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16 July 2014 | | | |

Guatemala: International Peace Activists Intimidated by Government

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Organizations providing accompaniment to threatened human rights and environmental defenders in Guatemala are facing increasing intimidation by the Otto Perez Molina administration.

They have been subject to constant harassment by the Guatemalan government and through the militarization of the State; the State’s way to protect projects that exploit natural resources. The assaults and violence have increased and intensified in recent months. Several members of international organizations who have been working in Guatemala for years have even had their visa extension denied.

Among them were two members of the Peace Brigades International who reported repression by the Guatemalan government in crushing the resistance to a mining project owned by Canadian corporation EXMINGUA, close to Guatemala City. The decision to operate the mine was revoked this week, but the threats against the members of the Brigade continue, activists Aj Noj, Ilaria Tosello and Xabier Zabala of Protection International Guatemala told Real World Radio.

Although the Guatemala Peace Accords signed in 1996 are still in force, the attacks against human rights defenders have increased significantly since then, especially against women in conflicts involving land and indigenous territories, said Xabier.

Ilaria mentioned that as a result of their active role in a patriarchal society, women human rights defenders break with the traditional pattern, running an even greater risk than men.

“It is very racist of them to say foreigners ’manipulate’ the demonstrations”, as they are undermining the role of the indigenous communities in the resistance.

As to the international division of labor, Guatemala seems destined to depend on the extraction and selling of raw materials and natural resources, either pure or in the form of energy. This situation leads to conflict and to serious human rights violations, in a country where 60% of the rural population is indigenous, which makes the presence of international organizations necessary, said Xabier about the role played by human rights defenders operating in Guatemala.

Defending human rights is “a globalized struggle that concerns and affects all of us, which is why we are here, not just now, we have always been here”, he added.

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