Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Hector Reyes & Justice For Nueva Linda Civil Association

In his latest post, Guatemala-based Independent photo-journalist James Rodríguez documents the commemorative events that honoured of the those killed at the Nueva Linda massacre. The events which lead up to the massacre are as follows:*
Hector Reyes, a local peasant leader who belonged to the Landless Maya Workers Union (STMST), sustained his family by working in Nueva Linda. Reyes, however, disappeared mysteriously on September 5, 2003, while running an errand for the then-owner and Spanish citizen Carlos Vidal Fernandez.

Due to the lack of clarification by the authorities regarding the disappearance of Hector Reyes and the probable complicity by the owner of the landholding, peasants from 22 nearby communities occupied Nueva Linda in October 2003.
The peasants formed the Justice For Nueva Linda Civil Association - they took over Nueva Linda to pressure the authorities into clarifying the disappearance and to demand justice.
Almost a year later, on August 31, 2004, Guatemalan security forces unleashed a violent eviction in Nueva Linda.
Rights Action estimate that the violent eviction resulted in 12 deaths and 45 injured.

The video below looks at the massacre and the people affected.

Unfortunately for Guatemalans, cases like this are not particularly remarkable. The murder rate has been rising steadily, in 2008 was 47 per 100,000. To put that in context, that is over 39 times the murder rate in England and Wales (1.19 per 100,000). In Guatemala less than 3 percent of murder cases are resolved.

Journalists seeking to expose injustice are particularly vulnerable. For Justice For Nueva Linda Civil Association to continue and for James Rodríguez to cover the story is humbling in its courageousness.

*For a more detailed background see the Rights Action report linked above and (the non-Spanish literate may wish to make use of google translate)

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