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BTS February Newsletter
Urgent Action calling on Guatemalan President to Veto Amendments to NGO Law

On February 11th, Guatemala's Congress hastily approved amendments to the Law of Non-Governmental Organizations for Development, bill 5257 (known as the NGO Law), which we spoke about on our recent Guatemala call-in. We've heard from our partners that these reforms would impose onerous requirements for the registration and operation of organizations in Guatemala, and give broad powers to the government to dictate which organizations can operate. The reforms could also lead to the further criminalization of human rights defenders. 

You can find out more by reading this New York Times article here, along with this open letter signed by over 50 civil society groups globally. 

Participate in this urgent action put together by Amnesty International Canada, calling on the Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammetti to exercise his veto power on these amendments.

Please donate

Saturday (ongoing)
Halifax Forum Farmers' Market
Buy BTS coffee and mugs to support us in fundraising

Feb 27 @ 7pm
Webinar on BTS Community Development & Human Rights Cooperant Program
More info below!
May 30-June 3, 2020
BTS Solidarity Training
Tatamagouche, NS
Jun 12-14, 2020
BTS Annual Gathering
Tatamagouche, NS
Spring 2021
BTS Delegation

Xinka Parliament and BTS stand in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders

Photo: BTS Delegation visits to the encampment in Colis resisting the Escobal mine (November 16, 2019)

The Xinka Parliament and BTS have published a letter expressing solidarity with Wet'suwet'en land defenders and Hereditary Chiefs, who are opposing the Coastal Gaslink pipeline project. The Xinka people are engaged in a similar struggle against the Escobal mine, owned by BC-based Pan American Silver. 

Here's an excerpt from the letter: "We know full well the risks faced by Indigenous land defenders when state forces and the legal system are mobilized in defense of resource extraction. We’ve seen this throughout Guatemala and we’re seeing this today in Wet’suwet’en territory."

In the letter, we echo calls made by the Hereditary Chiefs, including for the RCMP to pull out of Wet'suwet'en territory and to suspend the CGL project. Read more here.

Solidarity actions you can take: 
1) Check out the Wet'suwet'en Supporter Toolkit for suggestions for how to support, learning resources and more here.
2) Find local events near you here.
3) Call or email your MP to share your concerns about what's happening and to echo the demands by Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs. 
4) Follow this page for regular updates on what's happening on the ground via the Unist'ot'en camp.

Women from Lote 8 continue strong in their struggle for justice

This month, Guatemala Coordinator Lisa Rankin travelled to El Estor, Izabal to meet with community members bringing forward the case against Hudbay Minerals in Canada for human rights abuses committed while they were in ownership of the Fenix Nickel Mine.  The case continues to advance in Canadian courts, as the Supreme Court of Canada decided that the 11 women from Lote 8 can sue Hudbay Minerals for the sexual violence committed in 2007 by company security (at that time Skye Resources), and by Guatemalan police and military as well. For more information on the hearing and the Supreme Court’s Decision, you can visit Rights Action. To hear a message from the women, check out this link.  

The case against Mynor Padilla, the head of security for Hudbay Minerals and accused in the assassination of Adolfo Ich Chaman and injury to German Chub on September 27, 2009 is still ongoing. 

Charges dropped in criminalization case against community leaders from Mataquescuintla

After a year long wait, four criminalized members of the Civil Society group from Mataquescuintla, Jalapa faced a judge on trumped-up charges related to their resistance to the Escobal Mine, property of Canadian company Pan American Silver. The four men were accused of coercion, threats and illegal detention stemming from the refusal by the resistance to let a microbus company continue to transport people from surrounding villages for tours of the mine project. The judge quickly reviewed the Public Prosecutor’s case, and decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute. The community of Mataquescuintla and Xinka people continue their resistance to the Escobal mine!

Commemoration of the Xococ Massacre

February 13th marked the 38th anniversary of the Xococ massacre during which the Guatemalan army and civil patrollers killed 71 people from Río Negro; 54 men, 8 women and 9 children. To mark that date, the Rabinal Legal Clinic and the New Hope Foundation School visited the site of the former clandestine cemetery in Xococ, a town outside of Rabinal. Read BTS Cooperant Laura Robinson's blog post on that day here

Waiting for Justice: Timeline & Updates on 36 Achi Women Case

Last fall, Gloria Reyes spoke throughout the Maritimes about the case of the 36 Maya Achi women seeking justice for sexual violence.

There has still been no movement on the appeal to the previous judge's decision in the intermediary hearings not to move to trial and to release the 6 accused men from jail and back into the community. This is because judges haven’t been chosen to examine the appeal. The legal clinic is hoping for a speedy resolution on the appeal in order to proceed to trial on the question of the 6 accused. Two other men are still at large.

Read more here about where the case is at and check out the timeline created by BTS cooperant Laura Robinson, which gives an overview of the case to date. 

Breaking the Silence will continue to follow the case closely and support our partners in the pursuit of justice.

Apply by March 23rd to the BTS Human Rights & Community Development Cooperant Program

BTS is once again recruiting a team of cooperants for 6-12 months to support the work of our Guatemalan partners, as well as a few experienced human rights observers for urgent cases and shorter stays. Through this program, we hope to strengthen our solidarity and presence on the ground in Guatemala and, in particular, increase our capacity to respond to volunteer requests by our partners in a timely manner. Find out more about the program here.

WEBINAR: Are you or anyone you know interested in being a Human Rights or Community Development Cooperant in Guatemala?  

Join Este Chep, BTS Lead Cooperant Janelle Frail, past intern, accompanier and current volunteer with the BTS Cooperant Committee as they talk about BTS’s Cooperant Program, what it's like doing solidarity work in Guatemala and the current call and upcoming training for aspiring cooperants.

This 1 hour webinar is free and open to all.  Come have a listen, share your questions and find out more about this amazing opportunity to join us in our efforts.

WHERE: Online. Login here: http://bit.ly/2SFoGiu

WHEN: Thurs. Feb. 27th, 2020 at 7pm Atlantic! 

RSVP:  janellefrail@hotmail.com

Updates & Reflections from BTS Cooperant Laura Robinson

Since January, BTS Cooperant Laura Robinson has been working with the Rabinal Legal Clinic and the New Hope Foundation School. She writes: 

"I arrived in Rabinal seemingly at one of the busiest times of year as the annual fair was beginning. Everyday the streets filled with more and more vendors of foods, clothes, and everything you could imagine, including fair rides...Even as the flurry of the fair faded, it seems as if our partners in Rabinal, the Rabinal Legal Clinic and the New Hope Foundation, are always busy!"

Read more here about what the Rabinal Legal Clinic and New Hope Foundation are up to, and how things are shaping up for Laura as she begins her placement in Guatemala. 


We are looking for a group of volunteers who would be available from time to time to help with translation from English to Spanish, or Spanish to English on an as needed basis. This could be, for instance, documents from our partners, video subtitles, etc.

If you can help out, email BTS Maritimes Coordinator, Stacey Gomez: BTSMaritimesCoordinator@gmail.com 

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