Guatemalan filmmakers crowdfunding film on US kids meeting grandparents in Guatemala for first time


Grandma Juliana and grandson Bryan. Photo by Bea Gallardo.

From Bea Gallardo, a motion picture and television producer I have worked with in Guatemala, comes word of a very cool project she's working on with Guatemalan director Luis Argueta: a documentary about the journey of a group of Guatemalan children who live in the United States, and who travel from the US to Guatemala to meet their grandparents for the first time.

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Guatemala: Ixil genocide trial on hold, other charges against Rios Montt continue

Emi McLean at the Open Society Justice Initiative's Rios Montt trial blog:
With the events of recent weeks – the May 20 Constitutional Court decision to undo the guilty verdict in the Rios Montt trial and the new trial court’s expressed unavailability until April 2014 – it seems that continued legal proceedings against Rios Montt in the Ixil genocide trial will be in the best of scenarios on hold. However, there have been further developments in connection with another set of charges against former Guatemalan de facto president Efraín Rios Montt.

Guatemala: Genocide in Our Hemisphere—livestreamed event in D.C. today


Photo: James Rodriguez, mimundo.org.

From 2-5 Eastern time today in Washington, DC, I will be among the moderators at a special event at the New America Foundation, "Genocide in Our Hemisphere: Justice and Reconciliation in Guatemala Beyond the Conviction of General Ríos Montt."

You can watch live online, the event will be streamed here.

Featured speakers at the event include scholars, massacre survivors, and people who were directly involved in the genocide trial of Ríos Montt, which ended with a guilty verdict on May 10, only to be thrown out ten days later in an unprecedented move by Guatemala's Constitutional Court.

More on the event in this Boing Boing post. If you're in DC and wish to attend, it is free, but it's best to sign up online.

Guatemala: Genocide in Our Hemisphere event D.C. May 29 with scholars, survivors; Xeni moderating


Benjamin Manuel Geronimo, massacre survivor, and representative of Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR), speaking in the genocide trial in Guatemala City on May 9, 2010.

On Wednesday, May 29, I will be among the moderators at a very special event in Washington, DC at the New America Foundation, "Genocide in Our Hemisphere: Justice and Reconciliation in Guatemala Beyond the Conviction of General Ríos Montt." Featured speakers at the event include scholars, massacre survivors, and people who were directly involved in the genocide trial of Ríos Montt, which ended with a guilty verdict on May 10, only to be thrown out ten days later in an unprecedented move by Guatemala's Constitutional Court.

More on the event below. It's from 2-5pm. Attendance is free, but you must sign up online.

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Photos: Throughout Latin America, protests demand justice for Guatemala after genocide trial overturned


Photo: Daniel Hernández-Salazar.

Protesters in Guatemala and other Latin American countries gathered on Friday to denounce the Guatemalan Constitutional Court's recent decision to overturn the genocide trial and guilty verdict of Ríos Montt. About 1,500 people, mostly indigenous Maya from Guatemala, gathered in Guatemala City. They marched along what posters described as the "Route of Impunity," from the Supreme Court where the ex-General was convicted on May 10 and sentenced to 80 years in jail, to the Constutional Court which threw out the trial ten days later.

Photos from the Guatemala City march below, along with images from Nicaragua, Honduras, and Mexico, which were among the other countries where protests took place. Also below, snapshots from a pro-Ríos Montt protest that took place today in a suburb of Guatemala City: about 15 people gathered to denounce Communism and terrorism, and chant that "In Guatemala, there was no genocide."

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Guatemala: protests condemn annulment of Rios Montt trial, while ex-president Portillo extradited to US

In Guatemala City and throughout Latin America today, protests are taking place to condemn the Guatemalan Constitutional Court's decision this week to effectively throw out the trial of Ríos Montt.

On May 10, the former US-backed general was found guilty, and sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity. But just ten days later, the historic trial was overturned when the nation's highest court voted 3-2 to uphold complaints put forth by Rios Montt's attorneys.

While legal proceedings will continue, most agree that the trial has been effectively destroyed. Indigenous people throughout Guatemala, and their supporters, are outraged.

The protests happen on the same day that another disgraced former Guatemalan president, Alfonso Portillo, is being extradited to the United States where he will face trial in a Manhattan court on US money laundering charges, filed against him in 2010.

The former president is accused of using financial institutions in the United States to launder more than $70 million.

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NYT Editorial Board: "Justice Interrupted in Guatemala"

The New York Times Editorial Board: "The United States, which supported [General Ríos Montt] and his regime during the war and apologized for that in 1999, provides aid for the justice system. It should urge that the case be pursued through an independent process. It would be a travesty if a mishandled legal proceeding were to deny victims justice now."

Guatemala's Genocide on Trial: Kate Doyle

Kate Doyle of the National Security Archive, whose work led to the uncovering of secret Guatemalan Army documents that served as critical evidence in the genocide trial of Rios Montt, writes in the Nation about the road to that historic "guilty" verdict on May 10— and what happened ten days later, when "the forces of impunity struck back."

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Guatemala: After high court collapses genocide case, trial may have to restart


Ríos Montt's attorney, Francisco García Gudiel. Photo: El Periodico, Guatemala. "They must restart the trial," he told the paper today.

In Guatemala today, confusion and concern around what will become of the historic trial that found former US-backed military dictator Ríos Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. Just 10 days after that trial ended in an 80-year prison sentence for the former general, the nation's Constitutional Court this week overturned the trial and threw out the verdict. Background here and documents here, in previous Boing Boing posts.

Ríos Montt's attorney Francisco García Gudiel (whom critics in Guatemala sometimes refer to as an "abogangster") says the trial must restart: "You have to cancel the whole process and begin a new trial with new judges."

Without saying it, they threw out everything," plaintiff and human rights attorney Hector Reyes told Reuters. "There is no appeals process for their decision."

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Guatemala justice events in NYC today, May 22; and in DC on May 29 with Xeni


Photo: Protest, Guatemala City, April 19, 2013. James Rodriguez/mimundo.org.

Here's info on two special events in NYC and DC with visiting speakers from Guatemala talking about human rights accountability in Guatemala, where the historic genocide trial of former US-backed military dictator Ríos Montt has just been overturned. Both events are free of charge, but you need to RSVP.

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Guatemala: Genocide trial annullment amplifies chaos and fear

"I'm distressed. I don't know what's happening. That's how this country is. The powerful people do what they want and we poor and indigenous are devalued. We don't get justice. Justice means nothing for us."— Ana Caba, an Ixil Maya survivor of Guatemala's 36-year internal armed conflict.

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Guatemala: Archive of documents from Rios Montt genocide trial, overturned 10 days after guilty verdict


May 9, 2013: A public art project in Guatemala City, one block from the courth where Rios Montt was convicted on May 10. "Si hubo genocidio," the sign reads. "Yes, it was genocide." Photo: Xeni Jardin.

As reported last night, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala has effectively tossed out the final phase of the genocide trial of José Efraín Rios Montt. The former US-backed military dictator had been sentenced by another Guatemalan high court just 10 days ago to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity, but pressure from the defense team and from the country's deeply conservative oligarchy and ex-military sector led to a historic reversal in what was already a historic trial. It seems likely now that the man who, on May 10, was declared guilty in the deaths of 1,771 Ixil Maya and the mass rapes by Army soldiers of countless indigenous women will be allowed to go free.

What happens with the case here is unclear. Ríos Montt will likely be released today, but many involved with the prosecution (as well as press and international observers) have already fled the country under threats from those who sought to overturn the trial. Justice in Guatemala has a long way to go.

Here are PDF archives of relevant documents in the case, for those who would like to study the courts' rulings and try and understand for themselves.

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Guatemala: Nation's highest court throws out Ríos Montt genocide trial verdict and prison sentence


Ríos Montt testifying in his defense in Guatemala City, May 2013. Photo: Xeni Jardin.

Late-breaking news from Guatemala City: Impunity reigns in Guatemala tonight.

The Constitutional Court, the highest court in Guatemala (like the US Supreme Court), has just voted to annul the proceedings in the Rios Montt genocide trial from April 19th onward. That was the date on which the trial was temporarily suspended, when defense attorneys initiated a conflict between courts over which judge should oversee the case.

On May 10, Rios Montt was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 80 years in prison. That verdict and sentence were today thrown out by the Constitutional Court.

Three Constitutional Court judges voted in favor of the annulment. Two voted against. The court today also upheld the not-guilty verdict in the case of Rios Montt's former head of intelligence (the director of the notorious G-2 unit), José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez.

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Guatemala awaits Constitutional Court rulings, defense continues legal challenges to genocide trial


Jose Efraín Ríos Montt, moments after being declared guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity in a Guatemala City court, May 10 2013. Photo: James Rodriguez.

At the Open Society Justice Initiative's riosmontt-trial.org blog, a good synopsis of the post-genocide-trial verdict legal hijinks in Guatemala. Snip:

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Victoria Sanford: "It’s Too Soon to Declare Victory in Guatemalan Genocide"

It’s too soon to declare victory in Guatemala, writes anthropologist Victoria Sanford in a New York Times op-ed today. "There is serious evidence that the current president, the former military commander Otto Pérez Molina, who took office in January 2012, may have been involved in the same mass killings for which General Ríos Montt has now been convicted." And, what's more: rumors circulating in Guatemala today that the Constitutional Court, the nation's highest legal body, may throw out the verdict. News is expected Wednesday mid-day Guatemala time.