BTS, along with other environmental and social justice organizations from the Unites States and Canada, has sent a letter to Guatemalan Attorney General and the Minister of the Interior asking that necessary actions be taken to guarantee the safety of the staff for the Guatemalan environmental organization CALAS (Center for Legal, Environmental and Social Action) in light of recent attacks against the organization, including the murder of a member of the staff. Read more about the recent attacks here and the full letter below. For the Spanish version of the letter, visit here.
Thelma Esperanza Aldana Hernández de López,
Attorney General of the Republic
15 Avenida 15-16 zona 1, Barrio Gerona, 8o nivel, Ciudad de Guatemala
FAX: + 502.2411-9124/ + 502.2411-9326
Francisco Manuel Rivas Lara
Minister of the Interior of Guatemala
6 Avenida 13-71 zona 1, Ciudad de Guatemala
CC: United States and Canadian Embassies
December 20, 2016
Re: Human rights and environmental legal firm seeks increased security measures after staff member is murdered
Dear Mrs. Thelma Aldana:
The undersigned environmental justice and human rights organizations from the United States and Canada express our deep concern regarding recent attacks against staff members of the Guatemalan Center for Legal, Environmental and Social Action (CALAS). The most severe attack occurred on November 12th, when Jeremy Abraham Barrios Lima, Assistant to the General Director of CALAS, was murdered. We are writing to urge the Public Prosecutor’s office to expeditiously process the request for additional and permanent security for CALAS staff, in accordance with their wishes.
CALAS has suffered a series of other security incidents over the past two months believed to be aimed at intimidating the organization, including robberies of people associated with the organization in the area immediately surrounding the office and the intimidation of a staff member in their home.
CALAS is one of the leading organizations providing legal counsel to human rights and environmental defenders and Guatemalan communities affected by socially and environmentally damaging mega-development projects, such as the Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver mine in San Rafael Las Flores.These recent incidents form part of a long list of attacks against the organization, including the 2008 assassination attempt against CALAS’ General Director Yuri Melini.
Ongoing and intensifying attempts to delegitimize CALAS’ work through public defamation and criminalization have also increased their vulnerability and risk of attack. These include the spurious legal case brought against CALAS lawyer Rafael Maldonado and two other high profile figures in human rights in Guatemala in February of this year by the Foundation Against Terrorism (Fundación Contra el Terrorismo).
On December 5, CALAS filed a petition with the Public Prosecutor’s office, requesting that they collaborate with the Ministry of the Interior to provide the necessary measures to guarantee the safety of CALAS staff given the latest attacks. They requested the following:
- Permanently station a state-appointed police officer in the CALAS office during normal working hours.
- Assign perimeter security patrol units outside of the CALAS office and at the residencies of all CALAS staff, including Director Dr. Yuri Giovanni Melini Salguero and Legal Director Mr. Pedro Rafael Maldonado Flores.
- Continue to grant security measures to Pedro Rafael Maldonado Flores.
We call on the Public Prosecutor’s office and the Ministry of the Interior to carry out their mandate as guarantors of the safety of human rights defenders and fulfill this request for increased security measures. We stand in solidarity with CALAS and other human rights and environmental defenders in Guatemala who are being threatened for their important work advancing social justice in the country and will continue to closely follow their work and speak out in solidarity with their safety and wellbeing.
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)
Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Solidarity Network
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN)
The Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN)
Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)