Guatemalan Journalist Detained for Defending his Territory

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Source: Colombia Informa / The Dawn News / November 24, 2017

Photo credit: Colombia Informa

On November 11, the Guatemalan state detained Jerson Xitumul Morales, a journalist and correspondent of Community Press, a digital alternative medium of Guatemala. The CGN-PRONICO Nickel Processing Company of Izabal, S.A. had pressed charges against him.

These accusations are the company’s response to the constant mobilization of communities against contamination related to mining activities. Inhabitants of El Estor Izabal, affirm that the company has discarded highly contaminant chemicals in the water sources of the area.

In turn, journalist Jerson Morales has been accused by the company of alleged threats, instigation to crime, illicit association, meetings and demonstrations, damages and illegal detentions. Last August 11, an arrest warrant was issued for him and other six people, including the President of the Artisanal Fisher’s Guild. Additionally, other four men were summoned to provide testimony in court.

Community Press correspondent Nelton Rivera affirms that all of these men “were unjustly accused and are being criminalized by the CGN-PRONICO Nickel Processing Company, which is a mining company that has industrially exploited nickel on the shores of Izabal for the last 50 years, and in the last years the contamination of water has become stronger and much more visible. This mining company is obviously linked to Canadian transnational companies but there’s also Russian capital and Russian machine operators”.

Rivera explains that “in 2016 and in 2017, people who were tired of the human rights violations by the mining company decided to get organized and stop the exploitation license. To this end, they have taken legal action, requesting legal protection, demanding court records in several courts, briefing the Municipal Corporation, the Government, the Congress of the Republic, and so on. They have carried out a series of legal actions and mobilizations to try to stop the miners’ work”

International solidarity with this case has been strong. “Morales’ detention has been denounced at the national and international level and this has yielded results, because they have seen this detention as a result of his work as a journalist. This is important for the legal defense we’re trying to make for his case and also we’re trying to dismantle the accusation against the members of the Artisanal Fishers’ Guild”, Rivera affirms.

Today it was announced that Juan Caal Suram, fisher and member of the Artisanal Fishers’ Guild, who was detained on October 11, will be able to leave prison after 43 days. Over the next few weeks the case will continue to develop and there might be more detentions. The truth is that there is a clear interest in that communities stop mobilizing and their struggle disappears.

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