• Campagnes

Guatemala: harassment / fear for safety: Maria de Leon Santiago

, N° d'index: AMR 34/012/1995

On 9 April 1995 Maria de Leon Santiago was attacked in her home in Vitzal, El Quiche department, by people throwing stones. She lost consciousness and was then punched and kicked. In the days preceding this incident she had been constantly harassed, and her family threatened. The attack is believed to be a reprisal for her leadership, in March, of a caravan of Ixiles, from her town to Guatemala City in protest against the human rights violations suffered by indigenous people in the area at the hands of the military. She has suffered harassment and intimidation in the past because of her activities as a local leader of CONAVIGUA.

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 34/12/95
Distr: UA/SC
UA 101/95 Harassment / Fear for safety 27 April 1995
GUATEMALAMaría de León Santiago (f), a member of Coordinadora Nacional de Viudas
de Guatemala (CONAVIGUA), National Coordinating Committee
of Widows of Guatemala
Amnesty International is concerned at a recent attack on María de León Santiago,
the latest in a series of incidents of harassment and intimidation, apparently
directed at her because of her activities as a local leader of CONAVIGUA, the
National Coordinating Committee of Widows of Guatemala. CONAVIGUA brings
together women who lost their husbands during the army's ferocious
counter-insurgency campaign of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
On 9 April 1995, at about 10:00pm, María de León Santiago was in her home in
Vitzal, Santa María Nebaj municipality, El Quiché department, when people began
throwing stones at her door. When she opened the door, a stone hit her head
and she suffered a haemorrhage. She lost consciousness and fell to the floor.
Her attackers then punched and kicked her. She was taken to the local infirmary
but later transferred to a Guatemala City hospital due to the severity of her
wounds and the inadequate care she was receiving at the infirmary.
In recent days prior to this incident, María de León Santiago had been constantly
harassed by her attackers who had accused her of being a guerrilla and who
had threatened the lives of her and her family.
At the end of August 1994 a group of uniformed soldiers came to María de León
Santiago's home and harassed her, apparently to get her to end her involvement
with CONAVIGUA. In October 1994 at 10 o'clock at night, three unidentified
men were loitering outside her home, apparently to monitor her activities.
When she became aware of their presence, they ran off towards the local military
The latest incident directed at María de León Santiago is believed to be a
reprisal for her leadership, in March, of a caravan of Ixiles - the indigenous
group to which many in her area belong - from her town to the capital, Guatemala
City. The protest was organised by CONAVIGUA and other indigenous groups. It
was intended to draw national and international attention to the human rights
violations which the participants said continued to be suffered by the
indigenous people of the area at the hands of the military, particularly military
intelligence, G-2, as well as local military commissioners and the civil
Participants in the march were also calling for those responsible for new and
past abuses to be brought to trial, and for their area, the "Ixil Triangle",
to be demilitarised. They reported that army presence in the Triangle has in
fact increased in recent months, apparently in reaction to the ongoing return
to the area of refugees and displaced people who had fled the army's
counter-insurgency campaign of the late 1970s and early 1980s. While in
Guatemala City, the Ixiles met with a wide range of national as and international
organizations and representatives. However, on their return to their villages,
the army once again began to threaten and harass caravan participants. (See
UA 70/95, AMR 34/07/95, 16 March 1995.)
The area known as the "Ixil Triangle," bounded by the villages of Nebaj, Chajul
and Cotzal was a frequent target of the Guatemalan military's
counter-insurgency campaign of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Many inhabitants
were extrajudicially executed by the Guatemalan army and the civilian defence
squads formed at army order and acting under their command. Few, if any, of
these killings have been investigated by the Guatemalan government, and abuses
continue, directed against members of indigenous groups such as CONAVIGUA,
and those who have joined their call for inquiries into past abuses and for
an end to forced recruitment into the Guatemalan army and the civil patrols.
The late 1970s and early 1980s also saw a mass exodus from the area, as indigenous
people fled before the army's advance, to seek refuge abroad or to become
displaced elsewhere in Guatemala. Some refugees and displaced persons are now
returning under plans agreed by refugee representatives, the Guatemalan
government, representatives of the armed opposition and United Nations (UN)
representatives in the context of ongoing peace negotiations. The agreements
have specified that the safety of all returned refugees and displaced
communities was to be assured. Yet, since returns began in 1993, there have
been numerous reports of threats, attacks and harassment of returned
communities, particularly in El Quiché, reportedly carried out by members of
the army and their civilian adjuncts.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please telephone, or send telegrams, faxes, express and
airmail letters either in Spanish or in your own language:
- calling for an immediate investigation into the reported threats and
harassment against María de León Santiago and that those found responsible
be brought to justice. Urge that steps immediately be taken to ensure her safety
and the safety of all participants in the recent Ixil caravan and all members
- calling for an end to impunity, and that those responsible for the gross
violations suffered in past years by the indigenous people of the Ixil Triangle
and elsewhere throughout Guatemala be brought to justice.
President of the Republic:
S.E. Ramiro de León Carpio
Presidente de la República de Guatemala
Palacio Nacional, Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Telegrams: Presidente, Guatemala, Guatemala
Faxes: + 502 2 537472/515667
Salutation: Excelentísimo Sr. Presidente /Dear President
Minister of Interior:
Lic. Carlos Enrique Reynoso
Ministro de Gobernación,
Ministerio de Gobernación
Despacho Ministerial, Of. No. 8
Palacio Nacional, Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Telegrams: Ministro de Gobernación, Guatemala, Guatemala
Salutation: Sr. Ministro / Dear Minister
Minister of Defence
Gral. Mario Enríquez Morales
Ministro de Defensa
Ministerio de Defensa
Palacio Nacional
Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Faxes: +502 2 537472
Telegrams: Ministro de Defensa, Guatemala, Guatemala
Salutation: Sr. Ministro / Dear Minister
Coordinator of Government Peace Commission
Lic. Héctor Rosada Granados
Comisión de La Paz
Presidencia de la República
Palacio Nacional, Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Telephone: +502 2 516201
Faxes: +502 2 501967
Telegrams: Lic. Rosada, Palacio Nacional, Guatemala, Guatemala
Salutation: Licenciado / Dear Sir
1) Human Rights Procurator
Lic. Jorge García Laguardia
Procurador de los Derechos Humanos
12 Avenida 12-72
Zona 1, Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Telephone: + 502-2 300874 to 76
Faxes: + 502 2 81734
2) Coordinadora Nacional de Viudas de Guatemala (CONAVIGUA)
8a. Avenida 2-29
Zona 1, Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Tel & Fax: + 502 2 25642
3) Human and Indigenous Rights group
Defensoría Maya
32 av. 1-56
Zona 7
Guatemala, Guatemala
Tel: + 502 2 94 65 75
and to diplomatic representatives of GUATEMALA accredited to your country
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 8 June 1995.

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