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The life of journalist Rolanda García is in danger

The harrowing work of Guatemalan journalists, whose lives are threatened, is a driving force of immigration from Central America, and is part of our new film “Borderland”. Please read this guest column by Irma Alicia Velásquez Nimatuj – Pamela Yates

García’s reporting on some of Guatemala’s remotest communities has often placed her at risk.

By Irma Alicia Velásquez Nimutaj | Originally published in El Periodico, 30 November 2019

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women was celebrated on November 25th. But attacks against women in Guatemala don’t stop because they are encouraged in large part by the economic powers that be and by those who control the justice system which guarantees impunity for perpetrators. 

One current case concerns journalist Rolanda de Jesús García whose life was threatened on November 21st in the municipality of El Estor, Izabal. According to García, at 9:30am on that day, at least 20 men, who apparently work for the Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN), threatened her with machetes and tried to stop her from working in the town of Barrio Nuevo. She was going to document the nickel extraction by the company in the forest that supplies the drinking water for the county.

Security guards and employees of the CGN argued that she was on private property. They forced García to turn off her camera and leave. She accused them of “Not letting me film, they didn’t even let me take out the tripod and the camera.” She also said that judging from the number of men and the weapons they carried “it seemed that they were waiting for me” in order to prevent her from reporting. The men not only threatened her ability to carry out her work, but also endangered her life. 

García is a Guatemalan journalist who has used all means at her disposal to inform and document what is happening in the country’s most remote indigenous communities. Because of her commitment, in August 2018 García was held captive by the employees of the Oxec Hydroelectric Company in Cahabón, Alta Verapaz. She had been collaborating with the residents of the Seacté community documenting the violations by the company. She was subsequently released, but several of the community members were physically assaulted and her documentation was not returned to her.

By serving underserved communities whose voices are rarely heard, García’s life was endangered. The Guatemalan State must stand up for her right to live and inform.

Rolanda García and Santiago Botón broadcasting from their studio in Playa Grande, Guatemala

Irma A. Velásquez Nimatuj

Irma A. Velásquez Nimatuj is a Maya-K’iche’n anthropologist and journalist, currently a visiting professor at Stanford University. Irma Alicia is the lead protagonist in Skylight's documentary film "500 YEARS" and serves on Skylight's Board of Directors.

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