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Once again Yuri Melini, Rafael Maldonado and their colleagues in the Centro de Acción Legal, Ambiental y Social de Guatemala (CALAS) are the subjects of a smear campaign in the Guatemalan media orchestrated by former members of the military and their supporters who seem to view any attempt to highlight the environmental impact of mining, logging or large scale agricultural monoculture projects as being part of an international communist conspiracy.
I have met Yuri Melini and Rafael Maldonado on several occasions and last year I travelled to Guatemala to see their work at first hand. CALAS works to highlight the impact on local communities of mining, logging and agriculture projects, which devastate the land, pollute the water and destroy the environment, in which communities have lived and worked for generations. Projects which are developed in the interests of the ruthless ambition of large international corporations and their local partners.
Seeing these articles suggests that to question the legitimacy of such projects is to become some kind of criminal who should be dealt with.
After meeting the community in Peronia, we received a message that there were some people in the village of San Rafael who had been receiving threats because they were challenging the policy of a mining company who they felt were trampling over their rights. We arrived to a small village in a very beautiful area with lots of trees and green fields, surrounded by mountains... the kind of place that should be a haven of tranquility.
We went to the house of Oscar, who has been the target for a series of threats and he explained to us what had been happening.
He started by setting out how we, as humans, resist or challlenge something that is unknown to us or that has not been explained properly. It is our nature, he explained.
Recently a mining company has been given a licence to mine for gold, lead, silver and zinc in the area, and already the company has started the preliminary work.
It seems a lot more than 24 hours since we arrived in Guatemala - of course it had taken 21 hours door to door, which distorts things.
Anyway, after a good night's sleep later and lots of tea, I was raring to go. So lovely to meet Yuri Melini again - the man is a ball of energy.
First we went to his office and from there to Guatemalan TV where both he and I were being interviewed. The interviewer, Karina de Rottmann, has been given an armoured car and bodyguard as she and her husband (who owns the station) are at risk because of their outspoken defence of the rights of the people in Guatemala, especially when it comes to unpopular issues like extractive mining.
Tomorrow morning we are going to visit a community, to see the impact of the mining industry on their lives.
The afternoon saw us in the attorney general's office where we discussed human rights defenders and the responsibility of the office to bring those who attack human rights defenders to justice.
You will be astonished by the positive effects of jetlag - most unusually for me, I was up at 5am this morning writing this blog which then festered for sometime in my draft email folder due to the dodgy internet connection. I suspect that the jet lag will have its revenge later in the day however.
Yesterday's first call was a visit to the office of the environmental organisation CALAS. A small, pretty house in a nice suburb with wrought iron gates, bougainvillea plants on the walls and an armed guard holding an AK 47 standing in the doorway. This security is provided by the state for the organisation, though Yuri Melini's personal protection detail has in fact been reduced by half in recent times.
We arrived at 21.30 last night after 18 hours on the road. I have a feeling that our intrepid photographer Kieran has a stash of compromising photos of me asleep during the 7 hour stop-over in Atlanta, book in one hand, coffee in the other, sound asleep and drooling... not a pretty sight!
On the way in from the airport, the protagonist of our up-coming documentary Yuri Melini, Director of CALAS, gave us a potted history of Guatemala. While the country became independent in 1821, there was no noble war of independence like in Bolivia but a political deal in which the Spanish Governor simply became the President and the colonial elite, who governed every aspect of the political and economic life of the country remained in situ.
Tomorrow morning Mary Lawlor founder and Executive Director of Front Line Defenders and I are heading off to Guatemala to make a documentary about the situation of human rights defenders told through the eyes of one man - environmentalist Yuri Melini .