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It has been over four months since the town of Santa Cruz Barillas, Guatemala, was brutally repressed. In the incident, one community leader was killed, several people were injured, another eleven were arrested and arrest warrants were issued against over a hundred residents. Social organizations submitted evidence of irregularities in the legal proceedings and demand justice.
The violence against the people who have resisted the installation of Santa Cruz dam for the past five years, led Otto Perez Molina administration to declare a state of emergency on May 1st.
In a press conference held this week, the Committee of Peasant Unity and the Coordination of Peoples from the West (CUC and CPO), together with lawyers who have followed the case of the deaths and arrests, mentioned once again the incidents as well as the permanent damage caused to the families, while they pointed at irregularities in the legal proceedings.
Some of the irregularities included suspicious testimonies in favor of Santa Cruz SA, the presence of state authorities to obtain support for the company in exchange for releasing some of the people who were arrested, as well as the use of tactics linked with the civil war that hit Guatemala in the 1980s, this time with the resisting population as the ’internal enemy’. When the suspicious testimony in favor of the company was removed, ten arrest warrants were also revoked, althouth another 23 are still in force.
Rafael Gonzalez of CUC (Via Campesina) said the government’s declaration of a state of emergency has seriously affected the communities of Santa Cruz Barillas.
He demanded a full compensation to the families for the damage caused that “reminded people of the times of war”. Rafael also called the Guatemalan society to take action so that the incidents are clarified to facilitate the release of the eleven people arrested who are facing charges of terrorism or arson.
Lawyer Carlos Bezares explained the irregularities in the proceedings and said they will bring a legal action against the Guatemalan state before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Bezares said the arrests were made before declaring the state of emergency.
“All this what happened here is unheard of. Individual rights should be respected in a democratic state like ours”, he said.
During the press conference, Natalia Atz, coordinator of CEIBA-Friends of the Earth Guatemala demanded the judiciary of Guatemala to act with honesty, impartiality and objectivity in the cases involving the indigenous and rural communities that defend their territories, their natural goods and Mother Earth.
Lastly, lawyer Sergio Belteton said that Guatemala is having a return to the past, to the times of internal conflict. “The Guatemalan state is going backwards”, said Belteton, this should be a reason for concern of the Guatemalan and the international community.
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