Guatemala, Day 3 – by Enrique
On our third day we indulged in the stories of the genocide trials, became familiarized with the work of NISGUA, and were humbled by the valiant La Puya protesters.
The genocide trials were historical in Guatemala. They dealt with punishing the intellectual authors of the genocides during the 80’s war. Mainly, our guest speaker, Edwin, explained the development of the investigation of General Montt’s trial, which began in 2000 and finally had a sentence in 2013; however, the trail will continue in 2015. General Montt was charged with violating human rights and approximately 200 witnesses testified against him. They day of his sentence was historical in Guatemala and gave the people hope that justice can be found for the terrible crimes committed against the indigenous people. Additionally, what was very meaningful about the genocide trials was that many of the lawyers involved, such as Edwin, are children of the soldiers that suffered at the hands of the tyrannical government (i.e. generations of families have continued the fight against oppression).
Ellen, one of our hosts who works or NISGUA, briefly explained the function of her organization. In short the organization provides support to local people and organizations that are some form of resistance against oppression. The organization attempts to develop strategies to spread messages of organization nationally and internationally, as well as trying to find organization the resources they need to continue their fights. NISGUA supports the La Puya Resistance.
La Puya resistance is a group of villagers that are resisting the intrusion of American mining companies. They explained that their resistance is not because they are against development, but because the introduction of mining will contaminate the local lake, which is their only source of water and is already very scarce. The resistance lives in a shack on the mountainside, next to the entrance to the mine. They have set up a camp in which people take shifts guarding and protesting. Each shift lasts 24 hours and each group should guard at least once every six days. The resistance has been camped there for two years, and according to them they do not plan to stop until they are guaranteed that their water supply is not threatened. Impressively, the resistance has been visited many times by riot police and journalists hired by American companies, who act as instigators who attempt to provoke the resistance into violence, so that to give a government a reason to remove them by force. However, the resistance is so admirably intelligent and strong that they have not fallen into the temptation of violence, even after they have been faced with murders, beatings, and threats.
Our third day was productive as well. I am beginning to see the many, many forms of oppression in such a small country; that is, none of our visits and lectures have been in regard to one single topic – one about the history of guerrillas, one about mining resistance, another about trials, and so on- but they are all interconnected and related to the topic of the oppression from the top to the bottom. Overall, my favorite part still continues to be the food!