The demonstrator, Antonio Jimenez, died from the attack.

Expression

On 18th December 2017, journalist Jerson Antonio Xitumul Morales was granted house arrest after paying a 650 USD fine but still faces a travel ban. As reported on the Monitor, Morales is a reporter with the media outlet Prensa Comunitaria and he had been covering protests against the Guatemalan Nickel Company since early 2017 and had been held in detention since November 2017. 

In a separate incident, congressman Julio Antonio Ramirez Juárez was arrested on 13th January 2018 for his alleged involvement in the murder of two journalists in 2015. On 7th September 2017, the Supreme Court authorised the investigation into the allegations against Juárez and in January 2018, the Court issued an arrest warrant. At the initial hearing, Juárez pled “not guilty” and the next hearing took place on 24th January.

Independent media representatives condemned a statement by President Morales in January 2018 in which he made disparaging remarks against the independent press. The media have also noted other incidents in which Morales criticised independent sources of news and information.