Guatemala: Human Rights Defender repeatedly threatened
Guatemala, action created 28.1.2016, petition is active
Rafael Maldonado, Legal Director for the Guatemalan Centre for Environmental, Social and Legal Action (Centro de Acción Legal, Ambiental y Social de Guatemala, CALAS), recently received a series of intimidating messages via Twitter. These threats were directed against his human rights activities, and were meant to intimidate and suspend his work. His organization has recently been involved in the litigation cases of mining operations and palm oil producers in Guatemala.
Between 2000 and 2012, Guatemalan palm oil plantations have multiplied eightfold, with 98% of them being controlled by eight influential families - making it an incredibly lucrative private business. Rafael Maldonado, legal director of the Guatemalan Centre for Environmental, Social and Legal Action (abbreviated as CALAS), has been recently involved in the monitoring of palm oil production, including the use of child labor and other negative influences on the environment.
Maldonado was a recent target of threats and insulting messages via Twitter. On 30 November, Twitter user @Armarome78 sent Rafael Maldonado a threat saying, "Your time is up. I suggest you to run like a pig, son of a b. Pre-warned warfare doesn’t kill people.” Another message read, "Remember when I told you that your network of gangsters and corrupt people had little time left? You’re next. Hold on!” The account has since been suspended.
On 30 November, it was also revealed that Alberto Rotondo, Security Director of the San Rafael Las Flores Escobal mine, had escaped his house arrest and his whereabouts were unknown. Alberto Rotondo was charged with ordering an attack by security guards on protestors outside the mine in 2013 that left seven wounded. CALAS has been involved in a civil suit against the mine for the attack as well as past litigation regarding the mine’s operating license and alleged contamination. Rafael Maldonado has also represented CALAS in recent cases against the palm oil company REPSA, which is accused of having contaminated a river in June 2015.
In July, Rafael Maldonado told UDEFEGUA that he heard gunshots outside of CALAS’s office in Guatemala City. In May, he reported to local authorities that an unidentified woman threatened him, saying he would “pay for the work he is doing,” while at a Guatemala City bank. Rafael Maldonado and CALAS’s director also received several anonymous written threats at their office in 2013. UDEFEGUA recently requested protection measures for Rafael Maldonado from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, but no measures have yet been granted.
In Guatemala, human rights defenders, including journalists and trade unionists, continue to be threatened, harassed and attacked, by those seeking to dissuade them from their work. The Guatemalan human rights organization UDEFEGUA documented 337 acts of aggression against human rights defenders in the first half of 2015. About 71% of those acts targeted Indigenous leaders and defenders working on environmental and land rights issues.