Urgent: Please take action before March 26, when Timoteo’s trial resumes
The Guatemala Solidarity Project urgently calls for solidarity with political prisoner Timoteo Chen Tun and the indigenous and peasant movement in Guatemala after last week’s disturbing “trial.” Timoteo Chen is a community leader and health worker who should be honored for his longstanding commitment to others. Instead Timoteo is in prison for organizing nonviolent action against the theft of indigenous lands by the company Hidro Santa Rita.
Timoteo has been in prison for nearly a year. The public prosecutor’s office has no evidence against him and has repeatedly suspended hearings and invented new charges in order to keep him in prison. Representatives of Hidro Santa Rita have visited him in prison to threaten him and pressure him to sign documents in their favor. They have also visited and threatened his family.
Timoteo was arrested while leading a health workshop at a nearby community and the impact on the area has been devastating. He is one of the few health workers in the area and has been tirelessly doing this work for over 10 years. His family has fallen into extreme poverty and Timoteo doesn’t even have shoes to protect his feet from the cold cement floor of the mountain prison he is unjustly being held in.
TAKE ACTION NOW!
- Call the Guatemalan Embassy in the U.S. at 202 745 4953 and tell them that you request the immediate release of political prisoner Timoteo Chen Tun of the community Monte Olivo, near Coban in the department of Alta Verapaz. Tell them you are aware that the public prosecutor has no evidence against him and therefore should immediately withdraw all charges.
- Make a donation to the Guatemala Solidarity Project. We are volunteer run and 100% of contributions, other than small international bank transfer fees, go directly to our partners in Guatemala. We are committed to visit Timoteo and other political prisoners at least once a month. Timoteo has requested shoes as he is struggling with the cold, cement floor of the prison in the mountains of Coban. He and other prisoners have faced beatings, denial of food, denial of medicine, and other horrific treatment. Help us get shoes for Timoteo and continue to stand in solidarity with political prisoners by donating through our webpage or sending a check made out to “UPAVIM Community Development Foundation” to UPAVIM, PO Box 63, Marshfield, VT 05658. Donations are tax-deductible. UPAVIM is our fiscal sponsor, and is a US-registered 501c3 nonprofit that helps us ensure that ALL contributions go to our partners.
- Join us in Guatemala and visit political prisoners like Timoteo, other indigenous leaders who have warrants on false charges, and communities struggling to recuperate Mother Earth and their ancestral right to the land they work. We are currently accepting applications for the May 25 – June 4 Solidarity Delegation: Indigenous Rights Versus Terrorism and Environmental Destruction.
On March 11, 2015, the notoriously corrupt public prosecutor’s office of Coban, Guatemala again showed its criminality and audacity by accusing Timoteo Chen Tun of the murders of 11 year-old David Estuardo Pacay and 13 year-old Ageo Isaac Guitz. Numerous people witnessed the murders and there has never been any doubt about who did it. David and Ageo were murdered on August 23, 2013 by Guillermo Bol. Bol was an employee of Hidro Santa Rita, a company that is trying to steal land from Timoteo’s home community of Monte Olivo as well as numerous surrounding communities.
On that day fellow Monte Olivo community leader and environmentalist David Chen was meeting with Inter-American Court of Human Rights investigators about the repression against area communities. The armed Hidro Santa Rita employee went to David Chen’s house, threatened to kill him, and instead shot his two nephews David and Ageo who were nearby.
Police refused to arrest Bol or investigate the murder of the children. After continued protest and refusal of the police to take action, Bol himself was murdered. It is possible that Bol was murdered by people looking for vengeance for the murder from the children and to prevent him from killing others.
Timoteo Chen was arrested in April 2014 while leading a health workshop at nearby community Cubilguitz. The district attorney has invented numerous charges against Timoteo. Because there is no evidence against him, the prosecutor has repeatedly requested a delay in hearings. Timoteo remains in prison without having the right to a fair trial. After a judge ruled against various charges for lack of evidence, the prosecutor recently invented the story that Timoteo killed the young children.
Timoteo’s incarceration is part of a series of acts of repression against his community Monte Olivo and dozens of nearby indigenous q’eqchi’ communities. The purpose is to steal their land for cattle grazing and the construction of a hydroelectric plant to sell electricity abroad.
In 2008, the government issued Hidro Santa Rita a license to build the electric dam without consulting area communities. In 2010 over 20 communities held official assemblies to demonstrate their opposition to the project. On March 22, 2012, soldiers invaded Monte Olivo and created a military base there. After significant nonviolent protest, the military withdrew in April of 2012.
In January of 2013 arrest warrants were ordered against Monte Olivo community leaders on false charges. On August 14 community leader David Chen survived an assassination attempt, and on August 23 his nephews were murdered. On November 8, 2013, neighboring community Xalaja Canguinic is attacked by paramilitaries. Dozens of houses are burned to the ground and community leader Carlos Guitz is shot in the back and paralyzed.
In August 2014 over 1,000 soldiers attack Monte Olivo and surrounding communities. Three leaders are assassinated, dozens are injured and homes are burned down. Peasant leader Thomas Chen is beaten unconscious and arrested.
Hundreds of q’eqchi’ leaders have arrest warrants against them in attempts to terrorize communities and facilitate the theft of their lands. While the Obama administration threatens Venezuela allegedly because of concerns about human rights abuses, the US continues to collaborate closely with the Guatemalan military and security apparatus. Guatemalan soldiers continue to be trained at the US Army School of the Americas. US Marines and Special Forces participate directly in training and missions inside Guatemala. Before the recent wave of repression, US officials attended the opening of a new “model police station” in which it was announced that the police would work to “reconstruct the social fabric of the area.”