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Guatemala: Land defenders killed at alarming rate

    Wednesday, August 1, 2018 - 11:20

    Photo credit: CODECA   


    Human rights defenders Florencio Pérez Nájera and Alejandro Hernández García from the Campesino Development Committee (Comité de Desarrollo Campesino, CODECA) were violently murdered on 4 June. On July 27, Juana Raymundo went missing. Neighbours discovered her body the following day. Authorities must end this wave of killings which add up to eight human rights defenders killed in Guatemala in less than three months. 

    On 3 June, Florencio Pérez Nájera (42) and Alejandro Hernández García (40) went to the community of Llano Largo, Department of Jutiapa (South) to participate in a CODECA meeting and did not return home. In the morning of 4 June, their families found their bodies near the entrance of their homestead (caserío), killed by apparent machete wounds. As leaders of CODECA they defended the land, territory and labour rights in their communities. These killings occurred shortly after President Jimmy Morales’ discredited and stigmatized CODECA’s activities in a public speech on 2 May.

    That was the seventh deadly attack against human rights defenders in Guatemala in less than a month, causing concern for the safety of all defenders across the country. All killings took place in a context of recurring violence against defenders working on rights related to land, territory and the environment, including the recent killings of Luis Arturo Marroquín and Francisco Munguia (CODECA members) as well as Ramon Choc Sacrab, José Can Xol and Mateo Chamám Paau from the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (Comité Campesino del Altiplano, CCDA).

    Human rights defender Juana Raymundo was a nurse and a leader in Nebaj, in the Quiché  department in northwest Guatemala. She joined CODECA's Youth group (Juventud de CODECA) five years ago, and was recently elected to be part of the Executive Committee of the Movement for the Liberation of Peoples (Movimiento para la Liberación de los Pueblos, MLP). She was involved in engaging and training other women to join the movement. She disappeared on the evening of 27 July. Neighbours alerted the police after finding her body on 28 July by a small river between the Nebaj and Acambalam communities.

    Please send an email or tweet without delay. 

    • Start with Dear Attorney General and a personalized first sentence to make your message unique.
    • Ask them to initiate a prompt, impartial and thorough investigation on the killings of Florencio Pérez, Alejandro Hernández and Juana Raymundo from CODECA and other human rights defenders from CCDA. The investigation should include the theory of the attack being a possible retaliation for their legitimate activities as human rights defenders, as mentioned in the recently adopted General Instruction to investigate against human rights defenders from Guatemala’s Attorney General.
    • Urge them to take all appropriate measures to guarantee the safety of all CODECA and CCDA members at risk in accordance with their wishes.
    • Insist that they condemn this wave of killings, publicly recognize the important and legitimate work of all human rights defenders in Guatemala and refrain from using language that discredits, stigmatizes, abuses, disparages or discriminates them.

    There is little mail service into Guatemala. Send an email or tweet to

    Attorney General:
    María Consuelo Porras    
    Fiscal General de la República
    Twitter:     @MPGuatemala
    Salutation:     Dear Attorney General / Estimada Señora Fiscal

    Please send a copy to

    His Excellency Carlos Humberto Jiménez Licona 
    Ambassador for the Republic of Guatemala
    130 Albert Street, Suite 1010
    Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5G4
    Postage :    $.85
    Fax:         613 233 0135
    Phone:    613 233 7237

    The Honourable Chrystia Freeland
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    111 Wellington Street
    Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
    Postage:    None required
    Fax:         613 996 9607
    Phone:    613 992 5234

    COPREDEH’s President Jorge Luis Borrayo    


    Additional information

    Human rights defenders in Guatemala carry out their activities in an extremely hostile environment, particularly those working on rights related to land, territory and the environment. They face continuous threats, intimidation, attacks, smear campaigns and stigmatization.

    In 2017, the Guatemalan NGO Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) registered 496 attacks against human rights defenders. In May 2018, the Attorney General issued an internal General Instruction containing guidelines to effectively investigate attacks against human rights defenders.

    The CCDA is a campesino organization founded in 1982 that works to promote access to land as well as the labour rights of Mayan campesinos. CCDA has reported already been targeted with attacks and intimidations. In June 2016, Indigenous leader Daniel Choc Pop was killed in San Juan Tres Ríos. Several attacks against their office and against leaders were registered in June 2017. In May 2018 José Can Xol and Mateo Chamám Paau, two CCDA local leaders, were murdered in the communities of Choctún Basilá and San Juan Tres Ríos. Both were involved in protecting and defending their communities in a long-standing land tenure conflict. They had participated in the negotiation and dialogue roundtable to find solutions, together with national authorities, to the multiple land tenure conflicts affecting communities in the region.

    In May 2018, Luis Arturo Marroquin, member of the national coordination of CODECA was fatally shot in San Luis Jilotepeque, in the central eastern part of Guatemala. This incident took place shortly after President Jimmy Morales discredited and stigmatized CODECA’s activities in a public speech on 2 May.

    In 2014, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Guatemala to adopt and implement a comprehensive public policy for the protection of human rights defenders in the judgment Human Rights Defender vs Guatemala. Despite some progress, the process to create the public policy hasn’t concluded yet. Impunity remains the rule in most cases of threats and attacks against Guatemalan defenders.

    The justice system is also regularly misused to criminalize human rights defenders, in an attempt to break up movements and organizations, wearing down the defenders and removing them from the public arena. For more information, see the Amnesty International report “We are defending the land with our blood”: Defenders of the land, territory and environment in Honduras and Guatemala (  and Americas: State Protection Mechanisms for Human Rights Defenders (


    Read Amnesty's press release at


    Please also send a message of support to those under duress in Guatemala at


    If you wish to receive updates on this case, email In the subject line, write “Keep me updated on UA 97/18 Guatemala”.