Monday, July 2, 2007

Rural refugees flee to Guatemala City to avoid involuntary servitude

The press release from the National Council of Communities for the Development of Guatemala (CONCODIG) stated:

"On Monday 7 May, a group of seven persons were obliged to flee from the community of Los Cimientos of the town of San Bartolomé Jocotenango, in the province of Santa Cruz del Quiche for death threats against those who don't want to be part of the civil defense patrullas which still exists in this town."

"On the 10th of May, another 154 persons also fled for the same reason. Another group of thirty persons came to live in the city of Guatemala in the Colonia of Milagro where they live in subhuman conditions…" (Others have fled to other locations, and currently there are some of them staying in the Academy for Mayan Languages in the city of Guatemala.)

"These men [referring to the Patrullas de Auto-Defensa Civil – members of the militia] have caused deaths to many members of the community since the 80's and again in 2007. The instigators of these threats and crimes are the chiefs of the patrullas. (They name the specific men, all are local Indians). These men have high power assault weapons which they have used to threaten people in the community of Los Cimientos, they have sexually abused (the word in Spanish could also mean raped) the women including both children and adults and have assassinated members of the community as you can see in the complaints to the Ministerio Publico." [which deals with law enforcement]

"We ask that the Government of Guatemala capture these people and punish them in accordance with the law. We ask for the help and immediate protection by the Government for these persons. Also we ask that the Human Rights organizations and the churches condemn these acts of violence, and give their solidarity to these families suffering from the terror that has not ended in this country."

NP field team members met today with the 92 persons living in a house in Zone 1. Angélica Macario, a Quiche woman whose father was assassinated in the 1990s, assisted us with translation (many of the women do not speak Spanish). We were able to determine that:

--They must move out of this house within ten days;
--One woman is pregnant and has no plans for where or how she will give birth;
--Because they fled in May, they were not able to plant their crops, hence will have no harvest in December. They face an economic crisis. They are entirely dependent now on donations from organizations in Guatemala for their subsistence, but even with immediate action on the part of the authorities, they will need assistance at a minimum until January 2009. Even with successful resolution, they will not be able to plant until May 2008 at the earliest.
--Children from babies to teenagers are confined to this house 24 hours a day with only minimal schooling and recreation.

The Los Ciminentos case was brought to La Unidad de Proteccion de Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos, the group we accompany. The refugee's situation falls outside La Unidad mission of representing human rights defenders. Cases have been filed with the prosecutor and the Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman. Police attempted to challenge the patrulleras, but were fired upon. The police fled the community and have not returned. The refugees want very much to return home, but even those who remain there, go to the mountains for safety at night.

According to Liam Mahony and Luis Enrique Eguren Unarmed Bodyguards (Kumarian Press, 1997) "The civil patrols, started in 1981 under the presidency of Lucas Garcia, were a fundamental counterinsurgency tool for keeping the population from supporting the guerrillas [the armed revolutionaries]. Patrol service consisted of a twelve-to twenty-four hour shift without pay each week. Poor campesinos were forced to do road construction, spy on neighbors, and accompany army soldiers searching for guerrillas. A force of 25,000 civil patrollers in 1982 grew to 900,000 by 1984 – more than three-quarters of the adult male population of the northwest highlands." (page 58). During this time, Lucas Garcia and his successor Rios Montt, conducted "scorched earth" genocide against the campesino population with the rationale that campesinos (whose land had been seized legally and illegally over the last hundred years) would side with the guerrillas and must be eliminated.

The army under Lucas Garcia manipulated the more traditional Indian population to turn against their neighbors and relatives because they were involved in Acción Católica which was trying to help the Indian people with fertilizer and buying at cost in cooperatives. Acción Católica and its members were labeled "communist" and thus became the targets of the army. Members of patrullas in Los Cimientos not only participated in the burning of homes and devastation of fields and whole slaughter of the villagers, but they systematically denied women the right to walk in the streets, to have meetings, or to participate in community events. The reason was that they were being raped and kept as sex slaves and the patrulleras didn't want them to name names or even talk to each other. In the oral histories (AVANSCO, Se Cambió El Tiempo: Conflicto y Poder en Territorio K'iche' 1980-1996, 2001) women (some of whom were pre teen girls at the time) interviewed for that study could hardly talk about these "violations" by neighbors and friends. Patrulla members were shot if they refused to rape a woman. Some of the leaders of the patrullas became wealthy through the seizure of people's land and have seized the leadership of the community although the only elected officials are in the town, not in this rural community. Legally, the patrulleras do not exist because involuntary servitude was outlawed by the 1985 constitution. However, the same people still have this de facto power. The deep resentment and helplessness toward the ladinos [non-Indians] from the seizure of Indian land in the 1880s to the 1950s was compounded by the divisions between the Indian campesinos over land reform in the mid 1950s. In the brief period of land reform in the mid 50s, the government seized land from the ladino owners for agricultural reform. The former occupants of the finca (plantation) claimed their right to the land to work communally as had their ancestors. The government also awarded the land to Indian campesinos (farmers) to own individually. So for several years the two groups fought in court over their entitlements to that specific piece of land to no one's satisfaction. It was impossible to have both communal and individual ownership because the land required rotation of crops, something that couldn't be done under individual ownership. These conflicts pitted poor campesinos against each other.

It's easy to understand the case of the refugees and demonize the patrulleras. The men who became patrulleras were farmers whose land had been seized by the ladinos for more than a hundred years. Who might not be tempted, given the power of arms to powerless people, legitimacy (the power of the army) and a credible (if not false) mission, to join the cause? Members of the patrullas prospered, gained land and wealth, though threats, extortion, theft of land and animals and intimidation of others in the community.

For me it was a flashback to the years 1963-65 when I lived and worked in Patzún, Guatemala with the American Friends Service Committee. Young men were rounded up in the marketplace on Sunday mornings in Patzún to be soldiers. Subsequent Sundays, you would hear them marching in the street. And finally one day, they marched in uniform. One of them, a friend, stopped by my house with his newly acquired gun. I asked to take a picture of him. But before I took the picture, I picked a bougainvilla from my garden and stuck it in his helmet, my way of disarming him. These men became part of the army, against their will in many cases, and were stationed in other communities where they became actors in the government's "scorched earth" campaign.

The immense task for the Guatemalan government is to bring some level of agreement to a community where violence has been institutionalized. After more than a century of injustice, the institutionalization of forced labor including civilian patrullas, the rape and murder by neighbors, how and where do Guatemalan authorities approach this problem? Some people would suggest arming everyone for their owndefense. In the Peten, that has been the practice and consequently after a series of revenge killings, whole families have been wiped out. And for many, life in a permanent armed camp is not the world these people envision for themselves and their children. Adela De Torrebiarte, the Minister of Governance, has said that with the help of the Human Rights Ombudsman they would like to resolve this through dialogue, but will consider other means if necessary. Legally, the patrullas could be disarmed and disbanded. Bringing peace to this community requires dealing with a century of institutionalized violence,servitude, poverty and racism.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Blog 5


The NP team stayed in Guatemala City this weekend anticipating hurricane winds from "Barbara".  But in fact we in the city had one of the nicest weekends for weather yet.  People closer to the coast were braced with sand bags and emergency planning.  But the anticipated disaster did not take place.   Although the hurricane did not touch ground, some fishers did not return home presumably drowned, several people lost roofs on their houses and there was some flooding in San Marcos. 


The rainy season has started, so the air is cleaner and the morning sky is blue.  It was warm with a gentle wind all weekend, so what was to be a rainy indoor weekend turned out to be a good one for taking walks around the city.


The hurricane that did hit at the end of the month was violent threats to a sister organization. 


The Fundacion Anthropologia Forense de Guatemala (Forensic Anthropological Foundation of Guatemala FAFG)  is exhuming the bodies of the tens of thousands of men, women and children who were "disappeared", tortured and killed during the "internal war" of the 1980s where army encampments were sent into Guatemalan cities, killing whole villages.  The US government was an ally and supporter of the Guatemalan government at that time and has since apologized and is providing financial aid to the FAFG. 


Staff of the FAFG, returning from the bank Thursday, May 24, were robbed at gunpoint by four armed men on motorcycles without license plates.  They were carrying 9 mm guns such as are used by the national police.  Both were hit on the face. 


The next day, May 25, staff members of the FAFG received the following e mail messages: 


"I have been watching like a hawk!  You will all die soon.  We have an order to make that damn director of FAFG suffer. 


"Everyone in your family is being watched, for a long time we missed your sister's shit. We saw her in IGSS (Guatemalan Institute for Social Security).  The bitch will suffer for her brother. We'll rape her and cut her up into pieces.  Omar Giron (her husband) will find her.   He'll be a widower.  Then he'll leaves, we'll stop him.  You can't imagine.  FAFG will be in mourning, not just for Fredy but for other high ranking staff members.  REVOLUTIONARY SHIT.  Everybody must die in Zone 12 where our attack will be.  The list is long, but your day will come Fredy.   After we kill all your family."



These threats followed a formal legal request from several human rights organizations to not certify Efrian Rios Montt as a candidate for Parliament in the next election.  Being elected to office would give him immunity from prosecution for crimes of genocide during the 1980s when he was President.   Or at the very least would make it very difficult for any prosecution of him for crimes against humanity.


On Monday, May 28, the Director, Fredy Armando Peccerelli, received an e mail with the following threat:



"Time is running out Revolutionary shit.  Today we are watching your sister she is wearing black pants and white shirt, it's going to be easier than we thought.  The moment Omar knows that we raped her, it will all be worth it, and we are going to torture him until he tells us about all the exhumations.  Fredy, your turn is coming.




Human Rights activists believe that the mounting evidence of genocide is propelling the threats.  FAFG announced on 23 May that they would begin the exhumation of 165 gravesites in specifically named communities, mostly in the northern part of Guatemala.  The organization uses scientific method to locate and identify the bodies of victims of genocide.  It perpetuates the historical record that many would have Guatemalans pretend never happened.   Knowing the fate of their loved ones helps to bring closure for the survivors for years of anguish.  It gives some measure of dignity to the deaths of innocent women, men and children who were massacred and buried in common graves.


The physical unearthing of the genocide would provide evidence for prosecutors seeking to bring Rios Montt to justice.  Spanish courts have issued a warrant for his arrest and prosecution for the assassinations of Spanish citizens in Guatemala.  He cannot be tried in absencia, so without immunity from prosecution, it would be significantly easier to arrest him.  Once convicted for the crimes against Spanish citizens, the way would be open for others to charge him with crimes against humanity.


La Unidad de Proteccion de las Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos, the organization Nonviolent Peaceforce is accompanying, is investigating this case.  Although a grievance was filed with the prosecutor's office, human rights activists do not anticipate that the government will investigate the threats to the FAFG.  


The human rights community acted publicly in solidarity with Fredy Perccerelly and FAFG on Tuesday and the press was there to cover the story.  However, no mention was made in the press either of the event or the death threats.   As of 30 May, the electoral court has denied the petition to keep Rios Montt from running for office.  This decision is under appeal.


A fundamental condition to be able to do nonviolent action is to overcome fear.  If you are afraid, you are likely to flee or fight.  Overcoming fear permits one to choose Jesus' "third way".  See works by Walter Wink at   Much of the nonviolent action in Guatemala is organizing for better lives (projects of development, opposing hydroelectric plants that would inundate their lands and mines that would pollute their rivers) and investigating the cases of threats of assassination and rape and clarifying the nature of prevalence of the crimes against humanity in the hopes that they never happen again.  People in Guatemala just want to live their lives without threats and intimidation. To overcome fear is to have courage.


In my Oshkosh Northwestern column 5 30 07 (see link below),

I wrote about the courageous people I meet every day and some I read about in the newspapers.  Staff and family of FAFG are examples of this courage.  


Peace, Ann


My Oshkosh Northwestern community commentary is at


If you'd like to be part of our work, please go to or e mail    Contributions from individuals and congregation through churches is matched by Samsara Fund.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Latest From Guatemala

I've now finished my fifth week of ten as member of the Rapid Response Team of Nonviolent Peaceforce Guatemala, also known as the Guatemala Accompaniment Project. My team members and I provide protective unarmed accompaniment for the staff members of La Unidad de Proteccion de Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos (Unit of Protection for Defenders of Human Rights, a unit of the National Movement for Human Rights). This week we have been with them in Quetzaltenango, Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan and Guatemala City as they investigate threats to human rights defenders. We accompanied La Unidad Co-director Claudia Samayoa who gave a talk to the parishes of northern Quiche where priests and nuns work with survivors of the twenty years of genocide.

So it's appropriate, I think, to give you a more specific look into the philosophy and specific roles that we play in Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) and how it works to encourage peace and justice.

Mahatma Gandhi's word for it is satyagraha, holding onto the truth. It
is not about passivity, but active struggle. The term "nonviolence"
implies avoiding harm, avoiding violence in meeting an opponent.
Violence includes physical, emotional, verbal, institutional, structural
or spiritual behavior, attitude, policies or conditions that diminish,
dominate or destroy ourselves or others. I have often defined it
functionally as any effort to take away rights guaranteed by the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, rights to health, life, safety,
home, family, rights to participate in government and culture, rights to
information and beliefs. (See my first blog for web sites about the
UNDHR and more recent Human Rights declarations).

Further, Gandhi's nonviolence includes the following principles:
1. All life is one
2. We each have a piece of the truth and the untruth
3. Human beings are always more than the evil they commit
4. The means must be consistent with the ends
5. We are called to celebrate both our differences and our
fundamental unity with others
6. We reaffirm our unity with others when we transform "us" versus
"them" thought and action
7. Our oneness calls us to desire and work for the well-being of
8. The nonviolent journey is a process of becoming increasingly
free from fear.

The activities of Nonviolent Peaceforce do not include some of the more traditional strategies (as outlined by Gene Sharp, Nonviolent Struggle) such as strikes, boycotts, street theater, speeches, petitions, marches and parades. Our mission is not to create change, but to protect those who are working for change nonviolently using peaceful strategies. This approach is now called third party nonviolent intervention. The tools we employ are presence, accompaniment, monitoring and recording, and interpositioning, and are explained below. NP does not advocate for the causes of the organizations we accompany because, as Gandhi suggests – we each have a piece of the truth and the untruth. We are non-partisan.

Presence is "entering a situation of open conflict and, through public actions and visible, risky acts of service, influencing the dynamics of the conflict itself. Presence is about directly influencing the field of the conflict by offering a different behavior." (Training for Change). In Nicaragua in the 80's Witness for Peace organized a large group to walk on a stretch of road that had been closed by the government due to "contra" attacks. Along the way memorial services were held at the sites where people had been killed. By challenging the dynamic of violence and fear, the march succeeded in altering the perspectives of all parties so that the road could once again be traversed. Having peace monitors in protests would be an example of "presence." In Sri Lanka where the first NP team is working, presence at a community fair deters the capture of children by Tamil Tiger forces to be used as soldiers.

Protective accompaniment. Peaceworkers act as nonviolent bodyguards. We are physically beside the local Guatemalan human rights defenders in their offices and interviews and sometimes in their homes and cars. Sometimes protective accompaniment involves mingling with people in groups or villages that might be under threat. Witness for Peace, a Northamerican accompaniment group, placed volunteers in villages in Nicaragua which were subject to attacks from the "contras". According to the Nicaraguan Minister of Defense, there was no violence where there was international accompaniment. In Guatemala, we accompany individuals as they do their work of investigating threats to human rights defenders, helping them to feel safer. Our presence with peaceful defenders of human rights demonstrates that the eyes of the world are focused on them. This is our main strategy in Guatemala.

So this week, in Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan, Quetzaltenango, El Quiche and Guatemala City, we accompanied the Unidad human rights defenders as they interviewed witnesses to violations of human rights. In the case of out of town assignments we stay with La Unidad staff in their overnight accommodations and in their vehicles as well as at the interview site.

Observing and recording. We "witness" as a reminder to those who might use violence that the world is watching. Recording might include taking photographs or notes about conditions affecting human rights workers. We witness constantly and take photographs as conditions require.

Interpositioning is a strategy used when two forces are moving into confrontation. Although this is not our major strategy here, we might be called on to call for reason and calm, physically reaching out to opposing parties in a situation. There was an instance not long ago here where a community was holding a celebration to announce that they were going to create a separate municipality. Three hundred people showed up to block the road to the event, then proceeded to go to the event location and beat up their opponents, sexually molesting the women, and breaking equipment. Their intent, it seems, was to intimidate them from taking action to separate from the municipality. No third party intervenors were there, but had they been, they might have quickly talked to the road blockers to assess their concerns, asked the event conveners to postpone their event until dialogue could occur about the concerns (Gandhi called off nonviolent events when he thought that violence could erupt), and stood physically in the way with the eyes and conscience of the world. Photographs and eye witness note taking would have documented those who intended harm as well as those convening the event. In this case those who committed the violence claimed "they started it by throwing rocks, so what could we do?" Videotapes would have provided some indication of the sequence of events to assist in discussion when reason and rationality prevailed.

In short, we are not the actors but we help provide space for the peaceful actors, which in turn allows them to be more fully engaged without fear of violence. We use proven strategies for reduction of violence.

You can read the Nonviolent Peaceforce feasibility study by Christine Schweitzer et al at

This study gives many examples of peace keepers using these strategies. Peace, Ann

I would love to hear from you If you want to be part of our work, you can send contributions to or buy peacebonds at our web site

Remember that contributions from individuals and congregations through churches are matched by Samsara Fund of Minneapolis.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007



Back of Nonviolent Peace force tee-shirt:

Monday, May 14, 2007

Four Week Report

This week, I accompanied Unidad staff to a meeting to celebrate the first anniversary of the Consulta Comunitaria de Buena Fe (Community Consultation of Good Faith) of Ixcan (pronounced 'ish-kan'), Quiche. More than 20,000 people worked for community development in the 144 communities of Ixcan in the last year. The celebration was also the occasion to bring their concerns about the privatization of water in Ixcan.

This is the end of my fourth week working as Nonviolent Peaceforce protective accompaniment to La Unidad de Proteccion de Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos (Unit of Protection for Human Rights Defenders). Our Nonviolent Peaceforce team is a four person team now with Penn returning to Nicaragua and Bego and Vito here from Spain and Italy respectively. Betsy, our team coordinator, is doing an exceptional job of getting us organized. Our work has been in Guatemala City (where the majority of human rights violations are), but also out of the city.

Notwithstanding the following, I want to assure you that I am quite safe. There is little about our work here that would elicit what you are about to read.

We came face to face this week with the reality of politically motivated violence in Guatemala: five threats to a sister organization, the Instituto de Estudios Comparados en Ciencias Penales de Guatemala (Guatemalan Institute for Comparative Studies in Penal Sciences). Their current research includes cases of alleged human rights violations committed by public security forces and prison guards. The threats were reported immediately to Amnesty International, the Observatory of Human Rights Defenders, the Federation of Human Rights and the World Organization against Torture. Calls, faxes and letters have been coming to the Guatemalan government to halt the intimidation, kidnapping and assaults on Guatemalan Human Rights Defenders. You can see this alert here. The five threats were:

--A female ICCPG lawyer was intercepted by unknown assailants in a black jeep.. They first drove their cars close to her, hitting it in a hostile manner, then later the jeep stopped in front of her and another car appeared behind, trapping her. Four armed men wearing balaclavas and one holding a baseball bat forced her to get out of the car. She had just been interviewing an alleged victim of police violence. They told her they knew what she was doing and warned her to stop.

--A male ICCPG researcher was leaving the ICCGP when armed men forced him into a car. They told him if he kept being involved in things where they have no business, "we are going to start cutting off heads." They let him go after one hour, taking his money.

--A female ICCPF researcher working in the area of women in prison and gender violence, returned to her home to find her home broken into. Her child's teddy bear had its mouth covered with tape. Her home is two blocks from the police department.

--Two male ICCPF researchers were preparing to take testimony from an alleged victim of police violence. Police stopped them five times in their vehicle and checked their ID.

The Co-Director of La Unidad, Claudia Samayoa, issued her four month report this week outlining Human Rights violations for January to April. For the four month period, there were 100 reports of threats, all but 9 were considered to be threats to human rights defenders. Two cases are still in the process of verification. On average in the country, there is slightly less than one attack per day, with the largest number of attacks on Environmental defenders, and the second most frequent justice defenders, followed by union members and farmers, some of them mentioned specifically above. In all, there were 26 telephone threats, 14 intimidations, one kidnapping (see description above), ten break-ins (including the break in of La Unidad office in February), four assassinations and two attempted assassinations. These are all attempts to silence or get information about organizations which are defending human rights or to get Guatemalans to stop their human rights work. It does not include other common crimes that might be a violation of human rights.

One assassination was of Pedro Zamora, a union leader of the Porto Quetzal Port workers (Puerto San Jose on the Pacific coast) who was accosted by gunman when he was coming out of his home with his children. One child was also murdered. The gunmen yelled at one of the children "I've come to kill your father." Zamora protected one child with his body and the child survived with some injuries.

Another of the murders was that of Vicente Ramirez Lopez , a member of a farmers' union in Nueve San Jose Las Lagrimas. The next day, unknown men who presumably knew the gunmen, showed up and threatened his family. This was followed by a written threat.

For La Unidad, reports of these events come in almost daily. For a country that has police, military and security guards on every street of Guatemala City, there is great sense of insecurity.

We have been involved in accompanying La Unidad defenders as they investigate these cases.

The actual report, in Spanish, is posted here.

If you would like to be part of our work, you can send contributions to Nonviolent Peaceforce to or you can buy peace bonds at our web site

Donations from individuals or congregations from churches are matched by the Samsara Fund of Minneapolis.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

May 1, Workers' Day, Guatemala City

Guatemala City May 1 Dia de los Trabajadores (Workers' Day) 2007

This begins my third week as a member of the Nonviolent Peaceforce Guatemala (see my first blog for general description of my work here). We are known here as Fuerzas de Paz Noviolentas.

After living out of suitcases in a guest house for two weeks, we are finally settled in the house where the team will be for the next ten months. When I leave on June 30, a new volunteer will replace me. One volunteer will return next week and two more: one from Spain and one from Italy, will arrive, making us a team of four.

We now have a front patio for eating outside and hanging clothing with bougainvillea for a backdrop. In the back of the house a small patio full of flowers and high walls, room enough to sit and read or enjoy the morning. Potable water is delivered weekly.

It's a comfortable house. There is a dining and living room, kitchen with refrigerator and stove and we each have our own rooms. We have screens, so in the rainy season (starting now), we can close out the mosquitos. The patio gives us light; the outside door gives us security. The neighborhood is quiet except for an occasional barking dog and firecrackers. We are close enough to walk to work. It's quite safe (assuming you are watching out for traffic and potholes) during the day. We take taxis at night if we are out for an event. This week we will get internet capacity at home facilitating our reporting. Getting internet connection here has been an issue because the wireless company requires two months bank statements!! even though they can and do charge in advance and could cut off service for lack of payment. One can only surmise what they do with all those records.

To give you a snapshot of the work, let me provide you my daily vocabulary in Spanish: allanamiento (break in); ileso (escaped unharmed), amenaza (threat), involucrar (involve), analisis de riesgo (risk analysis), defensores y defensoras (men and women defenders),
sequestrado (kidnapped), vulnerabilidad (vulnerability), crimen organizado (organized crime), vinculado (linked to), viligancia (being observed), impunidad (impunity) , and denuncia, (official complaint) among others. NP Tee shirt

My work (and that of my Nonviolent Peaceforce colleagues) is as accompanier (acompanante) to the staff of the Unit of Protection for Defenders of Human Rights. (Unidad de Proteccion de las Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos). This group is a unit of the larger National Movement for Human Rights (Movimiento Nacional de Derechos Humanos) and is responsible for investigating human rights violations. When a person reports to the Unidad that he or she has been threatened or injured, or if a person has been killed, the Unidad does a series of investigations to determine if it is a genuine human rights violations or something else (lovers' quarrel or common crime of robbery or homicide); and it then determines if the persons or institutions are in need of protection. La Unidad also compiles statistics of human rights violations from this information.

To be accepted as a case of violation of human rights defenders, it must be in the context of a person defending human rights, such as people working to protect women and children from abuse, people working for community development, people seeking justice, truth about, and redress of grievances from violent attacks or abuses of power. See or a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and for a copy of United Nations Rights of Human Rights Defenders. The Unidad verifies if the human rights defenders or their institution is in need of protection. The Unidad works with them to file complaints to the appropriate government entities, and to monitor to see that the police and courts are prosecuting and adjudicating cases. In addition it provides security training and helps organizations to create a security plan. Urgent actions are sent when there are high level attacks on human rights defenders.

When the Unidad office was broken into in February, the UN Security Council condemned the attack. A copy of Amnesty International´s April 2007 report includes a description of the break in at the office of the Moviemento Nacional Derechos Humanos in December 2006 in Spanish.

So, every day we accompany staff of the Unidad to interviews, workshops and events. My work last week included accompanying a staff member to interview coworkers of a union leader who was murdered in February of this year. That same day, I went with Unidad staff to visit the
striking teachers who blocked the highway to Puerto San Jose. They had been beaten and jailed. I accompanied the Unidad staff members who were giving security planning workshops. I accompanied staff members to an event commemorating the deaths of the revolutionaries from the 1980s. One of the staff members of the Unidad was honored in memory of three family members who had all been murdered in 1982. Others in the Unidad and the Movement were honored for their work in defending human rights. We also attended the 60th anniversary of the Association of Guatemalan Newspapers. A picture of the NP team with a Unidad coworker.

This week, I accompanied Unidad staff to a meeting to celebrate the first anniversary of the Community Clinic of Good Faith of Ixcan (pronounced 'ish-kan'), Quiche. More than 20,000 people used the clinic in the 144 communities of Ixcan in the last year. The celebration was also the occasion to bring their concerns about the privatization of water in Ixcan.

The World Bank and the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines are supporting the building of a private electric company in Ixcan. The people of Ixcan were neither notified nor consulted when these decisions were made. In preparation for asking officials to halt this development, the Ixcan had a series of meeting in their communities in which they considered the development plans for the plant and oil drilling. They voted to stop the development. I accompanied the
Unidad staff member at the general session and to the Guatemalan Ombudsman for Human Rights. The Ixan representatives also met with the Guatemalan Congress, the National Institute of Electrification, the Constitutional Court and the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

A daily story in the newspapers, but one in which we are not involved, is the murder of three El Salvadoran deputies and their driver who were en route to the Central American Congress February 25. The presumed murderers – national police officers - were arrested and placed in a high security prison, where they were also murdered. The actions were traced quickly to the highest levels of the Guatemalan government and the Minister of Government resigned. The government Human Rights Ombudsman was reported in the paper this week to have affirmed that the government was derelict in its duty to protect the prisoners.

Tuesday is May Day, a day to celebrate workers of Guatemala and a national holiday. I was there with my camera to document. In addition to several national worker unions, there were groups of women and the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (GAM), a group that provides support to people whose family members are abducted. Pictures of the "disappeared" were prominent in the parade. The disappearances, threats, and murders continue with impunity. This past week there were celebrations of the life and martyrdom of Monsenor Gerardi who was murdered 9 years ago in his efforts to bring the truth to light about the decades of violence. The courage of many people to protect their human rights is evident.

One more thing: there is a vegetarian restaurant in Guatemala City. Rey Sol (Sun King) has delicious vegan and vegetarian meals and food to purchase!!

Hasta entonces, Ana

If you want to be part of this work, you can buy a peace bond or make a donation on line at . Donations from individuals and congregations from a church are doubled by the Samsara Fund in Minneapolis. Please contact for more information.

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Monday, April 9, 2007

Nonviolent Peaceforce assignment

Friends, I have just agreed to accept an assignment with Nonviolent Peaceforce as peace keeper in Guatemala. Our mission is non partisan and we are unarmed. We (our team of four peace keepers) will protect Guatemalan activists to reduce violence and support human rights. This is election season in Guatemala and there is expected to be heightened violence. We will not be involved in protecting candidates, but rather in protecting the human rights workers who are investigating the deaths of Indians, women, gays and lesbians, and human rights workers who have been targeted by armed forces.

Nonviolent Peaceforce is a "nonpartisan unarmed peacekeeping force composed of well trained civilians from around the world. In partnership with local groups, professional Nonviolent Peaceforce members apply proven nonviolent strategies to protect human rights, deter violence, and help create space for local peacemakers to carry out their work. Building upon the work of Mahatma Gandhi and other unarmed peaceworkers, our vision is to create a large-scale nonviolent peacekeeping force."

Nonviolent Peaceforce builds on the work not only of Gandhi, but Abdul Gaffar Khan, a Muslim, who had a 100,000 person peace keeping force in the 1920s and 30s in what is now Northwest Frontier of Pakistan. He was a valued colleague of Gandhi, and struggled with him for independence from the British. (See Eknath Easwaran, Nonviolent Soldier of Islam Badshah Kahn A Man To Match His Mountains). You can read about other peace keeping forces in Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan and Thomas Weber, Nonviolent Intervention Across Borders: A Recurrent Vision. The direction of Nonviolent Peaceforce includes some of these pioneers.

What Nonviolent Peaceforce adds to these pioneer visionaries is paid peace keepers and the potential to expand throughout the global scene. NP has had teams in Sri Lanka with success since 2003 and will be adding an Early Warning Project for Mindanao, Philippines, in May. As soon as funds are secure, we will be sending peace keeping teams into Colombia to protect the peace communities and to Uganda. An international reserve force is being created to provide teams on short term notice in conflict situations around the world.

I plan to keep a journal which will be posted on my blog. My security and that of others lies in part in people around the world knowing about our mission. So please consider forwarding my journals to relevant individuals and nets. There is a small envelope at the top of my blog page that makes it easy for you to forward my journal.

If you'd like to be part of this effort, you can buy peace bonds or otherwise contribute at our website

Peace, Ann