Red Alert for Guatemala
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Red Alert for Guatemala

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John Ahni Schertow
March 3, 2007
 

Dear rebellions and movements against neoliberalism all over the world!

We are sending you laud and screaming warning, red alert for Guatemala. We are talking from our personal experiences of incredible brave and resistant society of San José las Légrimas we would like to encourage you to support their struggle and prevent more victims inside the peasant movement!

We are doing research militancy for several years, from Baghdad, Balkan, to Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. We were collecting and sharing alternative practices, actions and theories with the movements and inside the movements all over the Planet. We are sending you warning for a community that lives under serious danger from the fist day of the occupation of the land. We are talking about peasant movement in Guatemala that is recuperating the land . They are taking back the theritorry that belog to them and their ancestors. We spend a week in the community San José las Légrimas which is under attack right now. We listen and discuss their rebellion practices which they are now practicing for more than 1 decade in different land and environments of Guatemala. They are part of peasant coordination CUC ( Comité Unidad Campesina) é the most powerful peasant movement in Guatemala, which is also part of Via Campesina and several other global network resistances and movements all over the world and especially in America Latina and Central America.

San José las Légrimas is a community of more than hundred Chorti families living near the landing strip near the border of Honduras. In front of their encampment is military base. The landing strip is being used for rich tourists to come and visit the eastern spot of archaeological sites of Maya people. This spot is well known Copan ruins that lie only 4 kilometres away from community San José las Légrimas. The community is placed in Esquipulas, Chiqimula Department. After recuperation of the land the first-rate tourism had to end. The history of this elite tourism can be seen in the magical hotel with electricity, swimming pool, animals and with the silken grass cut down every week by one gardner who is in good relation with the community.

Peasant’s camp is located on the green border between Honduras and Guatemala on the side of Guatemala. But to enter it you need to go through Honduras. Around San José las Légrimas are several villages with peasant families from Honduras who also recuperated the land few years ago and now they are altogether working with the peasants of Guatemala. San José las Légrimas is now a society of families who had power to take over the land, recuperate the land, which has been in the property of all possible speculators during the civil war (from the state, to the army or ex-soldiers and different rich people usually coming from abroad to invest their money for profit.). This is a huge problem in Guatemala today. During the civil war in Guatemala soldiers killed peasants, burned down the villages and took over the enormous area of land. This practice is very well known in all Central America and especially in Guatemala where peasants are under attack for several years in all parts of the country.

How to explain you in short, why the support of Chorti group is needed now and why their struggle is important and powerful also for our struggles in our countries and regions of the Planet? We recognize their dignified power with all their resources, bodies and knowledge they could use. They teached us about the traditional medicine: how to produce herbs for alternative medicine; how to make clothes, ropes and soap out of magey; how to built the house from the resources you can find in the nature; how to laugh and love even if life is so hard and uncharitable as theirs; how to understand their chorti language and culture.

Community in San José las Légrimas is creating new politics, together from bottom-up. Self-determination of their hopes, resources, life, work, dreams and power lead them to a new, unimaginable society where social relations mean solidarity, equity, direct-democracy and love. Where people become humans again! They put everything they have for a better society for their children. They are facing with biting frost, hunger and illnesses all their life. After we left the community we get terrible news that one girl died of curable illness. But they are going on and talking about struggle against neoliberalism with the flickers of hope in their eyes. Young children and old peasants passionately discuss their dreams and hopes, with working hands, wrinkles and twinge of repression. They took us as we would be part of their family. They share their food (maize and bean) with us, if they had it or not. We were their brothers and sisters from the other world, but also from the world which is struggling for a new society. We share our knowledge about struggles outside Guatemala and lections in history. They were interesting about socialism in Yugoslavia, how it’s today life of the people on the Balkan. Everyday we had workshops for children, we draw, write, calculate, sing, discovering the big map of the world. They were tremble from the cold and they had mucus all over their faces. We loved them from the first moment and they are part of our family from that moment!

Companer@s!

We are talking about the beginning of rebellion which can result in powerful movement and resistance like we all know today: Zapatistas in Chiapas or APPO, OIDHO and people of Oaxaca, or Mapuche, or Colectivo situaciones and MTD Solano in Argentina or amazing COPIN Consejo Civico de Organizaciones Populares e Indigenas de Honduras) in Honduras, an ecological coordination of movements who are recuperating the land and are, as far as we saw, one of the most progressive movements in the history of this days!

Fear for safety of Leonardo Ramérez is grounded on every day repression which is happening from different institutions of government, military and other criminals in Guatemala and on the murders which happened during the last three months. Houses have been burned down. While we were in San José las Légrimas in only 1 hour drug dillers or so called narco trafficos entered community two times in one hour. They were waiting for the helicopter that should come to Honduras but they missed ité 20 young solders in the army base in front of the peasants camp is just another tampon that can explode if the government will recognize potential for new massacre. The repression is growing and it’s the question of time. We should collect all our resources to prevent it. We couldn’t stop war in Iraq; we can not stop dieying in Darfur é at least not now, not this moment! But look at APPO and the people of Oaxaca! They are struggling for nearly 1 year! And they are not losing their faith!

We will do all our best to help stop the repression and torture of peasants in San José las Légrimas today, tomorrow and forever!!! But to achive our goal we need your support and solidarity!

Please join to this important and dignified struggle! Call and support CUC and also send letters and manifest appeals to the authorities in Guatemala responsible for torture and slaughtering. All necessary information you would need are attached under this letter: éFear for safetyé send by CUC.

To be able to imagine the surrealistic fairy tale from San José las Légrimas we will send you photos where you would be able to find also the president of the community é Leonardo Ramérez.

With the heart and love!

Hasta siempre companero@s!

Matej Zonta , lawyer and Marta Gregorcic , Ph.D., researcher on the Faculty for Social Sciences (University of Ljubljana)

We are part of human rights organization DOSTJE! and a big collective of activists, doctoral students, professors, eyewitnesses and solidarity acampamentists in Chiapas, Oaxaca, Central America and Argentina from 2001 till today.

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 34/012/2007 1 March 2007

UA 49/07 Fear for safety

GUATEMALA Leonardo Ramérez (m), President of the New San José las Légrimas Association (Asociacién Nueva San José las Légrimas) and member of the Committee of Peasant Unity (Comité de Unidad Campesina é CUC)

Other members of the New San José las Légrimas Association

Killed: Vicente Ramérez Lépez (m), member of the New San José las Légrimas Association and the CUC

Peasants’ rights activist Leonardo Ramérez, who has been working on behalf of peasant farmers threatened with eviction, has been told of a plot to kill him. Another activist, Vicente Ramérez Lépez, was killed on 13 February. Leonardo Ramérez is in grave danger.

Leonardo Ramérez is the President of the New San José las Légrimas Association, an organization set up by rural workers who have been living on the land of the San José las Légrimas farm, in Esquipulas, Chiqimula Department. The community of around 125 families occupied the land on 29 June 2006, protesting that the government had failed to give a clear decision on who had the rights to the tenancy of the farm, despite several years of legal proceedings. The army are occupying another part of the farm, where there is allegedly a mass grave of people killed by the armed forces during the internal armed conflict (1960-1996).

Vicente Ramérez Lépez and four other members of the Association were attacked on the farm by four armed men on 13 February. The four men reportedly fired at them, killing Vicente Ramérez. The rural workers managed to catch two of the gunmen, who claimed the army had sent them, and handed them over to the police. The two men were later imprisoned, but have reportedly since been freed.

Four days earlier, on 9 February, several armed men had reportedly arrived at Leonardo Ramérez’s house on the San José las Légrimas farm. One went into the house to ask Leonardo’s wife where he was, while the others apparently remained hidden in bushes 500 metres away.

On 19 February, an acquaintance of Leonardo Ramérez from another community reportedly told him that he should be careful, as he had heard that there were people tracking him who could kill him.

On 24 February a relative of his who was working in a field was approached by a man who asked where Leonardo Ramérez lived. The relative said he did not know, and the man (known locally as someone with links to the army) reportedly told him that anyone who killed Leonardo Ramérez would receive 500 quetzales (US$65) for Ramérez’s head.

The rural workers’ right to occupy the farmland is hotly disputed by the purported landowner. On 15 February the army and police gathered outside the farm to evict them, and were only prevented at the last minute when the rural workers obtained a court order. Legal proceedings are continuing, and an eviction could take place over the next months.

On 6 January three houses in the hamlet of El Chapulén, belonging to members of the New San José las Légrimas Association, were burnt down. The houses, which are several hours’ walk from the San José las Légrimas farm, were empty at the time.

Other Association members have been killed in the past few months. On 14 December Matéas Hernéndez, a member of the Association’s Executive Board, was shot dead as he worked in his field.

Other associations of peasant farmers have also been targeted recently. On 6 February Israel Caréas Ortiz, a peasant farmer living in the community of Los Achiotes, in the neighbouring Department of Zacapa, was shot dead with his two children, aged nine and 10. He had been involved in an attempt to recover land which allegedly belonged to the State but had been taken over by local landowners.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Spanish or your own language:

– expressing grave concern for the safety of Leonardo Ramérez and other members of the New San José las Légrimas Association;

– urging the authorities to order an immediate and thorough investigation into the intimidation of Leonardo Ramérez, and into the 13 February killing of Vicente Ramérez, and to bring those responsible to justice;

– reminding the authorities of their obligations to recognize the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders and their right to carry out their activities without any restrictions or fear of reprisals, as set out in the UN Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties.

APPEALS TO:

Attorney General and Head of the Public Prosecutor’s office

Lic. Juan Luis Florido

Fiscal General de la Repéblica y Jefe del Ministerio Péblico

Edificio Ministerio Péblico

15 Avenida 15-16, Zona 1, Barrio Gerona, 8vo. Nivel, Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala

Fax: +502 2411 9124

+502 2411 9326

Salutation: Dear Attorney General/Estimado Sr. Fiscal General

Minister of Interior

Ing. Carlos Roberto Vielmann Montes

Ministro de Gobernacién

6a. Avenida 13-71, Zona 1,

Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA

Fax: +502 2413 8658

Salutation: Dear Minister/Estimado Sr. Ministro

COPIES TO:

Comité de Unidad Campesina (CUC)

31 Avenida A 14-46, Zona 7, Ciudad de Plata 2

Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA

Fax: +502 2434 9500 (if a voice answers, say “tono de fax, por favor”)

and to diplomatic representatives of Guatemala accredited to your country.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 12 April 2007.

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