Guatemala: violent fracas leaves 6 dead

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a condemnation of the killing of six indigenous people in Guatemala, following clashes between members of the community Totonicapán and government security forces on October 4. Clashes between the two groups resulted in injuries to at least 40 mostly indigenous civilians, as well as seven soldiers. At least one army truck was destroyed, along with a civilian vehicle.

Clashes were triggered at several unauthorized checkpoints established by indigenous farmers who were protesting against the increase in fees for electricity and other basic services.

Several versions of events have emerged. Some accuse the army of having resorted to inhumane use of firearms. There continue to be confusion and outrage over the incidents. The government of Guatemala has so far refused to accept responsibility.

Several organizations representing indigenous peoples and human rights campaigners have aligned themselves behind Rigoberta Menchú, an indigenous woman won was granted the 1992 Nobel Prize for peace, condemned the violence and called for an independent investigation.

Carmen Urizar, president of the National Electric Power Commission promised to visit Totonicapan to explain the reasons for the price hikes. Guatemala relies on hydroelectric generators for much of its electric power. Spokesmen for the utility claim that a lack of sufficient rain has caused an increase in the price charged to customers. In Totonicapan, customers are being charged as much as 50 quetzales per month (USD $6.26) when their actual use may amount to 10 quetzales (USD $ 1.25). The minimum daily wage established by law in Guatemala for agricultural workers is USD $ 3, even while this law is frequently disregarded. Multiple sources indicate that the minimum daily wage is insufficient to support healthy living. 

Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

Filed under politics, guatemala, human rights, nobel prize, maya, Central America


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