#WHRDAlert GUATEMALA / Criminalization and excessive use of force in evicting housing rights defenders

Aura Margarita Valenzuela, María Magdalena Zarat and Mariela Álvarez

National Coordinating Body for Peoples in Marginalized Areas of Guatemala (CONAPAMG)

The right to housing

Attacks experienced
Excessive use of force, Criminalization

FACTS - On the morning of Friday, February 3rd, an eviction notice was delivered to more than 100 families living in the Las Brisas del Mirador settlement in Zone 8 of Mixco, at the behest of the Amazonia company owned by the Mayen Estrada family.

Anti-riot squads of the National Civil Police (PNC), municipal police officers, Mixco transit police, and personnel from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office appeared at Las Brisas. Aura Margarita Valenzuela Méndez, a representative of 88 families and CONAPAMG member, tried to mediate in an effort to avoid the eviction. It was impossible to initiate a dialogue, however, and the PNC agents tried to apprehend her. María Magdalena Zarat Cuzan and Mariela Álvarez Sucup intervened just in time to prevent her arrest, but then they themselves were arrested. In the altercation with the police, Aura Margarita Valenzuela suffered wounds on different parts of her body.

The three women were taken to the court in session in Mixco and later on, to the Court of First Instance in Villa Nueva, where they gave statements and were then charged with Aggravated Usurpation and Obstruction of Justice.

We, of IM-Defensoras condemn the excessive use of force, and the utilization of criminalization in order to resolve conflicts involving fundamental human rights such as the right to housing, and in order to punish and try to inhibit those who defend such rights. Accordingly, we demand security guarantees and the immediate freedom of the three defenders arrested, and an end to any judicial action against them.

We also call on all international bodies and organizations to stay abreast of this case.

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