The third day in Guatemala started out with a coverage of the Rios Montt trial by a lawyer that worked on the trial, lawyer Edwin. He gave us a history of the trial, as well as an overview of the strategy used for the accusations against the former head of state. Although the opposition tried to use all sorts of distractions and intimidations to try to stop the trial from moving forward, the want and need for justice kept the team of human rights organizations and indigenous groups pushing to move the trial forward. The most important message I got from Edwin was the persistence to pursue justice. Even though there was direct risk to the lives of the witnesses and judges, bribes to the lawyers on trial, and the final overturn of the sentence for crimes against human rights violations that Rios Montt was accused of (on a technicality!), Edwin and the rest of his team of lawyers are continuing to pursue cases against other human rights violators.
Another type of continuing resistance that we experienced today was the community at La Puya that is resisting the mining in their community. Not surprisingly, the mining company is an American company called Kappes, Cassidy & Associates, although the land was first ceded to a Canadian company. Also not surprising, the Guatemalan government did not receive consent from the community that would be affected by the mining. The resistance at La Puya, however, has been able to keep the mining company out of the area, also resisting death threats and provocations from the government that intended to dislodge them from the camp they set up at the entrance to the mining area. While hearing the stories of all the repression and provocations the community members at La Puya had to endure through 22 months of camping outside the mine, the feeling of solidarity was present with stories of how many other communities and organizations supported their struggle. The feeling of empowerment was present, especially when I heard of how food, water and supplies were donated and brought to the camp and how 24 hour shifts were divided between members of several communities. The ability to witness an ongoing struggle that could potentially reach its goals was one of the highlights of the day for me. Their commitment to the cause, their collaboration with one another, and their sincerity with their demands of basic human rights to self determination were inspiring and made me feel empowered. Classes, discussions, documentaries, speakers have not impacted me as much as the visit to La Puya did. For that, I thank the people of La Puya for sharing their stories and their struggle, not to mention the delicious coffee they were happy to share with us even though resources are scarce. After leaving La Puya, I felt hopeful that maybe justice can not only be sought out, but can be achieved through solidarity and persistence.