CRLN has reported on Guatemala’s constitutional crisis already, with concern about President Morales’ defiance of Constitutional Court rulings and military backing for his attempts to oust the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala. This is especially problematic this year, with Guatemala’s presidential and Congressional elections scheduled in June. There are already indications that the current Guatemalan administration is trying to manipulate the outcome.

In addition, in the past months, the Guatemalan Congress has prepared a law granting amnesty for those who perpetrated war crimes. The amnesty would be granted retroactively to those few who have already been convicted and jailed, wiping away decades of painstaking work to get justice for the victims who were tortured, raped, and/or murdered. There was an international outcry against the legislation, and on the day the vote was to take place, enough members of Congress walked out that there was no quorum, and the vote was postponed. However, CRLN is concerned that it will come up for a vote again.

Those who are guilty of these crimes still wield a great deal of power, and they are trying various ways to sneak amnesty for themselves into other legislation. For example, Congress, under the guise of finding a solution for the problem of overcrowding in Guatemalan prisons, also has drafted a bill that would set free anyone over 70–those in command during the Guatemalan Civil War would all be over 70.

State-sponsored violence and criminalization against human rights defenders has been on the rise in Guatemala in the last few years.The Worldwide Movement for Human Rights (fidh) reports that in 2018, 26 human rights defenders were murdered, the majority of them Indigenous people defending their lands from mining and other extractive projects. Guatemalan human rights organization UDEFEGUAreported 493 attacks against human rights defenders in Guatemala in 2017.

For all of these reasons, CRLN will ask members of Congress from Illinois to suspend funding for Guatemala until democratic process, rule of law, and protection for human rights is a reality.

For more information on the constitutional crisis, click here

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(From the director of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, Sept. 5, 2018)

Dear Friends,

Guatemala is at risk of a coup, and it looks like once again with the support of the U.S. government.

The threat of an auto-coup has been in the air since President Jimmy Morales convoked a press conference on August 31 to announce he would not renew the mandate of the United Nations sponsored International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG).  He stood amidst dozens of fatigue clad military officers and CICIG’s offices were surrounded with military jeeps.

 

The next day U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted, “Our relationship with Guatemala is important. We greatly appreciate Guatemala’s efforts in counter-narcotics and security,” widely perceived as a show of support for Morales.

 

On September 3, the National Immigration Directorate announced that CICIG’s commissioner, Ivan Velasquez, would not be allowed to reenter Guatemala, in defiance of a May Constitutional Court ruling that the Migration Directorate could not bar Velasquez’s entry. On September 4, the Secretary General of the United Nations announced that the UN would continue to recognize Ivan Velasquez as the Commissioner of CICIG, conducting his functions from outside of Guatemala.  A few hours ago, a group of representatives in the Guatemalan Congress that have been promoting the creation of a new constitution released a communication asserting that the Constitutional Court has repeatedly exceeded its constitutional mandate.  As the Executive and the Judiciary defy the Constitutional Court, a technical coup or auto coup may be in progress.

 

The United States Department of State must clearly communicate that the US firmly stands with the Guatemalan Constitutional Court against any attempt to undermine its independence. The Constitutional Court may well be called on to decide the fate of CICIG and its commissioner Ivan Velasquez.  CICIG has been the most successful effort to end impunity and clean up the justice system in the region.

 

Please, call – (202) 224-3121- or write your Representative and Senators to ask that they demand that the State Department affirm its commitment to the rule of law in Guatemala, particularly to safeguarding the ongoing independence of the Constitutional Court.  You can also contact their district office to find out which staff people would follow issues in Guatemala and develop ongoing correspondence with them.

 

Evoking memories of military coups, Jimmy Morales announced he intends to end CICIG’s mandate
amidst dozens of fatigue clad military officers in what looked like the threat of an auto coup.

 

On August 10, CICIG and the Public Ministry presented an impeachment request against Jimmy Morales for not reporting over $1 million cash that was given to voting table monitors from Morales party on the day of the national election.  On August 23, the Guatemala Supreme Court found that the impeachment of Morales could proceed, and on August 28 the congressional commission overseeing the impeachment was formed by lottery.

The top concern now is securing the safety and ongoing independence of the Guatemalan Constitutional Court.   Many questions have been raised about the legality both of President Morales’ communication to the United Nations while he is under impeachment and of the bar on Ivan Velasquez’s entry to Guatemala.  Both of these questions will eventually be decided by the Constitutional Court.

There is currently tremendous pressure on the Constitutional Court. President Morales’ administration is essentially threatening an auto-coup, through images and military deployments.  This has been in the air since Friday when military surrounded not only the CICIG installations but also offices of leading human rights organizations, and President Morales gave his press conference amidst approximately 50 fatigue clad military officers, conjuring up memories of the press conferences in the 1970s and 1980s that announced new military juntas had grab control of government. It is a message received loud and clear even without stating anything directly.

 

On Monday the Guatemalan Constitutional Court ruled that the operations of the San Rafael gold mine will remain suspended until a consultation of the indigenous communities affected by the operation had been completed.  This was a highly charged decision that challenged the interests of the economically powerful sector aligned with President Morales.   In May the State Department urged the Constitutional Court to re-open of the San Rafael mine, prioritizing the economic interests of one US mining company over rule of law and the economic well-being of an entire region. That confrontation is still fresh in the public conscience in Guatemala.


The State Department must make it clear that the United States firmly stands with this Constitutional Court against any attempt to undermine its independence, particularly now as the Constitutional Court may well be called on to decide the fate of CICIG and its commissioner Ivan Velasquez.

 

Please, call – (202) 224-3121- or write your Representative and Senators to ask that they demand that the State Department affirm its commitment to the rule of law in Guatemala, particularly to safeguarding the ongoing independence of the Constitutional Court.  You can also contact their district office to find out which staff people would follow issues in Guatemala and develop ongoing correspondence with them.

You can also contact their district office to find out which staffpeople would follow issues in Guatemala to develop ongoing correspondence.

Many Thanks,

Annie Bird

 

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By Janis Rosheuvel from the United Methodist Women and CRLN leaders Pastor Lilian Amaya and Lissette Castillo, published on CommonDreams:


The crisis of incarceration this nation now faces demands people of faith act with swift and fierce moral authority to transform, not just reform, an irreparably broken system. It demands that all of us—clergy, seminarians, teachers, and people in pews, mosques and temples— provoke a revolution of values that strikes at the heart of mass incarceration. Without exception, we believers are required to realize a just world. This is our call, and we are falling short when it comes to how we treat those in jails, prisons and detention centers.

Thanks to powerful community organizing and mobilization many more people are cognizant of why mass incarceration must end.  Many of us already know the numbers: 2.3 million human beings locked down, as many as 9 million under some form of correctional control, including parole, probation or awaiting their day in court and almost 500,000 people passing through civil immigration detention annually. Growing numbers of us—particularly if we are poor, female, Black, Brown, immigrant, and or have mental health conditions—are facing incarceration or have loved ones who are. We know that the U.S. incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation on earth, approximately 700 persons per every 100,000. And we know that the racially biased “War on Drugs” has in the past 40 years incarcerated hundreds of millions of people for largely nonviolent drug offenses, tearing families asunder in the process.

Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary of the Chicago-based Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference and a leading voice in the faith community calling for an end to mass incarceration, says that we are in effect “a nation in chains.” If Dr. Carruthers is right, and she is, people of faith are being called to reject the dangerous mythologizes about why so many mainly poor Black and Brown people are incarcerated in the first place. Despite public perceptions, poor people of color are not more likely to use or sell drugs than their white counterparts. So what explains the disproportionate ways we are locked up?

To begin with, we are seeing the devastating results of the “tough on crime” rhetoric of the past four decades. Public policies like “stop-and-frisk,” “broken windows” promote over policing of minor offenses, which are the gateway to incarceration. Even as we write this piece, the nation is watching the unfolding of yet another case in which a young Black woman, Sandra Bland of Chicago, who ends up arrested, assaulted and dead in a jail cell after being stopped by a policeman in Texas for changing lanes without signaling while driving home from a job interview. “Zero tolerance” policing, the mass detention and deportation of millions of immigrants and a congressional bed quota mandate that requires immigrant detention centers to hold 34,000 people in the system each night, have all created a pipeline that forces targeted communities into a system not about rehabilitation, reconciliation and restitution, but about the social control of Black and Brown bodies. Indeed, the same companies that profit from the criminalization and mass incarceration of Black and Brown people, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, are reaping record profits at the expense of these chronically dehumanized and marginalized communities. In 2014 alone, these two corporations made nearly $470 million in revenue.

The historic and pervasive criminalization of communities of color in the United States is a key building block of the current system of mass incarceration.  As author and scholar Michelle Alexander deftly lays out in her seminal work The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, mass incarceration is largely about continuing to ensure the nation has a permanent, subservient and disenfranchised underclass whose very bodies and movement are caged and controlled. As Alexander has said, “Once you are labeled a felon you’re trapped for the rest of your life and subject to many of the old forms of discrimination in job applications, rental agreements, loan applications, school applications…Those labeled felons are even denied the right to vote.” And for immigrants, the reality of interacting with the criminal justice system often means entering a treacherous path toward, criminal incarceration, immigration detention, eventual deportation and a permanent bar to rejoining family in the United States.

Faith communities have been doing good work to resist mass incarceration: sponsoring conferences, reading, writing, visiting those in prison and more. Still more is required of us. We must LISTEN to those most impacted by the current crisis—people in jails, prisons, immigrant detention centers and their families. We must hear their stories without judgement or false moralizing. And we must listen to the solutions they have developed to resist and upend these oppressive systems. They must lead us. We must also continue to EDUCATE our communities and leaders about the current realities of the system. But it is not enough to raise consciousness we must also use our moral voice to regularly interrupt the ongoing harm that unjust socio-economic and political systems cause. And we must ACT/RESIST in ways that undermine business as usual. Street protests? Policy reform? Anti-racism workshops? Mobilizing alongside impacted communities? Transformation will not happen unless our actions engage these and many more forms of resistance. This is our call.

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Please share this message from our friends at Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD).

“No me quiero morir aquí” – Wilmer, 6/17/17

#ReleaseWilmer

Wilmer y Celene han estado luchando por su liberación desde que Wilmer fue detenido violentamente en Marzo. Wilmer esta parcialmente paralizado y los guardias adentro del centro de detención lo han estado lastimando a propósito. Recientemente se callo y su salud se a puesto en peor condición. Por favor ayúdanos demandar su liberación.

Please call and leave this message:

Script: Hello, I am calling to ask Director Ricardo Wong for the immediate release of Wilmer Catalan Ramirez, A#(098 500 300). Wilmer is in a life-threatening situation at McHenry County detention facility, and must be released to get the medical attention he needs. There have been too many deaths in ICE custody this year

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