UN, Menchu Laments Rios Montt Impunity, Garzon Case, Free Press
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, April 20 -- The UN has a Commission against Impunity in
but General Efrain Rios Montt still roams free in that
country. On Tuesday in New York, Inner City Press asked Rigoberta
Menchu if she thought Rios Montt would ever be brought to justice,
and perhaps relatedly, what she thinks of the case in Spain against
Judge Balthasar Garzon. Video here,
said she doubted Rios Montt could be put on trial in Guatemala, at
least not during her lifetime. She praised Garzon for pursuing the
case, and said that the charges against him are probably political,
noting that he also looked into the Spanish Civil War and aftermath.
She lamented the changes in Spanish law that henceforth only cases
involving Spanish victims, and perpetrators living in Spain, can be
tried. So much for universal jurisdiction.
Against Impunity in Guatemala has a more limited mandate, and his
involved going after the killers of bus drivers. Recently, however,
it led the investigation into the national police chief, and
identified the alleged killers of Victor Rivera, a Venezuelan
security advisor killed in May 2008.
the Commissioner of the International Commission against Impunity in
Guatemala (CICIG), led the press conference, and described his role
in the Victor Rivera and Baltazar Gomez cases.
Inner City Press'
research found that the UN Development Program paid not only for his
and Ms. Menchu's travel, but for a large delegation of current and
past Guatemalan government and other officials.
Ms. Menchu at UN in 2005; Rios Montt still free
asked Eduardo Stein, former Vice-President of Guatemala, if UNDP had
paid for his travel. He launched into a justification of how much the
delegation could teach as well as learn. Ms. Menchu, to her credit,
chimed in on the follow up and said that if another organization
could be found to pay for the tickets, let it step forward.
Vice-President of Inter-American Press Association, was asked about
attacks on Guatemalan journalists and about a letter he wrote to the
UN's Ban Ki-moon about the crack down on press freedom in Venezuela.
Last week, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesiry merely confirmed receipt of
the letter, but said to ask UNESCO for any response.
Ban Ki-moon outsourced press freedom to UNESCO, and human rights
elsewhere? Is the idea or effect that people and organizations
should stop writing him letters and petitions on these topics?
has never heard of the letter. Something is wrong at and with the UN.
But keep those cards and letters coming!
* * *
Guatemalan President Admits Mining Abuse, Goldcorp Challenged, on Laws,
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 17 -- Abuse by mining firms of rural Guatemala,
particularly indigenous communities, has become systemic. Even
President Alvaro Colom, when asked Wednesday by Inner City Press at
the UN about the abuses had to admit that the current law "is
not suitable." Video here,
from Minute 18:32.
asked President Colom whether his government will respect the
decision of several communities to be "mine free." Colom
replied that "with respect to mines and the mining law, promoted
in 1997, honestly, it's a bad law... Not only when it comes to
royalties [but also] environment and natural resources [and] the
rights of indigenous people to give their opinion."
signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of Indigenous People,
and Colom says his government will abide by it. He said he has not
issued a single new mining license. The former government, he said,
did authorize many, some of which have been frozen.
not enough. In late 2009, for example, Maudilia
Lopez Cardona and Carmen Mejia Aguilar on behalf of the residents of
San Miguel Ixtahuacan, a municipality in southwestern Guatemala
traveled to Canada to file a complaint with the government against
They documented that Goldcorp's "Marlin mine
water supplies and damaged homes while the company harassed
protesters." The complaint was submitted under Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines for
multinational firms. We'll see.
President Colom, pointing finger (elsewhere) at UN
President Colom also spoke, with Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon
and then the Press, about the UN affiliated International Commission
against Impunity in Guatemala. Inner City Press previously
interviewed the head of CICIG Carlos Castresana on such topics as his
prosecution of the murders of bus drivers and his advocacy for a
President Colom on Wednesday, when Inner City
Press asked about
the rejection of the Commission's recommendation that three "corrupt"
judges not be put on the Supreme Court, cited the Commission's work
on the wiretapping law, as well as on an updated arms and munitions
law. He said he did not intervene in the placing of the three judges
on the court due to separation of powers. "If we don't want
impunity, we have to respect the division of powers," he said. Again,