Juana Ramirez Santiago, a 57-year-old Mayan Ixil community leader and human rights defender, was shot dead on Friday in Guatemala’s Quiche department.
Ramirez was a founding member of the Network of Ixil Women, an organization fighting for women’s rights, and a prominent midwife in her community. People close to her say had been threatened before and had already filed a complaint with the Public Ministry (MP).
The victim was walking in Q’ambalam, Nebaj municipality, when several people approached her. Neighbors heard four shots then found her lying on the street. She was dead by the time emergency personnel arrived.
Her husband, Pedro Chel Bernal, said Ramirez used to bring him dinner every night at the hardware store where he worked as a watchman. She called him on Friday night to tell him she was on her way, but never arrived.
“She was a woman who supported the community with her work as midwife. I was told two teenagers approached her and shot at her,” he told Prensa Libre.
#NEBAJ Asesinan a comadrona maya ixil, Juana Ramírez Santiago, de 54 años de edad, en Xolanay Nebaj Quiché. Testimonios indican que ha denunciado amenazas por su trabajo de partería. Fue asesinada en la noche del 21SEP18, por un individuo quien le acertó 4 disparos. pic.twitter.com/2sNFIwTI3s— Santiago Botón ���� (@SantiagoteleSUR) 22 de septiembre de 2018
The director of the Network of Ixil Women, Juana Baca, condemned the murder: “She was a women dedicated to bringing life into the world and founder of the organization, always looking after the wellbeing of the Ixil women.”
The murder follows that of Juana Raymundo, a 25-year-old Ixil nurse and member of the Committee of Campesino Development (Codeca), who was killed on July 28, also in Nebaj. Her body showed signs of torture.
“We demand authorities investigate and shed light on this murder that dresses in mourning another family in Nebaj,” said Baca. “They have to arrest those responsible. This crime cannot go unpunished.”
Miguel de Leon, the Indigenous Mayor of Nebaj, demanded an effective investigation: “Nebaj has turned violent, especially for social leaders. The murder of this leader shows that.”
Human Rights Prosecutor Jordan Roldas called for improved security measures to protect the lives of human rights defenders in Guatemala.
The Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala Protection Unit (Udefegua) has registered 135 aggressions, 13 murders and two attempted murders against activists between January 1 and June 8 of this year.