Taken during a sustained peaceful protest in front of the Constitutional Court “We demand new elections” “Courts not mafias, no to the cartel of judges” (Photo credit: LaCuerda)

What is Making News In Guatemala: Top 3 Stories

Written by Cooperants Indigo Christ and Laura Robinson

COVID-19: New strains Last year the Semana Santa (Easter) holiday in Guatemala was dampened with strict curfews and travel restrictions. This year however, the holidays went about with relaxed constraints. The result has been an increase in the rate at which people are testing positive for COVID and increased pressure on the already strained hospital system. The 9th of April, the government alerted the population to the circulation of a Californian variant of the virus which has the potential to increase transmission by 24%, cause more severe symptoms, and prolong infections. April 16th, the government imposed a state of prevention to slow the spread of the virus which the PDH argues is overly broad and based on timing targets recent social movements against corruption.

Escobal Mine Pre-Consultation was slated to begin April 20th, as mandated by the Constitutional Court in 2018 for the Canadian-owned Escobal Mine in San Rafael Las Flores. However, the Ministry of Energy and Mines has delayed the first meeting of the pre-consultation until May 21st, 2021 due to COVID-restrictions implemented by the government on April 16th. Operations at the silver mine now owned by Pan American Silver have been suspended since June 2017 as a result of direct and ongoing community action. It continues to be a challenge to ensure that their right to free, prior, and informed consent is respected and to ensure good-faith consultations continue. In the face of increasing violence, the Xinka Parliament has remained steadfast in ensuring that the government respects the self-governing and representation principles of the Xinka People. BTS continues to accompany our partners in the Xinka region through the consultation process (read more about the consultation process here) Thank you to everyone who signed the recent petition supporting the Xinka Peoples’ rights to free and prior consent which gained over 3 900 signatures! 

Constitutional Court A number of newly-elected magistrates have now been sworn in to Guatemala’s Constitutional Court, the highest legal body tasked with upholding constitutional order. These magistrates include Luis Rosales (Efrain Rios Montt’s former lawyer) and Dina Ochoa (who was instrumental in expelling the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala in 2019). Meanwhile, Congress has blocked Gloria Porras from taking her seat for her third term, who has been outspoken about corruption and impunity in Guatemala and issued landmark decisions protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples. 

“It is clear to me that there is a conspiracy to not let me take possession… I have been an independent judge and being an independent judge in this country implies these types of actions,”

Porras said. A number of national politicians, international governments and international organizations such as Impunity Watch and the The UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers have expressed their concern for this blatant obstruction of justice.