January 2, 2015

By Eliza MacLaughlin.  Eliza is BTS Accompanier with the ACOGUATE International Accompaniment Project. Eliza has been accompanying in Rabinal since she began her work with the project in May 2014. Eliza is originally from Prince Edward Island.

Happy New Year!

Hello to everyone once again. I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year, on today, the 2nd of January 2015.
As many people look at the new year as a new chapter, Guatemala is no different. With many important events coming up in 2015, and the closing of a year that was filled with violence, impunity, and corruption, 2015 shows the possibility to be the year where the survivors of the internal armed conflict receive justice for crimes of the past. This justice though can only be received with the compromise of all those involved.

Many things have passed since I last wrote to you all. One of those things that has happened was the completion of the fundraiser (in a matter of days!) that you all worked so hard on. I would like to share my extreme gratitude to you all for the work you put into the fundraising campaign, and especially to Margie Loo who was my main contact throughout the process. It was overwhelming to see not only the work you all put into this, but also the community that Breaking The Silence has built in the Maritimes and beyond. I feel proud to form apart of a network of people that shows solidarity in so many different ways.

AJR supporters outside the Tower of Justice on January 5.

AJR supporters outside the Tower of Justice on January 5.

As for an update from the ground, there are a number of large events that are currently happening in the country. As many of you know, especially those that have been involved with BTS since the beginning, the 18th anniversary of the signing of the Peace Accords was celebrated on the 29th of December. This anniversary for many brings back memories of the past, but also realization of the incompletion of the Peace Accords. Human rights organizations and government officials alike took the opportunity to recognize the incompletion of the Peace Accords on the 29th. They also point out that most of the agreements are not even near completion. This is a sad truth that many are faced with daily in the form of discrimination, poverty and violence.
This 18th anniversary also comes on the heels of the genocide trial, set to begin on the 5th of January. As all those involved with the case prepare for the 5th, many things are still left unclear and information is constantly changing. In only the month of December, José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez (who is also accused of genocide and crimes against humanity) was transferred from the military hospital to house arrest for questions of health, the Constitutional Court resolved that the legal process against Efraín Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez should not be set back to the 23rd of the November, 2011, and three judges were chosen to rule, within a time limit of five days, on the case for amnesty for war crimes committed between 1982-1986. To see a more in depth look at these numerous happenings in the genocide case, you can check out these links that explain more of what is happening:

Breaking the Silence



As I follow the things that are happening here in the capital, my work in Rabinal continues. On December 17th, the United States government approved the Consolidated Appropriations Bill, which for the second year in a row conditions military aid to the Guatemalan government. This year’s bill conditions aid based on three items – bringing to justice military personnel involved with grave violations of human rights during the internal armed conflict, the withdrawal of military troops from public security tasks (something that has increased in the past couple of years, specifically in Rabinal), and to complete with the Reparations Plan for the 33 communities affected by the construction of the Chixoy hydroelectric dam. This comes just one month after the Guatemalan government signed the government agreement that officially puts into place the 15-year reparations plan valued at $154.5 million (USD) and President Otto Pérez Molina publically apologized on behalf of the Guatemalan state for the abuses and human rights violations committed against the 33 communities. This pressure from the US government is welcome news to the representative of COCAHICH (Coordinator of the Communities Affected by the Construction of the Chixoy dam), Juan de Dios Garcia. Garcia is grateful for the help that the United States government has given, stating that it is “important for the communities [to have this support] since it signifies that the eyes of the international community are pending the completion of the agreement.”

Even with the hope that this pressure gives to the survivors of the internal armed conflict, many still have doubts about the ability of the government to complete with their needs. Specifically after President Pérez Molina showed his opposition to the demands of the US government during the 18th anniversary of the signing of the Peace Accords, criticizing the US government for their involvement in national issues and stating the lack of recognition for the development that has happened in Guatemala over the past number of years. Whether or not the Guatemalan government is willing to complete with the numerous conditions that the United States has applied in this bill is not clear and only time can tell.

These are a number of the large things that have been happening in Guatemala that I have been following as part of the international accompaniment project. As always, Breaking the Silence follows a number of additional cases and that information can be seen on their blog:

Happy New Year to you all, and may 2015 be filled with hope and justice,

Eliza MacLauchlan

See more updates from Eliza in August and September.