Stop the Detention and Murder of Community Leaders

Originally published on August 28, 2014, at

Target: Otto Perez Molina, President of Guatemala

Goal: End the extreme violence against environmental rights activists and their community leaders

While resisting the construction of local hydroelectric plants, two community leaders were arbitrarily arrested by the police. In retaliation, the community rose up in protest against their discriminatory detention. During the protest, three Mayan community leaders were shot and killed as police brutalized the activists. The Guatemalan government needs to investigate their deaths and punish any police officers responsible for these human rights abuses.

On August 15, law enforcement officials arrested community leaders, Rafael Chen and Carmen del Cid. Large crowds gathered in protest of their unlawful arrests. The police violently attacked the protesters and reportedly shot Sebastian Rax Caal, Luciano Can Cujub, and Oscar Chen Quej to death. At least 40 activists have been arrested with many others left injured.

Prior to the protest, police detained at least five community activists leading a peaceful movement against the hydroelectric projects. Farmers have also been forcibly evicted from their land to make room for the contractors. Given the history of these projects, it leaves no doubt in local residents’ minds that corruption has already infected the local government and police authorities.

By signing the petition below, you will urge the President of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, to investigate the murders of these environmental rights activists and urge him to punish the officers responsible for these unnecessary deaths.


Dear President Otto Perez Molina,

On August 15, three Mayan community leaders were gunned down in the streets while protesting the arbitrary arrests of their friends. Witnesses reported seeing police officers killing the unarmed activists. How much blood must be spilled before your government intercedes and stops these heinous acts?

These community leaders merely wanted to peacefully protest against environmentally damaging hydroelectric projects when the police came to detain some and kill others. They witnessed farmers being forcibly evicted from their lands, and chose to defend the rights of their neighbors. Nobody deserves to die for making that decision.

The Guatemalan government must investigate these shootings and prosecute the police officers who committed these unlawful killings and used excessive force against well-meaning activists. Punish the corrupt local officials who profit from forcibly evicting farmers. Ignoring the issue will merely cause more innocent blood to be spilled. How much is enough?


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Rambling Traveler via Flickr

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