Guatemala Update: Focus on International Accompaniment
The Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala
In the Unit for the Defence of Human Rights Defender’s (UDEFEGUA) bi-monthly report, published in April 2012, 68 aggressions were registered. Twenty three of these aggressions were against human rights defenders who work on issues related to “justice” while twentyfive aggressions were against people working on “truth.” During the period outlined in this report, the work of national and international human rights organizations, especially those working in the struggle for justice and in defence of territory and natural resources has been under attack and delegitimized. In the struggle for justice for crimes of the past, press releases issued by AVEMILGUA form part of a smear campaign. In the words of UDEFEGUA, “…the constant aggression by the Association of Military Veterans of Guatemala (AVEMILGUA) through press releases and the opinions generated through articles has put human rights defenders in a highly vulnerable situation. AVEMILGUA, which uses public funds, is waging a media battle that distorts memory by comparing the struggle for justice to guerrilla warfare.” The new Guatemalan President has also spoken publicly about the internal armed conflict in several speeches, denying there was genocide and stating that those who do not accept that the conflict is over are trying to destabilize [the country]: “Today, 15 years after signing the Peace Accords, we are aware that many of the causes of the conflict are still present and although without a doubt significant advances have been achieved, but [sic] during these 15 years, the spirit of the strategic objectives of changes proposed by these accords have been betrayed. Some who have neither fought nor lived through the conflict seem to be determined to keep us from rising above – on the contrary, they seem to be living off of it. With support from internationals, they continue to exaggerate certain cases." During this period, ACOGUATE has noted intimidations against those who are accompanied as well as international observers who are part of the accompaniment project. These intimidations occurred at hearings for crimes of the past where former members of the military high command were on trial. In addition, we are concerned with the attacks that have occurred against the work of international cooperation agencies, primarily directed toward the Swedish embassy. [An example] is the Canal Antigua (a television news program) report on March 4, 2012 called, “Sweden Financing Terrorists in Guatemala.” A press release issued by the Swedish Embassy on March 6 stated that the information in the report was false.

S E PT E MBE R 2012

The Struggle for Justice and Against Impunity Of Red Roses and Remembering. Reflection by Heidi Mitton Defense of Territory and Natural Other Cases: Normal Schools, Emilia Quann Threats Against Honduras Acompaniment Project 2012 Accompaniment Training A word from BTS Accompaniers 2







 In 2010-2011, four BTSsupported Accompaniers Volunteered with ACOGUATE in Guatemala. Hear about Heidi Mitton’s experience inside!  In June 2011, BTS held an accompaniment training at Tatamagouche Centre. Thirteen participants came to explore the role of accompaniment and be trained for international accompaniment in Guatemala and Honduras  Exciting advances are happening in Guatemala related to the Genocide Case. Read more inside!

ACOGUATE—Coordination for International Accompaniment in Guatemala

Breaking the Silence is a member of the Coordination for International Accompaniment in Guatemala (ACOGUATE). ACOGUATE was created in 2000 and is made up of 11 autonomous solidarity committees from 10 countries in Europe and North America, dedicated to giving accompaniment to give protection and support to people and organizations who work to defend and protect human rights in Guatemala. To date, over 500 accompaniers have volunteered with ACOGUATE, including dozens who have been trained and supported

by BTS. In 2011 and 2012, four BTS-Supported Accompaniers volunteered with ACOGUATE. We are grateful to ACOGUATE who has provided the majority of the contextual analysis in this newsletter. BTS accepts responsibilities for any errors or omissions. In some cases, there are updates which are not reported here. For complete list of references, contact





The Struggle for Justice and Against Impunity: The Genocide Case
On January 5, 2012, the judge provisionally suspended the criminal investigation against Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores given the state of his health and ordered that periodic medical exams be performed. After losing his immunity as congressman (2000-2012), General José Efraín Ríos Montt was summoned by a lower level court on January 26 during which time he was linked to the process by the judge of the HighRisk criminal court, Carol Patricia Flores, on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Ríos Montt refused to declare at this time. In light of the seriousness of the charges, the judge ordered house arrest and a bond of 500,000 quetzales, a decision that has been criticized by the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR) and the Centre for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH). On February 20, the First Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the right of appeal submitted by General Hector Mario Lopez Fuentes against judge Carol Patricia Flores. Judge Flores was also removed from the process against Jose Efrain Rios Montt and was replaced on February 21 by Judge Miguel Angel Galvez (First Judge B of High Risk). Rios Montt and Lopez Fuentes requested that their cases be closed - the first was due to amnesty and the second for his state of health. Both requests were denied. On March 5, Rios Montt’s defense lawyer appealed Fuentes, Rodríguez Sánchez and Ríos Montt cases, with the health of Mejía Víctores under periodic review. ACOGUATE accompanies the Association for Justice and Reconciliation

ACOGUATE accompanying a hearing at the Military Hospital

the decision. The request of Rios Montt’s defense to extend the investigation phase for six months was rejected on March 15. Also in May, a challenge submitted by the defense against Judge Miguel Angel Galvez was rejected. There are currently court injunctions in the López

(AJR) during travel, at meetings, in their communities and in hearings related to the case. We also accompany members of the Centre for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH) team during work-related travel.

Las Dos Erres (1982, Petén)
Following the sentencing on August 2, 2011 in the Las Dos Erres case against 4 of the 17 accused for their participation in the massacre of over 200 people in the community (which occurred on December 7, 1982), on March 12, 2012, another ex-Kaibil (military special forces) sub-instructor, Pedro Pimentel Rios, was sentenced for his participation in the massacre. The sentence against Pimentel Rios was the maximum possible sentence: 30 years for each of the 201 murdered and 30 additional years for crimes against humanity. The court also ordered that compensation in the form of housing should be given to the victim complainants and that the sentence be broadcast on national television and radio stations at least five times over a 15 day period following the trial so that people would know about the history of the community. This case received coverage in international media. ACOGUATE accompanies FAMDEGUA, the plaintiff in the case, and observed the hearings. On May 21, Rios Montt was officially tied to the genocide trial as the intellectual author of the Las Dos Erres massacre.

Plan de Sánchez (1982, Rabinal, Baja Verapaz)
The Plan de Sánchez massacre case is also a case involving ongoing impunity in Guatemala. The case was presented before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in 1996 and in 2004, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled against the state of Guatemala for failing to bring justice to the case. The Court made recommendations for compensation to the victims however these have not been fully implemented by the State. On March 20, 2012, a sentence of 7,710 years was handed down by a Guatemalan court to each of the five accused in the case. This sentence recognized each one of the 256 murdered victims. In addition, the sentences demanded that the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education create an educational document about the massacre to uphold the historic memory of the victims. The Public Prosecutor’s office has vowed to continue the investigations aimed at finding other people responsible for the massacre. ACOGUATE published an article on its blog about the case during this period which was cited as a source of information in an article in the daily newspaper, “La Hora,” which raised the profile of the ACOGUATE blog. ACOGUATE has accompanied witnesses in the Plan de Sanchez case since 2000 and observed the court hearings in the case.





Of Red Roses and Remembering: By Heidi Mitton, 2012 BTS Accompanier
My first assignment as an accompanier was outside the courthouse on the late January day of the opening hearing for former president Rios Montt, accused of crimes against humanity and genocide during the worst years of Guatemala's 36-year armed conflict. Inside, the courtroom was packed, and a long day was in store for those who had managed to get inside. Hundreds of witnesses had come from the rural communities that had been affected by the brutal violence of the 1980's. In the plaza outside of the courthouse, the hearing was broadcast for those witnesses, activists and supporters who gathered to hold vigil throughout the day and to honour the victims of the conflict. As organizers and witnesses, many far from their homes, milled about patiently in the unrelenting dry season sun, we chatted with some and greeted others who already recognized us, doing our best to steer clear of cameras both conspicuous and inconspicuous, since the media have been keen for footage of international accompaniers of late. Mostly, we took in the memorial around us. A display explaining the timeline of the conflict, the numbers dead, the massacres committed. A banner of photographs: faces of Heidi Mitton was a 2012 BTS Accompanier. people disappeared during the steps to the courthouse, scattered the war for their work in human rights, read rose petals bearing the words literacy, or student activism, among “Impunity: Neither Tomorrow, Nor many other things. A carpet of pine Today. ” A quilt, of traditional Mayan needles, often used in Mayan ceremonies and celebrations, was spread before Continued on page 8

Closing of the Peace Archives
On May 28, 2012, technicians working at mala Human Rights Commission, “… The Guatemalan government the Peace Archive received notice that the dismantling the entity designed to supervise established the Peace Archives in Secretary of Peace, Antonio Arenales Forno and administer the documents related to the 2008 as an extension of the was fired after the decision to close the human rights violations committed during archive was taken. The research published Secretaria de la Paz (Sepaz) and in the internal armed conflict, Secretary Areby the Peace Archive has shown the chain nales Forno and President Perez Molina will congruence with the 1996 Peace of command along with dates of massacres, put an end to an invaluable contribution to acts of torture and forced disappearance the preservation of historic memory and Accords that ended the civil war. during the internal war which lasted 36 compliance with the Peace Accords, while at years and which ended in 1996 when the the same time hindering the effort to investiPeace Accords were signed. gate the military for the atrocious human rights violations and According to a petition created by the Guatecrimes against humanity.”

Exhumation at the former Coban military base
After a search warrant was granted, on February 27, 2012, excavation began for the exhumation of victims (men, women, boys and girls) in the former military base in Coban. The base is currently used as the Regional Command for the Training of Peace Keeping Operations (CREOMPAZ), where soldiers get training for UN peace missions. ACOGUATE usually accompanies FAMDEGUA in exhumations and other processes, however in this case it was impossible given that outsiders are restricted from entering CREOMPAZ. This is concerning for FAMDEGUA given that families of the victims are also subject to these restrictions. Their time in the CREOMPAZ base has been limited to ten minutes. As we were not able to accompany, ACOGUATE published an interview about the exhumations in the blog. To date, more than 200 grave sites have been exhumed.

On September 27 light a candle for Adolfo Ich Chamán who, according to eye witness testimony, was killed this day in 2009 by Hudbay Minerals Security Forces in El Estor, Guatemala. Mr. Ich was the President of the Community Council of La Uníon, a respected Mayan Q’eqchi’ community leader, a school teacher and father. He was an outspoken critic of the harms caused by Canadian mining activities in his community. For detailed information, see:





A Native Perspective of Gold Mining in Guatemala and its Devastating Impacts on Our Brothers and Sisters, the Mayans By Cathy Gerrior
Kwe, my spirit name is white turtle woman and i am a Mi'kmaq Elder and Ceremony Keeper from Turtle Island. i was given an opportunity to visit Guatemala by a group called Breaking the Silence. This is an organization that works towards justice and fair treatment of the Mayan People in Guatemala. We joined a delegation in Guatemala led by Grahame Russell with the Rights Action Group to learn the truth about the Canadian Mining Companies and what they are doing to our Mayan brothers and sisters in Latin America. Grahame was very thorough in his teachings around this issue. At one point i asked him if this work was his passion. He thought about it for a moment and replied, "No. It's my social responsibility." It is majestic and deceptive to drive through the countryside of Guatamala with its volcanoes, and seemingly endless food and natural resources. It is shocking to learn that the Native people of Guatemala were forcibly evicted from their traditional lands so that all this could be produced for the benefit of Canada and the United States, and that the Mayan People are forced to work the fields during harvest for about $2 per day. i watched in wonder as i saw corn growing up and down the mountainsides and learned that that is the crop of the Mayan People - corn and beans. They use all their land to sustain themselves and their families. Some also have some livestock - often chickens and pigs which have free rein to move about naturally. i noticed goats and a few cows, who were more confined. The effort it must take to plant and harvest these crops on such steep terrain. i heard that they tie themselves to a sturdy tree or rock in order to navigate the steepness. i frequently saw them walking along the side of the highway carrying their hoes or hauling their firewood on their backs. Even the children were carrying their own loads of firewood. It was both beautiful and sad to see this, especially once the realities of

what is happening to the People was revealed when we reached our destinations. We first visited the communities of San Jose del Gulfo and San Pedro Ayumpac where they are blockading the mine entrance to Radius Gold. It was reminiscent of blockades here on Turtle Island. The People standing together and saying "No" to violations against Mother Earth, families, and communities. They take this stand at the risk of being shot (with no consequences to the shooter) because their traditional lands are all they have to support themselves and their next generations. The mining companies trick their way into communities and then seem to stop at nothing in order to begin reaping obscene profits at the expense of the Native people and Mother Earth. i saluted their commitment to what is right in the traditional way of our People.In San Rafael las Flores i listened to a man named Oscar Morales (whom i saw as a natural
Continued on page 9

The Women of San Miguel Ixtahuacan
In 2005, high voltage electric cables were installed above three communities in San Miguel Ixtahuacan, near the Marlin Mine, operated by Montana Exploradora, subsidiary of Canadian gold mining company, Goldcorp Inc. Several people claimed that the company did not ask for their permission to use their land [to the extent to which it was used]. One of these people was Gregoria Crisanta Perez. Goldcorp Inc. claimed to have had a contract to rent the land from her since 2004 - Ms. Perez denies having signed the contract. On June 10, 2008, Ms. Perez provoked a short circuit in the electric lines that pass over her house, causing an interruption to the flow of electricity to the mine. One hundred and fifty citizens from the surrounding villages united to protest against the activities of the Marline Mine and showed their support for Ms. Perez. Eight arrest warrants were issued against Ms. Perez and seven other women from the community. On May 18, after a legal process supported by Tz’ununija, an indigenous women’s movement, a verdict was reached which annulled the arrest warrants and ordered the electric cables to be removed from Ms. Perez’s property. It also called for the supposed contract for rental of the land to be cancelled. ACOGUATE responded to a petition by Tz’uninija to accompany the public removal of the electric post from Ms. Perez’s property on May 31.





State of Siege in Santa Cruz de Barillas
On May 1, three community leaders were attacked in Santa Cruz de Barillas, resulting in the death of one and serious injury to the other two. The survivors assured that the aggressors were people from the “Hidro Santa Cruz” hydroelectric dam. After receiving this information, the population, demanding justice, responded angrily. To take control of the situation, the government declared a state of siege. Peasant and Human Rights Organizations pronounced their rejection [to the state of siege], arguing that there was abuse of authority during searches and that people were being held without being heard by a judge. The use of the state of siege as a way to resolve conflicts was also criticized. Local levels of conflict have been attributed to the frustration of community members toward the current and previous governments who have failed to respect the results of a community referendum that took place in 2007. In this community referendum, the incursion of large-scale projects in the region was rejected. Despite the results of the referendum, the previous government gave permission for the construction of the Hidro Santa Cruz hydroelectric dam. On May 15, a march was organized in Huehuetenango to ask, among other demands, that the state of siege be lifted. ACOGUATE observed the march. The state of siege was lifted on May 18, three days after the march. By that date, 15 people had been detained for their supposed participation in the disturbances. On May 26, workers of the hydroelectric damn who were accused of the murder of the community leader on May 1 were captured. ACOGUATE has accompanied the first and only hearing to date in this case and has provided accompaniment to the complainants and their families. At the date of publishing, 11 people continue to be held in prison awaiting trial.

Sign an urgent action about the situation today! We All BarillasStop a Dam on Our Sacred River!

Indigenous, Peasant, People’s March
More than 5,000 peasants arrived in Guatemala City on March 27 after walking for nine days and 217 kilometres from Coban, Alta Verapaz. The peasants put forward proposals to the President, Congress, the Judiciary and the Attorney General’s office. Their demands include the following themes: i) land issues ii) violations against individual and collective rights of indigenous and peasant communities, iii) mining, hydroelectric dams, monocultures and large-scale projects and iv) approval of laws in favour of peasant communities. In the Executive’s response, the structural and historical claims raised were recognized, with responses given to some. ACOGUATE observed the arrival of the march in the capital and activities in front of the National Palace at the petition of the coordinators of the march.

Visit by Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Navi Pillary, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Guatemala between March 11 and 15, 2012. She demonstrated concern for the insecurity and violence in the country but saw hope in the court sentence for the Las Dos Erres massacre and the ongoing investigations in the Ixil area. On March 13, the High Commissioner met with more than 3000 representatives and leaders from indigenous and ancestral Maya, Xinca and Garifuna communities. The demands of the assembly were based on four themes: 1. Autonomy and freedom of determination 2. Large-scale resource extraction projects 3. Criminalization and re-militarization 4. Discrimination and racism against the indigenous population in Guatemalan society. Pillay concluded that, “there are serious problems. I consider their assertion that they are treated as though they are invisible to be valid. The constitution of this country talks about equality for everyone.” ACOGUATE was invited to observe the gathering in Totonicapan by organizations that we accompany that were present (Association for the Integral Development of San Miguel Ixtahuacan – ADISMI, and the Departmental Assembly in Defense of Natural Resources and Territory of Huehuetenango). We also participated in a conference with the High Commissioner where we presented information from our perspective together and in coordination with other organizations about the situation of human rights defenders. After the visit of Ms. Pillay, ACOGUATE published an article on its blog:

Members of the CCDA participating in the march.





Other Cases
Justice for Emilia Quan
Emilia Margarita Quan Staackmann was a human rights defender who was kidnapped on December 7, 2010 in Huehuetenango. The following day, her body was found in the mountains of Huehuetenango. On June 6, 2012, Jordy Paolo Cruz Bailon was sentenced to six years for Femicide and Racketeering. ACOGUATE observed parts of the hearing, when possible. UDEFEGUA commended the result as being, “…a step forward for justice for violations against human rights defenders and showing that when there is will and commitment, the attorney general’s office can resolve any offense.

Normal Schools
ACOGUATE received a formal observation request by students from a Normal School in zone 1 of Guatemala City, along with interest shown from two other schools. ACOGUATE also observed a meeting between the students and the Minister of Education. The students announced their disagreement with a proposed reform by the Ministry of Education that would extend the period of time that students must study to become

a teacher from three years to five. It nomic situations and the fact that would also oblige students to study many have families which require for a full day them to work (whereas they while they study. currently study The students Check out the HIJOS facebook half a day in oroccupied their der to be able to schools as a page for more information on the work in the afterway to protest Normal Schools & current events noons). Those and were conprotesting argue fronted by riot in Guatemala: that this reform Police. will harm them ACOGUATE because it does observed from hijos.guatemala not take into acoutside of the count their ecoschool grounds.

Threats against Honduras International Accompaniment Project
At the end of April, the Honduras International Accompaniment Project (PROAH) released an urgent action denouncing death threats received via text message against accompaniers in the project. ACOGUATE met with PROAH and also met with one of the embassies to express concern. On May 15, the European Union published a communique expressing its concern for the persecution suffered by human rights defenders in Honduras. In June, ACOGUATE, together with three other organizations that work in international accompaniment and the protection of human rights defenders, signed an open letter about the threats. They directed the letter to the international diplomatic corps and international organizations with presence in or focus on Honduras. ACOGUATE believes in the importance of exchange with and support to other international accompaniment organizations in the region. For more information about the Honduras Accompaniment Project, PROAH, check out their blog:

SAVE THE DATE! ARSN November 9-11
The Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network (ARSN) will hold its annual gathering at Tatamagouche Centre November 911. Learn more about current events in Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia and throughout Latin America. This year’s theme is, “Movements: North & South.” Bursaries available! Families Welcome! Check out the blog for details:

SKYPE CALL-IN: October 2, 8pm Atlantic If you are interested in hearing more updates from Guatemala, the Genocide Case and other cases we are accompanying, join us on Tuesday, October 2 at 8pm Atlantic for a Skype-in. We will discuss news from BTS partners and catch-up on current events. Contact to add your name to the list!





So, why do you want to be a BTS accompanier??
By James Goldie
I first learned about accompaniment during a 2008 delegation through the Service Learning program at St. Francis Xavier University. While our group was in Rabinal, we had the opportunity to meet two accompaniers working in the region who gave a brief talk about the project and the work it does in various parts of Guatemala. One of the accompaniers described accompaniment as a way in which men and women of the global north can harness some of their privilege – privilege that exists purely by virtue of the countries they were born in – as a dissuasive presence, one that helps create a space in which Guatemalan human rights defenders can to do their jobs. At the time I was part-way through an Intro to Development Studies course, and if there was one thing I’d learned up until then it was that ‘international development’ work is complicated and problematic; I think it was for this reason that the accompaniment talk that night, about a different way in which someone’s status as a foreigner can actually be a important part of a country’s development, really struck a chord with me. I knew it was something I wanted to do one day. And exactly four years later, when that day had

finally come, not only was I accepted into ACOGUATE, I was also assigned to work in Rabinal. James was an accompanier in the spring of 2012. He returned to Guatemala in July 2012 as a BTS intern to work with the CCDA.

By Laura Fanjoy
My name is Laura Fanjoy and I have been a part of the Breaking the Silence network since June of 2011, when I was given the opportunity to become an intern for the CCDA (el Comité Campesino del Altiplano). My internship was an incredible learning experience and exposed me to many of the social justice organizations doing important work in Guatemala. After coming back to Canada I decided that I wanted to return to Guatemala and decided that accompaniment would be the perfect opportunity for me to experience Guatemala in a new way. The concept of accompaniment has always appealed to me as a way that foreigners can show their solidarity with activists working in Guatemala, without appropriating their struggle. As a young person and as someone who has studied human rights, I feel very privileged to be given the opportunity to learn from the experiences of the men and women receiving accompaniment. I also look forward to being able to continue my relationship with Breaking the Silence and hope to be able to support the important world that you are doing in Canada. Laura returned to begin volunteering with ACOGUATE in October 2012.

2012 BTS Accompaniment Training
From June 24 - 27, 2012, BTS hosted a training for those interested in human rights accompaniment work in Guatemala and Honduras. Thirteen participants spent several days learning about the long history members of BTS and its allies have in providing physical accompaniment to Guatemalan human rights defenders at risk, and how much of that experience has been translated into more recent accompaniment work in Honduras. Participating in hands-on workshops around the role of an accompanier, security, power, and privilege, folks creatively participated in intensive role plays in an effort to critically think about accompaniment. This training was supported by the accompaniment committee, who recruits and trains new accompaniers, helps fundraise, provides moral support and guidance before, during and after accompaniment, and actively supports the ongoing work of ACOGUATE.

We invite you to join us! Contact for more details on how you can get involved!

Breaking the Silence (BTS) is a voluntary network of people in the Maritimes who began to organize in 1988 to support the efforts of Guatemalans struggling for political, social, and economic justice. As a community of people who share a commitment to solidarity, we undertake advocacy and lobbying; organize delegations; send interns, volunteers, and human rights accompaniers; promote fairlytraded coffee; and raise awareness within our own communities through speaking tours by Guatemalan leaders and other political campaigns. Contact us at:

Of Red Roses Continued…

cortes sewn together, each patch a story or description of a lost mother, daughter, grandfather, grandmother-- a multitude of soundless truths, speaking a history that continues to be silenced, but never forgotten. The court proceedings went on into the night, as it took much time to go through all of the evidence the prosecution had compiled against the former President. Judge Patricia Flores declared, to cheers from the plaza, that there was enough evidence for a trial and for house arrest. Hearings would begin in the months to follow, as well as attempted obstructions on the part of the defence for this case and for that of other high-ranking officials. In the First Tribunal for High Risk Cases, we would observe this trial as well as landmark sentences in two other trials this March: The first, of ex-Kaibil instructor Pedro Pimentel Rios, accused in the 1982 massacre of 201 civilians in the village of Dos Erres, in the northern department of Peten. He was sentenced to 6,060 years in prison for his role in the operations that day. The second sentence was of five military members to 7,710 years in prison each, for their roles in the massacre of 256 people in the Plan de Sanchez community of Rabinal, that same year. Arrival of these trials to fruition and, in the last two cases, to sentence are the culmination of years, even decades of work by national organizations like the Association of Justice and Reconciliation, the Guatemalan Association of Families of the Detained and Disappeared (FAMDEGUA), and the Centre for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH), among many others. The costly, time-consuming exhumations and investigations that led to these hearings were also risky, as victims in many areas were fearful and even prohibited from returning to mass graves for years. The conflict's legacy of terror has, to an extent, allowed public narratives to re-write memory in order to suit the perpetrators of the war's worst atrocities. President General Otto Perez Molina, himself implicated in massacres in the Ixil region, denied that genocide had ever occurred in Guatemala in a speech shortly after being sworn into office this year. In spite of this suppression, the struggle to restore historical memory continues. Facing potential threats, traumatic memories, and defence arguments that characterized them as criminals or guerrilla fighters, witnesses again and again spoke on the stand about the painful events of those years. On trips into the city, on our visits to communities, and in our meetings with organizers I was inspired by the openness and courage of those who spoke with us about their efforts in previous cases, the threats they had experienced, the tragedies they had witnessed, and their reasons for testifying. In spite of the regular turnover of accompaniers, many honestly and frankly shared their reasons for wanting memory to live on. Several people explained that while nothing would bring their loved ones back, perhaps subsequent generations would learn lessons from the suffering of the past. And at the sentencings, red roses, symbolizing remembrance of the genocide, were passed around and held in the air, to remind: We will record this history. We will not forget.

We’re on Facebook! BTSGuateMaritimes

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time but if you have come here because your liberation in bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, 1970s

In North America, it seems, we allow ourselves congratulatory, free license to remember the most prominent military and imperialist highlights of our history. Poppies. Remembrance Day. Never Forget. My connection to a society that attaches so much fanfare to memory makes it even harder for me to imagine the traumatic impacts on a culture when history is denied, the right to remember symbolically and physically threatened. History not only teaches lessons in its suffering, but in its stories of survival and resistance. It strengthens and informs solidarity with struggles that continue today. We as Canadians are not disconnected from these struggles, nor from the ongoing patterns of oppression they work to resist. The roots of the Guatemalan genocide are inextricably linked to larger, global patterns of colonial and neocolonial exploitation which, in the eighties, intensified in the attempt to dispossess diverse ethnic groups of ancestral lands. These patterns pave the way for models of economic development that profit international businesses but have devastating impacts on local livelihoods and ecosystems. Current struggles for human rights, land rights, and documentation of historical memory in Guatemala are ongoing struggles to legitimize alternative visions of development, and to prioritize sustainability, equity, and justice over profit. Their actors, too, face threats in the form of continued militarization and politically-motivated crimes, with 2011 the most violent year for human rights workers in Guatemala to date. Impunity for past oppression sets a precedent for impunity in the present, not just of state officials, but of the international and commercial actors that work in collusion with them. I am convinced that the tireless efforts of human rights workers to preserve historical memory can create spaces for hope and peace within and beyond national borders. Their determination can be a powerful inspiration while across the continent, including here at home, peoples excluded from privileged versions of history also fight for full economic and political participation, and for the right to remember. Heidi accompanied with ACOGUATE from January-April, 2012. She is currently a graduate student at Acadia University.

A Native Perspective Continued

leader) who said, "We are farmers. What did we know about mining? We had no idea that what they were telling us was all lies." He is educating himself now and arming himself with facts and truths about the different layers of ugliness that these mining companies create and inflict, in an attempt to protect their lands and communities. i pray often, Oscar, that you are successful. In El Estor we met two sisters who are fighting a nickel mining company. The husband of one of the sisters was murdered by the company for resisting them and both have a brother in prison on trumped-up charges for doing the same thing. They do what they can to help a young man in their community who was shot and paralyzed by company men. With some assistance from a friend who was also an interpreter, we were honoured to perform a Healing Ceremony on these women to give them the strength to continue their fight. i understand that they are filing civil suits in Canada to try to get a measure of justice for the harms and violations inflicted Cathy in the Guatemalan Highlands. on them by employees of the mining company. i promised them i'd come back and ask the people here on Turtle Island to pray for them and their cause. i ask all who read this to join me in these prayers. We went to a cemetery where they are exhuming bodies from mass graves of the "Disappeared People." Often women and children, but also those who were 'detained' over different periods of time. There are so many, dating back to the seventies; perhaps beyond. They were 'detained' for different reasons, but none of them legitimately. No trials were ever held and if i understand correctly, no charges were ever even filed against them. Their pictures are plastered everywhere, both in the cemetery and in the cities, placed hopefully and lovingly by the families looking for their loved ones. i struggled with this the most. i was moved to do Ceremony at that place, speaking to the Ancestors specifically to the issues of, Truth. Memory. Justice. Grahame used those words frequently throughout the week we were together, and i will carry those very words with me always. We travelled to mining communities closer to the Goldcorp mine where a Health Tribunal was being held for the people to come together to tell their stories to 'the world' and in some measure, hold the mining companies accountable for the atrocities being inflicted on the Mayan People in the name of 'Progress,' but which really boils down to obscene profits for Canadian mining companies in operation in Latin America. San Miguel Ixtahuacan. There we met Florencio Yoc who is being forced to protect himself and his land, sometimes by even his own family, from being unlawfully sold to the mining company. His land contains a natural spring that provides life-giving water to his and several other families living near him. We met Diodora who was shot in the head by mining company employees because she refused to sell her land. She is now mostly alone and lonely due to the fear and community conflict created by Goldcorp. Still, she resists, doing what she knows to be right and living as best she can, which was once in harmony on Mother Earth. You are also in my prayers, Diodora. i will never forget you. Lastly, we attended part of the first day of the Health Tribunal. Goldcorp was found guilty of violations to both Mother Earth and to the Mayan People who are unfortunate enough to eke out their living on land rich in precious metals that mining companies covet. From my conversations with these amazing people, they too believe that the taking of these metals that belong in the Earth creates an imbalance that negatively impacts all life on earth. They are deep in Mother Earth for a reason and that ravaging of the earth for these metals unleashes things that we do not understand but which negatively impact all of us. Is mining for precious metals evil? That answer has not been revealed to me. i believe though that mining in the way that these Canadian gold mining companies choose to mine, with total disregard to human life, rights and responsibilities, and at the expense of Mother Earth and all who dwell on her, for mere profits is, at the very least, blind greed. You judge the rest. Please educate yourself. Then do something. It is all very devastatingly familiar. "Do what you know to be right" (The Ten Indian Commandments). That is all i have to say. Um Set Nogama (spelled like it sounds rather that true spelling). It means, "All my Relations."