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Valle del Polochic, Santa Cruz Barillas and Totonicapan are all Guatemalan villages that have been victims of repression and the subsequent death of Maya indigenous peasants by the government. This reminds the Guatemalans of the counter-insurgent war that left nearly 300,000 deaths.
The social protest has been criminalized in Guatemala under the administration of former president Alvaro Colom, but more emphatically under the current Otto Perez Molina administration. The media play a big role in the repression, either directly or indirectly.
The international community has remained silent about these terrible incidents, the last of which took place on October 4 and ended with the death of 8 demonstrators in Totonicapan department, while they were peacefully demonstrating against the raise in the electricity bills and against a constitutional reform to militarize the country.
“We believe that there is a return to violence against social demonstrations. Our country suffered 36 years of armed conflict, there was genocide against our peoples and over 300,000 people died in less than 5 years”, says Domingo Hernandez, leader of the Maya Waqib’Kek Convergence in interview with Real World Radio.
The neoliberal project promoted in Guatemala, which implies giving out lands to extractive industries and privatizing state-owned lands, are part of what Domingo defines as neocolonialism, which implies the use of violence to crush the community resistance.
“The communities are organized and resist in Guatemala. In Totonicapan we are blocking the road to protest against three things: the constitutional reforms, the high energy prices and against an education reform that implies privatizing education”, said Domingo.
“We urgently need to start a democratizing process in Guatemala, which is not possible under this administration because they have a top-down, authoritarian and male-chauvinistic view that does not allow citizens, indigenous peoples, women and young people to express their opinions. This state, led by the military, wants to see our country as a barracks”, he added.
Not surprisingly, the Guatemalan president said that social organizations are responsible for the deaths in Totonicapan. Even though initial government accounts denied that the military used weapons, photographs later published contradicting this claim made the government change its account and say the military fired into the air to disperse the demonstrators.
Members of a private security force who were there could also have taken part in the killings. 8 people died and another 40 were injured. AFP news agency reported that the United Nations office in Guatemala sent an observers mission to the area of the massacre. The mission included indigenous leader and Nobel Peace laureate Rigoberta Menchu, who said to have found several ammunition of M-16 rifles used by the army.
The indigenous’ deaths caused national outrage in Guatemala both among human rights groups and in religious groups. The Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala, which comprises the Catholic, the Evangelical and the Lutheran churches, joined one of the acts of repudiation against the violence last Thursday and demanded the government to stop the repression against indigenous communities, said milenio.com.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Ombudsman, Jorge De Leon announced that he will secure that an investigation is carried out.
Although OAS Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza, said he regretted the deaths of six peasants, he claimed there is an “urgent need” to clarify the incident “as a necessary step to pacify the country and open the dialogue”.
Domingo Hernandez was clear: “we cannot allow another massacre”. He said the organizations are preparing protests to expose the systematic repression and that they might even go before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (ICHR).
“We ask the international community to be alert to what is happening in Guatemala. We shall not allow a return to the past, to new massacres. The Guatemalan peoples want peace and want to rescue Guatemala from the oligarchy and the military. We want democracy back”, said Domingo.
José Luis Abarca, hijo de un luchador ambiental asesinado en noviembre de 2009 por encabezar la resistencia a un proyecto minero en el municipio mexicano de Chicomuselo, estado de Chiapas, interpuso el 5 de febrero una denuncia administrativa ante el Comisionado para la Integridad de la Administración Pública de Canadá.
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