The murder of Juana Raymundo, a 25-year-old Mayan Ixil nurse and activist, has sparked outrage in Guatemala as social movements are being criminalized and leaders threatened and murdered.
According to local media, Raymundo was murdered the night of Friday, July 28, and her body was found with signs of torture near a river between Nebaj and Acambalam.
She was a human rights activist and member of the Committee of Campesino Development (Codeca) for the last five years and was also the organization's regional coordinator in Nebaj. She had been recently elected as a member of the local council for the Movement for the Liberation of the Peoples, which aims to become a political party and to the founding of a new multinational state in Guatemala.
Her father, Pedro Raymundo, told Prensa Libre that Juana went to the Cotzol Health Center on Friday morning, where she used to work as a nurse. She said she had to go later to Nebaj to deliver some reports, and her family started worrying when she didn't come back and noticed her phone was off.
In a press release, the Codeca demanded the Public Ministry do an appropriate investigation and punish those responsible for her murder. “So far, every murder of our defenders remains in impunity,” reads the statement.
Just in 2018 six members of Codeca have been murdered for their activism, and no one has been arrested for the crimes. The organization has denounced continuous harassment and systematic hate speech on part of the government and economic elites against them and other human rights and environmental activist in Guatemala.
But despite aggressions, Codeca remains with its head up. “No matter how much they pretend to stop our struggles through repression and murders, the people will rise up,” the statement concludes.
Indigenous, Campesino and other social organizations have been protesting against the increasingly dangerous situation for activism in the country during the past few months because opposing a mine or a hydroelectric project can be lethal in Guatemala.
Lolita Chavez, an environmental and life activist, condemned the “coward torture and murder of Juana Raymundo,” which she claims is part of a “wave of legal, political and social terror” against defenders by a “genocidal state that masks itself in rule of law.”
The President of Guatemala Jimmy Morales has for a long time criticized Codeca and has even made them responsible for deaths that have occurred during their political activities. For their part, the Codeca is just one of many organizations asking for Morales' resignation, as more evidence and testimonies emerge regarding illegal financing of his 2015 campaign.
In May, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights also denounced persecution against activists and demanded Morale's government shed light on crimes against them, but the call fell on deaf ears.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN's third special rapporteur on indigenous peoples' rights, visited Guatemala in May and denounced the criminalization of indigenous leaders and activists, who she said were “legally accused of robbery and other made up charges just for leading protests against hydroelectric projects in their territories or against the expansion of palm oil fields that are polluting their rivers.