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Urgent: Weeks Without Food for Guatemalan Prisoners

January 8, 2016

Guatemalan political prisoner Pablo Sacrab and hundreds of inmates at the Coban prison in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, have just passed two weeks without being given food.  This outrageous abuse is completely unacceptable and the GSP is calling for immediate solidarity with our incarcerated brothers.

On December 28, 2010, Sacrab was arrested on fraudulent charges. He has remained in prison despite lack of evidence against him.  He was convicted of “aggravated land theft” despite having documented proof of being a legitimate land owner.  His real “crime” was being a community leader with the Committee of Peasant Unity and participating in nonviolent demonstrations supporting the land rights of indigenous q’eqchi’ communities.  On numerous occasions he has faced violence, denial of food and denial of medicine while in prison in Coban.  It is no coincidence that he is the father of Ana Maria Sacrab, a well-known regional organizer and human rights defender.

We demand freedom for Pablo Sacrab.  He deserves to be honored for his involvement in social justice movements instead of being imprisoned and abused.  While he is in prison the government must at the very least guarantee his basic physical well-being.  We also call for respect and dignity, including food, for all prisoners in Guatemala.  It is worth noting that many inmates at the Coban prison have not been convicted of any crime.  The convictions of those who have been guilty must be viewed in the context of Guatemala’s notoriously corrupt courts.  Even prisoners who are truly guilty of crimes should live free from torture, including denial of food.

Prison conditions throughout Guatemala are inhumane.  On December 31, 2015, eight prisoners were killed in Puerto Barrios, where our friend and political prisoner Manuel Bol is held on fraudulent charges.

With your support, we will continue our commitment to visit political prisoners like Pablo Sacrab and Manuel Bol at least once a month.  Please take the actions listed at the bottom of this alert.

At the same time we share this bad news, we are also celebrating this week’s historic arrest of 18 high-ranking military officials in Guatemala for crimes against humanity.  We have worked closely with activists in Guatemala involved in the exhumation of hundreds of mostly women and children at the military base in Coban.  Those arrested ordered the barbaric torture and murder of these and other civilians in the 1980s.  They were arrested because of the courageous actions of activists, witnesses, family members of those murdered, lawyers who have a conscience, and other brave women and men who continue to risk their lives by speaking truth to power.  The arrests have caused shockwaves around the world, and we hope one day people in the United States will also have the courage to stand up and bring high ranking US government officials to prison for crimes against humanity.

While these arrests are an enormous victory, we cannot ignore the fact that the military officials were arrested for crimes which took place twenty years ago, while current government officials continue to systematically violate the rights of indigenous and peasant people in Guatemala today.  Of the 18 officials arrested, at least 11 had attended the School of the Americas, a terrorist training camp run by the US Army and currently locate in Columbus, Georgia.  Despite decades of massive protests, Guatemalan and other foreign military continue to be trained at the SOA today.

Another Guatemalan military official and SOA graduate who would have been arrested was Edgar Justino Ovalle Maldonado.  Ovalle Maldonado was not arrested because as a member of congress he has impunity.  Worse yet, Maldonado is considered the right-hand man of Jimmy Morales, who will be sworn in as Guatemala’s new President on January 14.  Our partners in Guatemala expect increased repression under the new administration, but as one of the slogans often heard in popular marches says, roughly translated: “IN RESPONSE TO GREATER REPRESSION: GREATER ORGANIZATION!”

Please take the following actions in solidarity with Pablo Sacrab and other political prisoners in Guatemala:

1. Call the Guatemalan Embassy in the US and request the immediate release of indigenous Q’eqchi’ political prisoner Pablo Sacrab and an end to the torture, including denial of food, of prisoners in Guatemala

Call the Guatemalan Embassy in the United States at 202 745 4953. Sample message: “My name is _________ and I am calling to request the immediate release of political prisoner Pablo Sacrab Pop. Sacrab is an indigenous Q’eqchi’ peasant leader who was arrested December 28, 2010 on fraudulent charges, including land theft, although he has a receipt from the purchase of his land. I strongly believe he is an innocent man and is only in jail because of corruption in the district attorney’s office. Former Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina was arrested for corruption in September but unfortunately it is obvious corruption continues at many levels of the government. Please look into the situation and work to free political prisoner Pablo Sacrab Pop and end corruption in Guatemala.  I am also aware that Sacrab and other prisoners at the Coban, Alta Verapaz prison recently passed two weeks without being given food.  I believe this is clearly a form of torture and a violation of international law.  I will be following the situation and request that the Guatemalan government upholds its responsibility to feed and refrain from torturing inmates.”

2. Make a tax-deductible donation to our partners in Guatemala

We are volunteer run and 100% of contributions, other than small international bank transfer fees, go directly to our partners in Guatemala.  The GSP is committed to visit political prisoners at least once a month and give them moral support as well as clothes, medicine or direct economic support.  Prisoners have faced beatings, denial of food and denial of medicine.  They have been forced to clean feces with their bare hands and sleep on the cold cement floor of the Coban prison.  We are also urgently seeking funds to purchase water filters for families in the Polochic Valley who were violently evicted by hundreds of police and soldiers and currently face hunger exacerbated by waterborne illnesses.  Donate via our website or send a check made out to “UPAVIM Community Development Foundation” to UPAVIM, PO Box 63, Marshfield, VT 05658.  Donations are tax-deductible.

3. Join the GSP Summer 2016 Solidarity Delegation

Join the GSP and our partners in Guatemala next summer as we visit political prisoners, communities targeted by government violence and other organizations and leaders in the movement for social justice.  During the delegation we will build an action plan in which participants commit to work on areas of interest to them such as publishing articles and videos; organizing informational presentations in Guatemala, the US and other countries; participating in fundraising efforts in support of the communities we visit; participating in civil disobedience; lobbying US Congress against military “aid” to Guatemala; collecting petitions; pressuring multinational banks such as the Inter-American Development Bank to stop funding theft of indigenous lands; assisting with translation; assisting with research; and other solidarity actions.

 

 

Urgent Action: End Attacks Against Indigenous Community Rincon de San Valentin
November 1, 2015

The Guatemala Solidarity Project calls for action in solidarity with the indigenous peasant community Rincon de San Valentin in the municipality of Purulha, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala.  Families in the community are facing ongoing violence and threats in attempts to steal land that is rightfully theirs.  The government has ordered an eviction of the community and has issued arrest warrants against at least 14 community members.

Like many indigenous communities, the people of Rincon de San Valentin were mozos colonos, or serfs, who worked for the owner for no pay.  Indigenous people were forced to work under these conditions by US supported dictators until the revolution of 1944, which instituted elections and ended unpaid labor.  The US government violently opposed democracy and indigenous rights in Guatemala, and supported various efforts to overthrow democratically elected governments in the country.  Finally in 1954 the US Air Force bombed Guatemala City, and the military has maintained control since then.

The 1954 invasion forced thousands of indigenous communities to return to unpaid labor.  Many continue to work for no pay.  In the case of Rincon de San Valentin, community residents worked for decades without receiving pay.

In the 1990s World Bank and International Monetary Fund investments dramatically changed global agriculture markets, and many “land owners” in Guatemala sold “their land” and moved to evict indigenous peasants who had been living there for centuries.  The plantation surrounding Rincon de San Valentin has been sold four times since 1998.  During this time community members have been repeatedly attacked and threatened, including kidnapping of children, arrest of community leaders and the January 15, 2014 attack against the community by over 200 members of the National Civil Police.

Today the community lives in constant terror.  Families await a threatened violent eviction by the government.  Residents must use extreme caution when going to the market or church because they might be arrested on false charges.  Children suffer increased malnutrition as a result of the precarious situation.

Take Action:

1)  Sign the petition demanding justice for Rincon de San Valentin at https://www.change.org/p/president-jimmy-morales-justice-for-indigenous-maya-community-rincon-de-san-valentin-in-guatemala?recruiter=2164483&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink

2) Donate to support Rincon de San Valentin’s legal defense and your contribution will be doubled!
An anonymous donor has agreed to match up to $7,000 in donations received by the end of December!  We are volunteer run and 100% of contributions, other than small international bank transfer fees, go directly to our partners in Guatemala.  Rincon de San Valentin has requested that a focus of our solidarity be support for legal costs related to their efforts to cancel the eviction order and arrest warrants.  The corrupt Guatemalan government and national and international elite frequently take advantage of the lack of legal resources of indigenous communities.  We have seen relatively small legal support for such communities help significantly in past struggles.  Donate online or send a check made out to “UPAVIM Community Development Foundation” to UPAVIM, PO Box 63, Marshfield, VT 05658.  Donations are tax-deductible.

3. Join the GSP at the School of the Americas, November 20-22
The US Army School of the Americas trains Guatemalan military and police to facilitate the theft of indigenous lands on behalf of national and multinational corporations.  From November 20-22, the GSP will join torture survivors, union workers, religious communities, musicians, puppetistas, students, migrants, veterans and thousands of activists to oppose violence and militarization and celebrate resistance.  The gathering will include a march to shut down the Stewart Detention Center, a for-profit immigration detention center which holds hundreds of Guatemalans.  Various activities will culminate in a vigil and solemn funeral procession honoring victims of the US Army School of the Americas, where Guatemalan soldiers continue to train today.  For more information on the gathering visit www.soaw.org
To join or contribute to the GSP mobilization which will be leaving from Washington, DC, contact us at info@guatemalasolidarityproject.org or 202-735-9165.  Donations to this effort are not tax-deductible and are separate from our main fund raising efforts.

4. Join the GSP and take action against the TPP in Washington, DC November 14-18
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the largest ever regional trade agreement.  It was negotiated in secret by unelected corporate representatives and will advance global corporate dominance and environmental destruction.  It will allow multinational corporations to increase profits as well as exploitation of indigenous communities and environments.  While Guatemala is not currently part of the TPP, it may join at a later date.  Guatemala is already part of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), a similar trade agreement.  CAFTA forces people in indigenous and peasant communities like Rincon de San Valentin into extreme poverty while the wealthy turn their land into an investment opportunity.  The GSP will be participating in the mobilization and invite you to join us.  For more information visit http://flushthetpp.org/fallrising

5. Join the GSP Summer 2016 Solidarity Delegation
Join the GSP and our partners in Guatemala next summer as we visit political prisoners, communities targeted by government violence and other organizations and leaders in the movement for social justice.  If members of Rincon San Valentin are in prison we will visit them, but we will continue to organize with them to prevent that from happening.  More info

 

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