Protesters remember genocide in Guatemala

This video is called Violent Evictions at El Estor, Guatemala.

On January 8th and 9th 2007, hundreds of police and soldiers in Guatemala forcibly evicted the inhabitants of several communities who were living on lands that a Guatemalan military government had granted to Canadian mining company INCO in 1965. Local indigenous people claim the land to be theirs, and resent the exploitation of a foreign corporation.

Al Jazeera reports:

Protesters in Guatemala have disrupted an Army Day parade, which they said was an insult to the memory of the [civil] war’s 200,000 mostly civilian victims.

Police on Saturday used tear gas to disperse protesters, members of the Children’s Collective, whose relatives died or disappeared in the 1960-1996 civil war.

Protesters tossed red paint on some of the marchers and later scuffled with soldiers and their relatives. …

Wendy Mendez, a member of the Children’s Collective, said military police sprayed the demonstrators with tear gas and pepper spray.

“We believe that an institution that committed genocide should not be honored at the national level,” she said.

A 1998 report by the Roman Catholic Church’s human rights office blamed Guatemala’s military for the overwhelming majority of atrocities committed during the civil war.

Violence during election campaigns in Guatemala: here.

Diego Rivera’s mural Glorious victory on the 1954 coup in Guatemala: here.

Last February 18,000 Guatemalans, mostly survivors or relatives of victims of the state-sponsored terror of the 1970s and 1980s, gathered in Guatemala City to commemorate the Day of Dignity for the Victims of the Internal Armed Conflict: here.

Guatemalan Interior Ministry allegedly authorized killing prisoners: here.

11 thoughts on “Protesters remember genocide in Guatemala

  1. Guatemala union heads killed despite US trade deal
    Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:32pm EDT

    (Corrects name of company in last two paragraphs from Del Monte Foods Co (DLM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) to Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc (FDP.N: Quote, Profile, Research))

    By Mica Rosenberg

    MORALES, Guatemala, Oct 17 (Reuters) – Masked gunmen dumped a Guatemalan banana picker’s bullet-ridden corpse yards from fields of fruit bound for the United States, a grim reminder of the risks of organizing labor in the Central American country.

    Marco Tulio Ramirez, killed last month, was the fifth Guatemalan labor leader murdered this year.

    Activists say the deaths show promises to protect labor rights under a U.S. trade pact have changed little at a time President George W. Bush is pressing for similar deals in other Latin American nations with bad labor records.

    The Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, was approved by the U.S. Congress in 2005 after a tough battle with Democrats who argued that worker safeguards in the agreement were too weak.

    CAFTA breaks down tariff barriers between Central American countries and the United States. It has increased Guatemala’s export revenues and improved the investment climate in the country, the government says.

    Guatemala, which began implementing the pact last year, was notorious for labor abuses during its 36-year long civil war and rights are still weak.

    Opponents of CAFTA both in the United States and Central America complained that Washington should not encourage trade with countries like Guatemala without tougher rules to protect workers.

    The U.S. Trade Representative gave $40 million to spend in Guatemala on strengthening the labor ministry, resolving industrial disputes and monitoring work-related abuses. But little has changed.

    “Organizing a union in Guatemala is life-threatening,” said Noe Ramirez, Marco Tulio’s brother and the head of the banana workers’ union SITRABI.

    “We know the Central American Free Trade Agreement has a chapter on labor protections, but it is not followed,” he said, at the union’s office in the town of Morales.


    Bush urged Congress on Friday to approve pending free trade pacts with Colombia, Panama and Peru, saying failure to do so would reduce Washington’s leadership in the region.

    Critics fiercely oppose the agreement with Colombia, where rights group Human Rights Watch says 72 trade unionists were killed last year.

    “I oppose continuing the same failed CAFTA-style trade model in other countries,” said Rep. Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat. “Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for labor organizers, more so than even Guatemala.”

    Abuses are common across the Guatemalan economy, especially in textile factories known as maquilas, where workers put in long hours for little pay. Activists say companies often close factories when workers try form unions.

    In January, Pedro Zamora, head of Guatemala’s port workers’ union, was murdered in front of his two sons in the middle of contentious negotiations between the union and company bosses. Two leaders of the municipal vendors’ union were killed a month later.

    In 1999, SITRABI leaders were forced to resign after 200 armed men threatened them ahead of a planned strike. Seven still live in exile in the United States.

    In July, soldiers raided the SITRABI union’s office asking to see information about members. The ministry of defense later said the action was unjustified.

    Since Ramirez’s death, suspicious cars have followed union members on and off the company’s property, his brother said.

    Such intolerance of labor unions has a long history.

    Hundreds of union members were murdered or ‘disappeared’ by state security forces during the country’s 1960-1996 civil war between the army and left-wing rebels.

    The war began after a coup backed by banana company United Fruit, now known as Chiquita Brands International (CQB.N: Quote, Profile, Research). United Fruit sold many of its plantations, including the ones where Ramirez worked, to Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc (FDP.N: Quote, Profile, Research).

    Representatives from the Fresh Del Monte Produce subsidiary Ramirez was employed by said they have nothing to do with his killing and urged authorities to conduct a full investigation.

    © Reuters 2007


  2. Second television reporter killed

    GUATEMALA: Police announced on Monday that television reporter Marco Antonio Estrada was shot dead near his home in eastern Guatemala.

    Town Police Chief Pedro Lopez says that witnesses saw a gunman shoot Mr Estrada near his home in Chiquimula on Sunday, then flee in a car.

    His murder comes two months after another Guatemalan television reporter was shot dead on his way back from covering the murder of a bus driver.


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  4. Energy protesters die in army clash

    Guatemala: At least two people were killed in a clash on Thursday between security forces and protesters opposed to high energy prices.

    President Otto Perez Molina said troops were travelling to support police when they hit a road block set up by protesters.

    Despite photographic evidence to the contrary, he claimed that the soldiers weren’t armed.


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