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Guatemala: Threats, intimidation and false accusations against human rights defender Ms Lucia Carolina Escobar Mejía
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.
This is reported to be carried out by hooded death squads acting as local security juntas. Lucia Carolina Escobar Mejía works as a columnist and correspondent for El Periódico in the municipality of Panajachel in Sololá, as well as operating a local radio station, named RADIO ATI.
On 28 October 2011, Lucia Carolina Escobar Mejía received two text messages via the internet after lodging a complaint to the Public Prosecutor of Crimes Against Journalists and Trade Unionists regarding the false accusations and intimidation which she had been subjected to four days previously.
The first message read, “De: G. Montejo, van a llegar a tu casa por la noche, saca la mercancía antes de las 5 para que no te soquen” (From: G Montejo: They are going to arrive at your house at night time, remove the merchandise before 5 so they don't take you away).
The second message read, “De Dios: cuando los que te apoyan estan lejos de ti lo mas probable es que tu hayas quedado sola” (From: God: when those that support you are far from you, the most likely explanation is that you have been left alone).
These messages appear to be a continuation of the attempts to discredit and intimidate Lucia Carolina Escobar Mejía.
On 24 October 2011, Mr Gerardo Higueros, current Mayor of Panajachel and owner of the local cable network, appeared on the evening news bulletin on local cable channel Panadish in an attempt to publicly discredit those denouncing the actions of the Security Commission. He claimed that there exists information concerning the people acting against the Security Commission which could be used against them, and he accused Lucia Carolina Escobar Mejía of being a drug trafficker.
Making direct reference to an article written by the human rights defender on 19 October 2011 entitled “De cuervos, ojos y demonios” (Of ravens, eyes and demons), he stated that Lucia Carolina Escobar Mejía did not deserve to rest at the bottom of a lake, but rather in a rubbish dump.
All of the members of the Security Commission appeared on this bulletin, including Ms Teresa Cohello and Messrs Juan Manuel Ralón and Víctor Anleu, each of whom had been accused of concealing the truth by Lucia Carolina Escobar Mejía in the aforementioned article.
A complaint has been lodged by the human rights defender to the Public Ministry Office of the Public Prosecutor of Crimes Against Journalists and Trade Unionists, and the Human Rights Unit of the National Civil Police is supporting the investigation. The Minister of Governance has been kept informed regarding the details of the case and is currently seeking to implement provisional protective measures.
Front Line believes that the threats, intimidation and false accusations against Lucia Carolina Escobar Mejía are directly related to her legitimate work in the defence of human rights, in particular her columns and articles which have led to the publication of further articles and the launch of an investigation into the conduct of the local security juntas in Panajachel. Front Line is seriously concerned for the physical and psychological integrity and security of Lucia Carolina Escobar Mejía.