On October 4th, an estimated 15,000 protesters gathered to block the highways around the town of Totonicapán, Guatemala. They took this drastic step because they saw no other way to be heard by the Government of Otto Pérez Molina. As has been characteristic of this administration, the government responded to the protests by sending both police and soldiers, a decision which had deadly consequences.
While the police hung back miles away from the roadblocks, one Colonel ignored police orders and advanced. In the ensuing conflict, at least six people were killed and over 33 wounded.
At the same time that Guatemalan soldiers were firing indiscriminately at protesters, U.S. Marines were running joint missions with the Guatemalan military off the South Coast of the country. According to the military’s own sources, the result of these missions, with almost 200 US marines deployed for two months, was only 14 arrests and 10 drug seizures. The cost: any moral authority the US might have had to condemn the use of the military against civilians. How can the US tell Guatemala that the military shouldn’t act as police when we’re sending down US soldiers to fight crime?
So the pressure and condemnation must come from those of us who stand in solidarity with the people of Guatemala. Thanks to all of you, we’ve gathered almost 9,000 signatures on our petition to the Guatemalan Government demanding an investigation into the massacre in Totonicapán---a true investigation, not just into who fired shots, but who gave the orders.
We have also spent the last year meeting with the offices of members of the US Congress to ensure that the existing ban on funding to the Guatemalan Army remains in place. Though the ban covers only a small portion of overall US funding, it stands as an important tool to pressure Guatemala to respect the human rights of its citizens.
We can’t do this work without your support. A large part of our funding comes from individual donors including monthly donors, who sign up to donate online every month. This provides GHRC with a steady, reliable source of income, which allows us to plan for the future and expand our programs. Sign up to be a monthly donor today.