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The Guatemalan government led by Retired General Otto Perez Molina repressed on Thursday, October 4, a peaceful mobilization by Mayan indigenous people, resulting in at least seven murdered indigenous leaders, while they were demonstrating around access to electric power, capacity-building for teachers and against the granting of territories to mining companies without the populations’ consent.
The repression by Army forces and the National Police against the Mayan Kiche peasants of Totonicapan department took place in the framework of a mobilization on kms 170 and 188 of the Inter-American highway.
The call was made by the "48 cantons", an ancestral organization that represents Mayan communities, who reacted against a constitutional reform that promotes the return of a "heavy hand" against indigenous populations, in addition to the militarization of territories, promoted by Perez Molina’s administration.
This is added to the rejection against the rise in the price of electric power and an educational reform that includes an extension of the Teaching Course. In parallel to the protests, a delegation travelled to Guatemala city to meet with the President.
“We demand the immediate withdrawal of the army from all communities of the native peoples of Guatemala, since this is nothing more than the remilitarization of our territories and the expressions of a counter-insurgent government, which reminds us of the times of the internal armed conflict”, said the Waqib’ Kej Mayan National Convergence and Coordination.
Real World Radio interviewed Francisco Mateo Morales, a member of the Western Peoples Council (CPO) from Huehuetenango. He said that the government has not ceased to grant mining concessions and insists on a constitutional amendment that ensures the intervention of the army in public security. “This has motivated a series of mobilizations and demands by the peoples. The authorities of the 48 Cantons, an ancestral organization of the Mayan people, called for a peaceful demonstration, where thousands of people participated”, said Francisco Mateo Morales.
Francisco linked the events on October 4th with the repression in Santa Cruz Barillas that took place early May, which also resulted in the death of a community leader, and the subsequent declaration of State of Emergency in the region.
Meanwhile, retired General Perez Molina, accused of genocide for his actions during the armed conflict in the 80s, threatened the population: “either peace returns, or we will impose it”. In addition to the dead people, there were tens of seriously injured people.
Francisco asked the international public opinion to be alert about the events in Guatemala, and said that “the peoples have fought from direct and participatory democracy rejecting this model. We expect the government to think this through and change its direction and attitude”.
Meanwhile, on Friday, five thousand indigenous people gathered in the central park of Totonicapán to hold a wake for the dead people victims of the repression. The coffins covered the main square while the Mayan indigenous people chanted: “justice, justice, justice”, according to a Guatemalan news website.
The deaths in the Inter-American highway caused a strong reaction by social and human rights organizations in Guatemala. Several of them were going to meet in the capital city to identify future actions and eventually call for a mobilization outside the Presidential Palace.
La oposición a la minería debe entenderse como la lucha por los derechos que esa actividad no respeta, pues “cada derecho que se le otorga a una empresa, es un derecho que se le resta a una comunidad”, asegura el coordinador del Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina (OCMAL), César Padilla.
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