Guatemala: Genocide trial starts then stops; State of Siege near US/Canadian mine continues

Photo: James Rodriguez, a US-Mexican documentary photographer based in Guatemala since 2006, traveled to the State of Siege zone to document the conditions last week in Jalapa and Santa Rosa Guatemala.

A brief update from Guatemala:

The tribunal of General Jose Efrain Rios Montt, who ruled Guatemala from 1982-1983, and Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, his former chief of military intelligence, reconvened this morning after a 5-day suspension. The defendants are on trial in Guatemala City for genocide and crimes against humanity. As Jo-Marie Burt at the OSIJ's blog explained in their most recent analysis, "Responding to the most recent ruling by the Court of Appeals will likely be the first order of business."

I am publishing this post from inside the courtroom, which was less than half full today—there was much confusion over the last 48 hours about whether the trial could be suspended entirely. Rios Montt and Rodriguez Sanchez showed up this morning without attorney Garcia Gudiel, who literally called in sick. Judge Yassmin Barrios briefly responseded to an array of recent court rulings, said "There is no annulment of the trial," then suspended the trial for the day. She indicated to Rios Montt that if Gudiel remains unavailable, he may call back his previous defense team, who walked out of the courtroom in protest on Apr 19.

No one is entirely sure what will happen tomorrow.

Photo: XJ

Just before court opened this morning, around 8:20am, Rios Montt walked over to the prosecution stand and greeted the attorneys and human rights organizations gathered at the table. He exchanged cordialities. It was a weird moment. Not sure what the significance was, if anything beyond what it appeared to be.

Meanwhile, four primarily campesino and indigenous communities to the east of Guatemala's capital continue to live under a state of siege. The zone that has been occupied by thousands of Guatemalan Army troops and policemen since last week is near the US/Canadian-owned mining firm Tahoe Resources' El Escobal mine, also known as the San Rafael silver mine. After months of peaceful protests, a series of violent clashes left a number of locals wounded, and one police officer killed.

I visited the State of Siege zone and spoke with soldiers, police officers, and residents. I will post more about what I observed here on Boing Boing soon.

A march organized by indigenous and campesino groups is planned for this morning, in front of the Guatemalan Congress building (flyer at right).

Tomorrow, the PBS NewsHour report I produced on the genocide trial with Miles O'Brien will air. Please do tune in.

Here's a Twitter list with individuals and organizations reporting on the trial (and events surrounding).