ProtectDefenders.eu partners have received with deep concern information from the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala (UDEFEGUA), about the murders of two transgender women and defenders of LGBTIQ + rights: Andrea González, legal representative of OTRANS Guatemala – a pioneer organization in the defense of the rights of transsexual and transgender people, and member of the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People (REDLACTRANS), and Cecy Caricia Ixpatá, member of the National Network of Trans People Guatemala.
On 11 June at night, Andrea González, 28, was killed with a firearm by unknown persons in the historic center of Guatemala City. Andrea González had reported to the police have received death threats since mid-May 2021. However, no investigation was launched and she was not granted any protection measures. Likewise, after her murder, discriminatory acts have continued to occur against her, with the media and authorities ignoring her female gender identity and referring to her as a “male person”. On 9 June, two days before the murder of Andrea González, Cecy Caricia Ixpatá died at the Hospital de Salamá, Baja Verapaz, after being attacked by two unknown persons in the city of Salamá.
In a separate incident that illustrates the lack of protection for defenders in the country, ProtectDefenders.eu has received information on the arbitrary detention and excessive use of force against 21 defenders of the land and territory belonging to the Maya Q’eqchi Chicoyogüito community, during a peaceful protest in Cobán, Alta Verapaz department. On 9 June in the morning, the Chicoyogüito community organized a peaceful demonstration to demand that the State of Guatemala return their ancestral territories from which they were dispossessed and evicted 53 years ago The National Civil Police (PNC) arrived at the beginning After the protest, he violently evicted the protesters, using excessive force, hitting and injuring several people. Members of the PNC detained 21 men from the community, who were taken to the police station, without being heard by a competent judge. Later, they were transferred to the Cobán Penal Center, where they remained in preventive detention on charges of “aggravated usurpation” (Article 257 of the Penal Code).
The difficult situation of the media and the press in the country ranks Guatemala 116th in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index. Since being sworn in as Guatemala’s president in January 2020, Alejandro Giammattei has adopted a very aggressive rhetoric towards the media, backed by false accusations, verbal attacks and orchestrated public humiliation. Guatemala’s endemic organised crime and corruption and almost total impunity for murders and physical attacks against journalists make reporting extremely difficult and have resulted in widespread self-censorship on many subjects that are sensitive for the authorities. Exposing political corruption can lead to threats, arbitrary detention, intimidation and physical violence. Murders of journalists are still very frequent, and Guatemala continues to be one of the western hemisphere’s most dangerous countries for the media.