Day 2 in Guatemala - the positive effects of jet lag

Dear Reader,

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.

Day 1 in Guatemala - a potted history

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.

Guatemala- the struggle for land, justice and human rights

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 .

Connecting with HRDs in the field: Front Line Missions posted on: 2012/04/30

In February, Front Line Defenders’ Protection Coordinator for the Americas, Caitriona Rice, travelled to Guatemala and Honduras to meet with human rights defenders.

Caitriona Rice in Guatemala - Sushi and Security Cameras

This evening I am writing from my hotel in Guatemala City, where my mission partner Annalisa Mauro, of the International Land Coalition, and I have just been making our own dinner.

UN Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya Concludes Visit to Honduras; Echoes Front Line Defenders Alert About Violence Against HRDsposted on: 2012/02/21

UN Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya concluded her official visit to Honduras with a statement summarizing her visit and listing specific recommendations to the State, to human rights defenders and to the international community.

Front Line Defenders Statement on Violence Against HRDs in the Americas 2012

The start of the new year has seen a dangerous turn for the worse for human rights defenders in the Americas. In the last 2 weeks alone, Front Line Defenders has documented a number of cases of killing, attempted killing, attacks and death threats to human rights defenders throughout the region.

Front Line Defenders is extremely concerned about the apparent increase in violence and intimidation against human rights defenders in the Americas region. As the region continues to deal with the legacy of the past and makes strides towards justice and accountability, it is more important than ever to ensure the safety and security of human rights defenders working on the front lines of securing political, social, cultural, economic and other human rights for the people of the region.

You can read more about these cases on the Americas page at and you can stay updated on news about human rights defenders around the world by signing up for the Front Line Defenders e-bulletin via the website.

Guatemala: Killing of human rights defender Mr Vidal Nahaman Cabrera Tuchposted on: 2012/01/19

Human rights defender Mr Vidal Nahaman Cabrera Tuch was shot dead on a minibus on 17 January 2012 as he travelled towards El Xab village in Retalhuleu.

Guatemala: Threats, intimidation and false accusations against human rights defender Ms Lucia Carolina Escobar Mejíaposted on: 2011/11/02

On 24 and 28 October 2011 respectively, journalist and human rights defender Ms Lucia Carolina Escobar Mejía was subjected to threats, intimidation as a result of a series of articles she wrote denouncing what she described as the social cleansing being carried out by the Security Commission of Panajachel.

Guatemala: Threats against human rights defenders Dr Yuri Giovanni Melini Salguero and Mr Pedro Rafael Maldonado Floresposted on: 2011/08/30

Human rights defenders Dr Yuri Giovanni Melini Salguero and Mr Pedro Rafael Maldonado Flores received threats on 29 August 2011. Yuri Giovanni Melini Salguero is the director of the Centro de Acción Legal, Ambiental y Social de Guatemala – CALAS (Legal, Environmental and Social Action Centre of Guatemala) and Pedro Rafael Maldonado Flores is a legal-political environmental coordinator with the same organisation.

Further Information

CALAS works to promote environmental issues, community participation and respect for the collective rights of indigenous communities in relation to environmental concerns. Yuri Giovanni Melini Salguero received the 2009 Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk. Front Line previously issued an appeal in relation to an assassination attempt against Yuri Giovanni Melini Salguero on 4 September 2008, and death threats in April 2010.

On 29 August 2011, at approximately 09:30 am, Yuri Giovanni Melini Salguero and Pedro Rafael Maldonado Flores each received a letter in a manila envelope which had been sent by registered post.