On May 23, Guatemalan women’s organizations presented a press release in Sector de Mujeres on their fact finding delegation to Santa Rosa and Jalapa on May 20 and 21. The delegation’s purpose was the verify the situation of human rights for women and people in communities affected by the Sate of Siege. They found the suspension of  constitutional rights in these communities has had a strong impact of the lives of women, especially through an increased military presence in the region.

The following events motivated a visit to the region:

  • violent raids of homes by the army and the National Police, at illegal times of day, wearing balaclavas, and dressed in civilian clothing.
  • In Santa Maria Xalapan they violated human rights through an illegal raid of the church where women of the choir were intimidated as well as community leaders. Also, the army has converted the primary school into a center for operations.
  • There has been political persecution and stigmatization of women who are involved in women’s organizations, their families, and communities which defend life and territory. They have been associating these women with drug trafficking, terrorism and organized crime; they are accused of crimes without proof.
  • Sexual assault by elements of the army against young women and single mothers, which has led to the impediment of the right of free movement.
  • Respected and known people from the communities have been persecuted, showing that community leaders are seen as a threat to security forces.
  • The deterioration of the familial economy, as women are scared to leave their homes or to leave their daughters and sons alone, and the men have diminished their agricultural and commercial activities. In the case where the men have been detained, the demands on the women in the family have increased, leaving them to be responsible for the families, the costs of the trials, and all the costs derived from these events.
  • The delegation observed serious psychological effects to women and children, due to the violent manner in which the raids and interrogations were undertaken; this has generated an increase in illnesses which leads to an increase in expenses for families due to the poor and limited health services
  • Damage to homes and belongings, costs which have been assumed by the families. Women have been obligated to give food to those affected by the raids, including people who have had food, money and jewelry stolen.
  • In the majority of cases there was no presence of the Human Rights Ombudsman breaching the guarantees of protection of the rights of citizens.

The delegation reported that of the people interviewed, the majority of those arrested, particularly Laura Leonor Vasquez Pineda, were done so without evidence, and the crimes of which they were blamed of various communities are done so in an attempt to provoke distance between the communities. The acts of persecution, harassment, and captures have led to distancing between families, neighbours and communities to reduce social movements which present a front of resistance to the extraction operations of the San Rafael ming and other structural problems.

The Xinca and mesitza women interviewed coincided in signaling that the installation of these projects is an attack on the people. They take advantage of the poverty and need for work in the communities to justify their implantation, without taking the enviromental degredation into account, leaving contamination, illnesses and destruction of Mother Earth.

The delegation made the following demands:

a) The immediate demilitarization of the zone, respect for the decisions and rights of communities, as seen in the ancestral autonomy of women and people so that their communities can live in peace, harmony and happiness.

b)The fulfillment of the constitutional mandate to strive for the common good  and not to favour the interests of national and international companies.

c) The immediate liberation of Laura Leonor Vasquez Pineda and all those detained unjustly in Guatemala for the defense of territory.

d) The end of harassment and persecution of those who are involved in the struggle for the defense of life and territory.

For the full press release (in Spanish) see http://www.semillerosdepensamientos.org/es-noticias&nodo_Id=207&rel2=noticias