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November 30th, 2021
Grijalva, García, Torres, Condemn Martial Law and Human Rights Abuses in Guatemala

The Legislators Urge Secretary Blinken to Demand an End to the State of Exception

WASHINGTON, DC — Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Norma J. Torres (CA-35),  Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-15), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), and Joaquin Castro (TX-20) sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, asking him to publicly condemn and urge the immediate revocation of the State of Exception declared by President Alejandro Giammattei in the municipality of El Estor, Guatemala. The State of Exception gives the military special powers to enforce a strict curfew, conduct arrests and house raids without warrant and suspend basic constitutional guarantees. The Members are deeply concerned that U.S. aid may be supporting human rights violations and the obstruction of democratic processes by the Guatemalan government. 

 “The U.S. must take all necessary diplomatic steps to lower the temperature in El Estor, ​call upon the Guatemalan government to end the State of Exception and targeted political violence against indigenous communities, and ensure that our foreign aid is not used in ways that are antithetical to our democratic values,” said Congressman Grijalva.

“Maya Q’eqchi’ communities in El Estor are being unjustly targeted for defending their land and water from an illegal mining project. We must urge Guatemala’s government to end the State of Exception, and ensure that U.S. aid is never used to perpetuate human rights violations,” said Congressman García.

“I’m gravely concerned by the situation in El Estor and I urge the State Department to intervene against repression of peaceful protesters under the guise of Guatemala’s State of Exception law. I have long fought to ensure our security assistance is not misused against the people it is supposed to be helping. I urge the Department of State and Department of Defense to re-evaluate any support to those involved in the State of Exception and hold those responsible for human rights abuses accountable,” said Congresswoman Torres.

In the letter, the Members urge the Department of State to take the following actions:

  • Publicly affirm that the U.S. respects the rule of law in Guatemala and that the Constitutional Court’s ruling suspending the Fenix mine until indigenous communities are consulted regarding its operation must be followed.
  • Reiterate to the Guatemalan government that U.S. donated equipment and U.S. funded or trained personnel must never be used to repress nonviolent demonstrators community members, or support the extraction o f natural resources from indigenous land without local consent including to execute the State of Exception Congress has already stressed this after donated jeeps were used to intimidate CICIG and the U.S. Embassy in 2018 and were assured the U.S. equipment would not be misused.
  • Request the Government of Guatemala provide detailed whereabouts of U.S. donated equipment including jeeps and other vehicles donated for the use of counter narcotics operations, portable fingerprint scanners and biometrics data sharing that may be used to identify indigenous leaders, support for Pegasus and other software used to identify activists and political opposition leaders, or any other direct or indirect support. This information should include the chain of command that allowed U.S. assistance to be used to undermine democratic processes and any other uses that are against the intent and interests of the United States, as well as an acknowledgement of any false statements or misleading facts provided to the United States by Guatemalan officials about this event.
  • Provide specific, detailed information regarding any U.S. coordination with the Guatemalan police, military intelligence units public ministry and any other government divisions involved in the State of Exception. Evaluate any U.S. funding streams or support through International Financial Institutions for the Fenix mine or related projects in the region that support the mine.
  • Evaluate U.S. support and training for the Guatemalan police and military in accordance with human rights conditions placed in the 2021 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations law. We also urge you to fully enforce the Leahy Law, which prohibits assistance to individuals or units of any foreign military or police body that commit gross human rights abuses with impunity. The State Department, including our embassy in Guatemala and the Department of Defense, must take a consistent and public stance supporting those threatened with human rights abuses, and strongly encourage the investigation and prosecution of those perpetuating crimes.
  • We also ask that you immediately block assistance to state agents involved in the State of Exception and related repression in El Estor.

The full text of the letter can be found by clicking here.

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