For over a month, Guatemalans have taken to the streets to call for an end to corruption and respect for the outcome of the September elections, in which reform-minded Bernardo Arevalo secured a surprise presidential victory, setting in motion what many believe is a slow-motion coup aimed at preventing Arevalo from taking office in January.
Led by an alliance of Indigenous Ancestral Authorities from throughout the county, the demonstrations blocked key roads in rural areas and cities, effectively shutting down business as usual. The Xinka Parliament has been at the forefront of what is being called a National Strike, organizing thousands of residents in Xinka territory in Santa Rosa, Japa and Jutiapa to join the protests. Their mobilization in this key moment builds on the Xinka People’s decades-long effort to defend their territory from Pan American Silver’s Escobal silver mine and other large-scale projects that threaten their livelihoods and way of life.
Noé Gómez Barrera was key to this organizing. Mr. Barrera, a much loved and respected father, grandpa, and Xinka Ancestral Authority, was assassinated near his home on October 28, 2023. His murder has sent shock waves of grief, outrage and fear throughout Xinka territory as many believe the attack to be in response to Mr. Barrera’s leadership during the National Strike, as well as his decades-long role in defense of Xinka land and water. Beginning in 2002 Mr. Barrera fought for Xinka rights in Jutiapa against the company Renewable Energy Alternative (Alternativa de Energía Renovable in Spanish) and has closely accompanied his daughter, Emy Gómez, who is a key member of the Xinka Parliament staff and a prominent leader in the pro-democracy protests, as well as Xinka-led opposition to the Escobal mine.
Xinka leaders have faced violence, threats and heightened security risks since the imposition of the Escobal mine in 2012, and especially as the court-ordered consultation over the Escobal mine advances. In September of this year, U.S. Congresswoman Cori Bush and 12 other members of Congress sent a letter to the State Department expressing profound concern for the security of the Xinka people. The Representatives called for the State Department to play an active role in ensuring an effective response to any further act of repression against the Xinka people.
This week, Earthworks joins over 100 organizations to express solidarity with the Xinka Parliament of Guatemala and the human rights defenders who are part of the Peaceful Resistance of Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Jutiapa, and to demand justice for the assassination of Noé Gómez Barrera. We express concern for the safety of Xinka Parliament staff, Board and Ancestral Authorities and echo their call for an end to criminalization and violence against Xinka leaders and human rights defenders.