Guatemala: rights activists on hunger strike

Guatemalan human rights activist Amilcar Mendez and his wife, Miriam Dardon, began an open-ended hunger strike on Jan. 12 in Guatemala City to protest impunity for the 21,509 homicides that took place in the four-year administration of outgoing president Oscar Berger. One of the victims was the couple’s son, José Emanuel “Pepe” Mendez Dardon, who was murdered on Aug. 17, 2007, on his way home from work in Guatemala City.

The activists, who positioned themselves on the sidewalk at the main entrance to the Presidential Palace and hung signs on the gate, demanded a cleanup and restructuring in the national prosecutor’s office, in the National Civil Police and in the judicial branch; Mendez said criminal charges should be filed against Berger and other members of his government. The couple said they were not protesting against president-elect Alvaro Colom, who was to be inaugurated on Jan. 14.

For many years Amilcar Mendez was an advocate for people displaced in the 1960-1996 civil war; he was also a deputy in Congress 1996-2000 for the leftist New Guatemala Democratic Front (FDNG) and has been a principal adviser to the incoming vice president, Rafael Espada. The San Francisco-based Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) is asking people to sign on to a petition supporting the couple. (CGRS e-mail, Jan. 12; Prensa Libre, Guatemala City, Jan. 12)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 20

See our last posts on Guatemala and Central America.