Amnesty International is deeply concerned for the safety of land defenders in Guatemala. Six defenders were brutally killed during the last two weeks of May and 12 defenders have lost their lives since January. It appears that a vicious new wave of attacks against land and water defenders is underway in Guatemala.
Heightening our worry is the use of language by Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales to discredit and put down organizations that are working to protect land and environment, such as the Committee for Campesino Development (CODECA) or the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA).
Sister Maudilia Lopez Cardona, a Catholic sister and land defender from San Miguel Ixtahuacán, near Goldcorp’s Marlin mine, reminded Canadians during a delegation to Canada last month that calling human rights activists names, such as ‘anti-development’, ‘eco-terrorists’, or ‘anti-patriotic’ undermines their legitimate concerns and puts them at high risk of attack.
In response to this extremely troubling situation, Amnesty’s Secretary General, Alex Neve, and Business and Human Rights Campaigner, Tara Scurr, delivered a letter to Guatemala’s Embassy in Ottawa calling on the Guatemalan government to investigate these attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice and called on the country’s new Attorney General to condemn attacks against human rights defenders. Alex and Tara were joined by Guatemalan land and water defenders Aniseto López and Sister Maudilia López.
Amnesty and partners are asking the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala to make visible Canada’s support for human rights defenders at risk throughout the country. We have asked officials to meet with organizations under attack, like CODECA and the CCDA, as well as visit communities in resistance to Canadian mining investment in order to show support for the courageous and necessary work that these defenders carry out and send a message that people in Canada are watching and care about them.