October 17, 2012
Contact: Lorena Vaca
+1-202-547-2800, ext. 101
Washington, D.C.— The Indian Law Resource Center is deeply concerned about the State of Guatemala’s violent response to the Maya K’iche’ people’s peaceful protest on October 4, 2012.
Instead of entering into dialogue with the indigenous people concerned, the Guatemalan government employed military and police armed forces to disband protestors, which resulted in the death of 8 indigenous people; more than 30 were injured. This is an alarming State response that falls well below contemporary democratic standards. President Otto Perez Molina must refrain from revisiting Guatemala’s violent history of oppression and State violence against indigenous peoples.
The Maya K’iche’ people organized a peaceful protest in the department of Totonicapan, asking the government to adhere to a process of dialogue and consultation regarding the proposed constitutional reforms, the rising cost of electricity, and changes in education services. Due to a persistent lack of State recognition and protection of indigenous peoples’ collective rights, they are forced to resort to social mobilization and protests as a means to call attention to the injustice they face under State laws and policies.
The Center condemns these violent acts and calls on the government of Guatemala to:
- Live up to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples standards, which demand that governments provide for the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in decision-making when State proposed measures affect them.
- Refrain immediately from the use of military forces against indigenous peoples seeking to dialogue with the government and to participate in decision-making processes.
- Carry out an immediate investigation of the facts developed in Totonicapan, in order to timely identify and punish those responsible for the deaths of the eight indigenous protesters.
- Evaluate the overall role of military forces in times of peace, review its protocol, train their personnel, and refrain from using them as a response to social demonstrations.
The government of Guatemala must comply with its international human rights law obligations, especially with the obligation to respect the right to life of indigenous peoples, a prerequisite for the exercise of all other rights protected by the American Convention on Human Rights and the UN Declaration.
We call on the international community, our friends, and allies to speak out against this tragedy and to help protect the rights of indigenous peoples in Guatemala.
Below, please find additional resources, only available in Spanish:
- Interview with Maria del Carmen Tacam, President of the 48 Cantones of Totonicapan (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFJ7F8V0460) where she explains the events of October 4, 2012 and indicates that due to the lack of response from the Government the people of Totonicapan had to act. She calls on the people of Totonicapan to remain calm and united.
- Statements by Congressman Amilcar Pop in Congress:
1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqQRyWnEud4- condemns the attack on the people of Totonicapan, expresses his concerns over the military response and calls on Congress to investigate. Demands an investigation into who gave the orders to fire upon the protesters. Congress owes the brave people of Totonicapan a thorough investigation.
2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65HOKjdmvJg- Video of a meeting summoned by Congressman Amilcar Pop with the Human Rights Attorney General, Minister of National Defense, other Ministers were invited but are not present. The session was called to discuss the military response to the protest in Totonicapan. Congressman Pop reiterates that the military has the duty to protect the people of Guatemala, not act against them.