Yuri Melini and Rafael Maldonado are two strong, committed environmental advocates who work with an organization called CALAS in Guatemala. A few days ago, they received packages containing crude death threats.
Such threats are not to be taken lightly. In 2008, Yuri was shot several times by masked assailants. He is still recovering from those injuries.
Yuri is the director and Rafael leads the legal program at CALAS. ELAW has worked with CALAS for years and I have been impressed by Calas’ committed advocacy for human rights and the environment. Recently, CALAS has been outspoken in challenging alleged corruption related to plans to build a liquid petroleum gas plant in a wildlife reserve in eastern Guatemala. Punta de Manabique, at the point of a peninsula separating the Bay of Amatique from the Gulf of Honduras, boasts tremendous marine and terrestrial biodiversity which would be jeopardized by the proposed gas terminal.
The violent threats against Yuri and Rafael apparently are an attempt to intimidate and silence CALAS’ work to protect human rights and the environment through lawful, legitimate means. The perpetrators of such threats also threaten all citizens seeking to participate in civil society, strengthen the rule of law, advance human rights, and build a sustainable future for Guatemala.
I hope that you will stand with Yuri and Rafael to respond to these threats. Amnesty International has issued a call to action asking people to contact the President and Attorney General in Guatemala.
Please write to these officials and urge them to stand with Yuri and Rafael, order an independent and thorough investigation into the threats to identify the person or persons responsible and hold them accountable, and provide Yuri and Rafael the protection that they and others at CALAS and their families want.
Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey
Fiscal General de la República Ministerio Público
15ª Avenida 15-16, Zona 1, Barrio Gerona
Ciudad de Guatemala,
Fax: +502 2411 9124
Salutation: Dear Attorney General / Estimada Sra. Fiscal General
President Ing. Álvaro Colom Caballeros
Presidente de la República
6ª Avenida 4-41, Zona 1,
Puerta del Centro
Ciudad de Guatemala
Fax: +502 2221 4445
Salutation: Dear President/ Estimado Sr. Presidente
These threats appear to be a violent, crude attempt to frighten and silence people who are working to participate in civil society, advance human rights, and build a sustainable future. The courage of Yuri and Rafael and everyone at CALAS in the face of these threats inspires us.
We must all stand together, so anger and violence can not defeat us.