Photo by Jim Stipe
On October 4, 2012, K’iche’ citizens of Totonicapán, Guatemala, shut down the Inter-American Highway to protest several issues: electricity rate hikes; a series of constitutional reforms upon which indigenous peoples were not consulted; and a proposed change to the teaching curriculum which threatens to restrict access to education in rural areas.
The day ended with confrontation between the protesters and state security forces, leaving more than 40 people injured and Santos Hernández Menchú, José Eusebio Puac Baquiax, Arturo Félix Sapón Yax, Jesús Baltasar Caxaj Puac, Jesús Francisco Puac Ordóñez and Rafael Nicolás Batz dead.
The October 4 protest was organized as a peaceful way to bring attention to the fact that leaders from the 48 indigenous communities of Totonicapán were attempting to hold a dialogue in Guatemala’s capital that same day. The indigenous authorities traveled 200 kilometers to Guatemala City to speak with government officials about the negative impact of higher electricity rates on the people of the region. They also wanted to discuss proposed constitutional reforms related to the education curriculum and to indigenous peoples’ rights that had not been raised with the communities.
This latest incident increases anxiety over Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina’s repressive security policy. As a retired general and a graduate of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, Perez similarly took disproportionately violent action against protestors in May. Perez is also seeking constitutional reforms that will authorize the use of the army in public safety. Perez’s heavy handed security measures, along with his support for already unsustainable, large scale development projects in indigenous territories, are two factors that have made life for indigenous people much harder.
The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns stands in solidarity with the K’iche’ communities of Totonicapán as they mourn their losses and call for justice, and we extend our deep sympathy to the affected families and victims of the violence. We call on the government of Guatemala to launch an independent investigation to take punitive measures against those responsible for the violence; and to ensure the full spectrum of human rights for all citizens of Guatemala.
Take action: Write to the Guatemalan authorities (below) and ask:
- That the government launch and independent investigation – observed by the Human Rights Ombudsman of Guatemala – so that these violations against life and the physical integrity of the victims are not left in impunity. Perpetrators must stand criminal trial and security guarantees must be offered to victims, witnesses, traditional indigenous authorities and human rights workers following the case.
- That the government of Guatemala develop and implement a dialogue mechanism to address the demands of the K’iche’ people to avoid any repetition of these acts.
- That the Guatemala government publically agrees to guarantee the application of and exercise of the rights recognized in ILO Convention 169 and in the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Presidente de la República de Guatemala Sr. Otto Pérez Molina
Secretaria Privada de la Presidencia
6ta Avenida 4-46 de la Zona 1, Guatemala, Guatemala
Tel: (502) 2230-1650
Secretaria de Comunicación Social de la Presidencia
Palacio Nacional Guatemala, Guatemala 01001 Guatemala
Tel: (502) 2251-4016 / (502) 2339-2502
Fiscal General del Ministerio Publico Dra. Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey
15 Av. 15-16 Zona 1, 2º. Nivel, Ciudad de Guatemala
Tels: (502) 2411-9262 / (502) 2411-9174
Ministerio de Gobernación
Mauricio López Bonilla, ministro de Gobernación
6ª. Av. 13-71 Zona 1 Guatemala
Tel: (502) 2413-8888
Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos PDH
Jorge De León Duque, Procurador
12 ave. 12-72 Zona 1, Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Tel: (502) 2424-1717, Call Center: 1555
Oficina del Alto Comisionado para los Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas para Guatemala
Alberto Brunori, representante de la OACNUDH
5a Av. 5-55 Zona 14 Edif Europlaza, Torre III, Nivel 14, Ciudad de Guatemala, 01014
PBX: (502) 2382-3400, Fax: (502) 2382-3410