Guatemala: community leader murdered

Felipe Alvarez, a member of a local Community Development Council (COCODES), was shot dead on his way to work in the early morning of Dec. 8 near his home in Microparcelamiento El Naranjo in the southern Guatemalan department of Escuintla. Alvarez hadn’t received any direct threats, but he had told people that he was being followed on various occasions. He is the third member of the local COCODES to be killed in two years. Unknown assailants killed Moises Ajbal in September 2005; Juan Jose Atz, the group’s president at the time, was murdered in September 2006. Only two of the original five members are still alive—Manuel Antonio Aguita and current president Juan Francisco Almira.

COCODES are local community structures supporting the work of the municipal authorities; they were created by law in 2002 under provisions laid down in the 1996 Peace Accords to strengthen community democracy and participation. The Naranjo group had been working for an agreement to suspend alcohol sales after 9 PM to reduce the level of violence locally. In 2004 COCODES called the police on a bar owner who was violating the agreement; the bar owner was killed and three police agents were wounded in the incident, which is still being processed in the courts.

Amnesty International (AI) and the Washington, DC-based Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA (GHRC/USA) are calling for the Guatemalan government “to investigate Felipe Alvarez’s murder, bring those responsible to justice and do its utmost to protect other COCODES community leaders and human rights defenders.” Messages can be sent at:

(GHRC/USA urgent action, Dec. 14; AI alert, Dec. 11)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 16

See our last post on Guatemala.