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Gathering Momentum to Demand Justice in Guatemala

Posted on: Thursday, March 10, 2011

Keywords: Guatemala, Latin America

From the myMADRE blog.

Soon, I will be leaving to travel to visit three rural Indigenous communities, but I’m grabbing a moment to pass you all a few updates about our conversations with our sister organizations and partners here in Guatemala.


Yesterday, we met with Paul Menchu, the associate director of the Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation, an organization dedicated to the pursuit of peace, human rights and the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Founded by Nobel Prize Winner Rigoberta Menchú Tum, whom we have worked with for many years, its programs promote education, political participation and development through Indigenous Peoples’ leadership.

After a good discussion, we agreed to partner with them on our upcoming human rights shadow report on Guatemala. A little background information here may be helpful: every four years, governments that are members of the UN Human Rights Committee (like Guatemala) must submit a report accounting for their human rights record.  That gives human rights advocates an opportunity to scrutinize their government’s account and to submit a “shadow report.”  These shadow reports often include documentation, testimonials and evidence of human rights abuses that the official government report leaves out—and serve as a valuable tool to bring international attention to domestic human rights violations.

One of our major priorities for this trip is to lay the groundwork for a shadow report on human rights in Guatemala. We are working with our sister organizations to gather information and to strategize our next steps.  While we were still in Barcenas with our partners at the Women Workers’ Committee, we collected testimonies from women on feminicide.  I talked at length with the mother of a 17-year-old girl who had been killed in that same neighborhood. Her sense of loss was immeasurable, and she told us that she wanted to tell her daughter’s story through the shadow report.

Today, we will travel to three Indigenous communities where our partner organization Muixil is active: Nebaj, Cotzal and Chajul.  We will also be talking to women there about the shadow report. Like many people who have faced human rights violations and who have never seen justice, they are anxious to share their testimonies about the injustices and displacement they experienced during la violencia of the 1980s.

In this work, we’re happy to be accompanied by the CUNY Women’s Human Rights Law Clinic, who sent a group of people to support the work of the shadow report in this trip.

Together, we’re building the connections and partnerships we need to begin to address the many human rights violations faced by the people of Guatemala over generations.  We’re excited that we have strong partners like the Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation and like our sister organizations of the Women Workers’ Committee and of Muixil.

I will leave you with a quote by Rigoberta Menchú Tum that she shared with us years ago and that exemplifies the spirit of our work.

"Between peoples, borders shouldn't exist, especially when what we are looking for is food for everyone, a decent place to live, medicine and education for our children, and a guarantee of a future with life and with respect. It is in this context that we understand the relation between MADRE and our sisters as a common struggle for a common tomorrow, without tears and without pain." --Rigoberta Menchú


By Yifat Susskind, MADRE Executive Director

For more updates from our visit to Guatemala, and to find out how you can become a "virtual delegate", click here.


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