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Guatemala: Take action for justice in Nacahuil

The following alert was prepared by the Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC).

The town of Nacahuil sits only an hour from Guatemala City, yet it has been largely spared the high rates of violence that have plagued Guatemala’s capital in recent years. That all changed on Saturday, September 7.

At around 11pm on September 7, unidentified men stalked through the town of about 7,500, gunning people down. When they finally fled in their stolen vehicle, 11 people were dead and at least another dozen were injured.

Relatives of those killed in the attack suspect police involvement in the crime. This is based on witness accounts that police arrived 20-30 minutes before the shooting, passing through the same part of town where most of the victims were killed. The owner of a local bar was among the dead and a relative alleges that the police demanded a bribe from the owner, which he refused to pay.

San José Nacahuil is a Maya Kaqchikel community in the municipality of San Pedro Ayampuc. The town has a community police force and has successfully maintained peace and security without outside support. Residents expelled the national police six years ago, and local officials say that they have seen a reduction in crime since that time.

Interior Minister López Bonilla immediately blamed the attack on gangs and placed the community under the control of a special contingent of police and soldiers. Community authorities of San José Nacahuil, as well as other indigenous and grassroots organizations, have criticized Bonilla for attributing the crime to gangs without first undertaking an investigation, and they demanded that the police and military be removed from the community. Instead, the Interior Minister has asked President Otto Pérez Molina to install a military detachment in the community.

Like many indigenous communities in Guatemala, the people of Nacahuil have suffered attempts to impose development projects without their consent. In response, many members of Nacahuil have participated in non-violent resistance movements, such as the ongoing peaceful road block at “La Puya” in the neighboring municipality of San José de Golfo to prevent the construction of the El Tambor gold mine. Anti-mining activists have expressed concern that the violent incident will be used by the government as an excuse to militarize the region or crack down on protesters. 

Using this form on the GHRC website, please email the Guatemalan Interior Minister and the President of the Republic calling on them to investigate the massacre, respect the rights of the residents of Nacahuil and remove the police and military from the community.

Photo by Robert Phares.