Write to Support CICIG: Guatemala’s only anti-corruption court is on the bring of losing US funding
On May 7, Senator Marco Rubio, together with Representative Chris Smith, Senator Roger Wicker and Senator Mike Lee, reiterated their April 23 suspension of US funding of the International Commission Against Impunity, CICIG, making the outrageous assertion that “CICIG acted as the operational agents of Kremlin insiders.”
Please see the background information below the sample letter and send a letter to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to demand support for CICIG and/or call Senators offices.
While congressmen Rubio, Smith, Wicker and Lee claim they act in support of a Russian family fleeing persecution from the Kremlin, they are aiding criminals perpetrating a coordinated attack against the existence of CICIG. Some of the very people who contributed to the Bitkov family’s plight are trying to stop criminal investigations against them by shutting down CICIG, men who form a state supported mafia that destroys the lives and livelihood of thousands of Guatemalans, forcing them to flee in conditions similar to what the Bitkov family explain forced them to flee Russia.
Dear Senator X,
I am outraged that funding to the most successful effort to dismantle the criminal networks that have forced tens of thousands of Guatemalans to seek refuge in the United States is being suspended precisely as Guatemalan public officials implicated in corruption seek to end CICIG’s mandate. The timing of Senator Rubio’s hold request makes it appear that the sad situation of the Bitkov family is nothing more than a pretext to attack CICIG.
This is made even more outrageous by evidence that those leading the charge against CICIG, President Jimmy Morales and Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart, have contributed to the family’s plight. Morales refused to grant the family asylum and Degenhart has been implicated as leading the Migration office corruption ring that ensnared the Bitkovs. Rubio’s suspension of CICIG’s funding until the Bitkovs are released is illogical, CICIG has no control over their release. That is in the hands of the Supreme Court.
Please, do not play into the hands of criminals destroying the lives of our neighbors to the south. Release funding to CICIG. Tell Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, Senator Richard Shelby that this hold is unacceptable.
[your name here]
Please contact members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, particularly the Sub-Committee on the Western Hemisphere:
Bob Corker (R – TN) (202) 224-3344, https://www.corker.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/emailme
Marco Rubio (R – FL) (202) 224-3041, www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact
Ron Johnson (R – WI) (202) 224-5323, https://www.ronjohnson.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-the-senator
Jeff Flake (R – AZ) (202) 224-4521, www.flake.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact-jeff
Tom Udall (D – NM) (202) 224-6621, www.tomudall.senate.gov/?p=contact
Jeanne Shaheen (D – NH) (202) 224-2841, www.shaheen.senate.gov/contact/contact-jeanne
Tim Kaine (D – VA) (202) 224-4024, www.kaine.senate.gov/contact
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) (202) 224-5744, https://www.shelby.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-senator-shelby-landing
Urgent Action Background
As CICIG explains, in 2016 a Russian family was swept up as users of a Migration office corruption ring. The Bitkovs were 3 out of 39 people convicted in a prosecution that forms part of CICIG’s work to stop human trafficking. Years later the case is championed in the US congress as a means to attack CICIG precisely when CICIG’s existence is at risk.
Twice over the past nine months, CICIG sought the impeachment of current Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales. On April 19, days before Jimmy Morales appointed of a new Attorney General, outgoing AG Thelma Aldana and CICIG Commissioner Ivan Velasquez made public results of their latest investigation demonstrating corruption by the president. The next day, Morales announced an investigation aimed at ending CICIG’s mandate in Guatemala, and on April 24 Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart announced similar investigations.
In a disturbing twist, while President Morales has refused to grant the Bitkovs asylum, Minister Degenhart has been implicated in running the migration corruption network that lured the Russian family to Guatemala. On April 24, after Degenhart believed CICIG had sent investigators to his neighborhood, Degenhart ordered the illegal detention and interrogation of four police agents assigned to CICIG. They were held against their will over at least four days. The government human rights ombudsman was able to contact one of them, and the agent told them he feared for his life. Guatemalan investigative reporters found that Fidel Pacheco, the Migration office union leader who gave information necessary for CICIG’s successful prosecution of the Migration corruption ring had named Degenhart, Migration office comptroller
at that time, as the ringleader. A few months before Pacheco’s murder, he told Guatemala’s human rights ombudsman that Degenhart was planning to kill him.
Why are US congressmen seeking retribution against CICIG for shutting down a corruption ring that was creating false passports, which could even have been used to enter the US? Senator Rubio’s actions put at risk the results of decades of efforts by dedicated Guatemalan human rights advocates intent on purging clandestine security forces – the military intelligence networks that morphed into organized crime networks – from Guatemala’s justice system. These networks, linked to the genocidal violence of the 1980s, are what continue to exact extreme violence against Guatemalan communities, destroying the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Guatemalans in ways so similar to what the Bitkovs describe.
Write to World Bank and US State Department to demand protection for the defenders of the Jilamito River
Write to World Bank and US State Department to demand protection for the defenders of the Jilamito River
The Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) denounced the April 10 murder of lawyer Carlos Hernandez who was defending the mayor and development committee of the Honduran town of Arizona, Arnoldo Chacon, from charges promoted by a hydroelectric company building a dam on the Jilamito River. They are not only being maliciously prosecuted, they are subject to death threats.
In September 2017 Chacon told police that men had threatened the lives of those close to him if he continued to obstruct the plans of the INGELSA corporation to build a dam on the Jilamito river. In March 2018 he told reporters a reliable source had informed him hitmen had been hired to kill him.
MADJ fears for the lives of all the defenders of the Jilamito river being maliciously prosecuted, as well as that of their one remaining lawyer, Victor Fernandez. Victor is also the lawyer representing the family and organization (COPINH) of the indigenous rights defender Berta Caceres, murdered on March 2, 2016, in the prosecution of her murder, executives from a company building a dam similar to the Jilamito project are currently charged in that murder.
Neighbors defending the Jilamito river from an apparently illegal hydroelectric dam suspect World Bank financing may be involved; World Bank consultants visited the area last year, and the INGELSA company has hired a Washington DC based law firm. Write to the World Bank and the US State Department to express your concern that development banks in the Jilamito dam case may again fuel violence as they did in the Agua Zarca dam case.
URGENT ACTION- SAMPLE LETTER
Please write to the World Bank Group’s private investment wing, the International Finance Corporation, and the US State Department:
Dear Mr. LeHouerou,
It has been two years since the murder of Berta Caceres, the most well known indigenous rights defender in Honduras. When Berta Caceres objected to the construction of the Agua Zarca dam without the consent of the indigenous Lenca communities whose livelihood and quality of life were damaged by the project, she faced libelous insults in the media, malicious prosecution, threats against her life and ultimately murder. Though the Prosecutor’s investigation has shown that top executives in the company building the dam were responsible, we fear the World Bank Group has not learned from this case, and that communities across Guatemala and Honduras continue to suffer the consequences of willful negligence by international development finance institutions.
Just two weeks ago, April 10, 2018, a lawyer representing the mayor and four municipal development committee members facing malicious prosecution by a hydroelectric company very similar to the DESA corporation, was murdered in his office just weeks after his client, the mayor defending the legally binding municipal referendum banning hydroelectric development on the Jilamito River, was threatened with death if he did not let the project proceed. We have reason to believe the IFC or its financial intermediaries are financing or structuring financing for this project promoted by the INGELSA corporation.
On April 23, a ruling that brazenly disregarded fundamental precepts in the Honduran law found the mayor of Intibuca, where construction of the the Agua Zarca dam was initially planned, innocent of abuse of authority charges while recognizing the Lenca communities had rejected the dam. Honduras’ legal system is not independent and does not protect indigenous communities’ rights. The Agua Zarca dam continues to hold an illegally granted construction license even as the president of the company is charged with murder.
The IFC must suspend investment in high risk projects in Honduras and Guatemala and undertake an exhaustive review of investments by their financial intermediaries in these project.
[your name here]
Support La Puya: Sign onto a solidarity letter to support and congratulate the activists at La Puya on the 4th Year Anniversary of their struggle.
The residents of La Puya affected by the mining project have been peacefully protesting at the entrance of the El Tambor mine since 2012, and have been the victims of intimidation and abuse, including an assassination attempt against Yolanda Oquelí in June 2012. Others have faced trumped-up criminal charges filed by individuals associated with the company. In May 2014, after two years of peaceful struggle, the communities in resistance of La Puya were violently evicted from the entrance to the mine. However, community members continue to oppose the project and on May 2, 2016, celebrate four years of constant presence at the entrance to the mine. The celebration comes just after the Guatemalan Supreme Court upheld the ruling to suspend KCA’s mining licence at the El Tambor mine.
Over the course of one week, environmental activist Rigoberto Lima Choc was murdered and three others kidnapped in northern Guatemala for denouncing environmental contamination allegedly caused by African Palm company Reforestadora de Palma de Petén (REPSA).
On September 18, Rigoberto Lima Choc — a 28-year-old schoolteacher and indigenous activist — was shot outside of a local courthouse in Sayaxché by two men on a motorcycle. His murder occurred just one day after a court ordered REPSA to suspend its operations for six months in order to investigate the company’s role in the contamination of the Pasión River. Lima had been one of the first to take videos and report the deaths of fish in the polluted water.
On that same day, three human rights activists — Lorenzo Pérez, Hermelindo Asij and Manuel Pérez Ordóñez — were kidnapped by unknown assailants. They were held for almost 12 hours, threatened with being burned alive, and finally released the following day. During this time, local police did not respond to residents’ calls for help; representatives from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s office only responded directly several hour later, due to concerns about the personal safety of their staff.
GHRC is supporting community demands for an immediate investigation into these violent incidents and the adoption of measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders in the region. With the help of our partners, ActionAid USA and Friends of the Earth, our petition — with nearly 50,000 signers — was delivered to Guatemala’s Attorney General Thelma Aldana on Nov. 30, 2015.