This is a critical week in Guatemala’s fragile democracy as that country’s outgoing president and its beleaguered president-elect meet to talk about the transition of power.
With the eyes of the world on the central American country of Guatemala, many of its millions of Indigenous citizens are getting ready to take action against what they call a coup attempt by a corrupt justice official, as Maria Martin reports from Guatemala.
Outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei says he wants a transparent and efficient government transition, but the reformist President-elect Bernardo Arévalo said in a televised interview right before the start of transition talks, that there’s a contradiction between protocol and President Giammattei’s failure to condemn his justice department’s attempts to disqualify Arévalo’s Semilla (Seed Party).
“I would hope the president would come out strongly against these spurious legal actions.”
Meanwhile, pro-democracy protests continue in Guatemala city and throughout the country, calling for an end to government interference with the election process and what protesters think is an attempt to block the country’s newly-elected president-elect from taking power despite the transition talks.
“This is just the start until the new president takes power on January 14.”
Virgilio Gerónimo Bernal Guzmán, the Indigenous mayor of Nebaj, Quiché, joined other ancestral authorities in Maya communities to call on the country’s attorney general and her “cronies” to resign, as he says they’re attempting a coup to thwart the constitutional order.
If they don’t stop these illegal actions, he says, Indigenous groups will step up their protests.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced $2.5 million in grants to three Alaska Native Corporations.
They’re part of a $20 million dollar appropriation from Congress to clean up contaminated lands that were conveyed to Native corporations under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
The announcement came when EPA Administrator Michael Regan made the final stop of his Alaska tour last week in Fairbanks.
Administrator Regan says this first round of funding barely addresses the problem.
“Just the breadth of contaminated lands, contaminated conveyed lands is astounding. And so, in addition to this $20 million we had a lot of discussions with local leaders about how we could devise strategies to acquire resources from other programs.”
Administrator Regan also visited Utqiagvik last week, where the Ukpeaġvik Inupiat Corporation (UIC) is based.
It will receive $600,000 to remove asbestos and other contaminants from the old U.S. Navy Arctic Research Center, as well as clean-up an oil spill.
Pearl Brower, president of UIC, says this site is just a small portion of lands in the region that need clean-up, but called it a good first step.
She says she looks forward to a time when her children and grandchildren can subsist off of clean land and water.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who championed the legislation, is also working to find other sources of federal money to clean-up more Native Corporation lands, which she calls an “injustice perpetrated by the federal government”.
“It thwarts their ability to fulfill the promise of ANCSA, (which) was that they would be able to utilize their lands for the betterment of their people. But when your lands are contaminated and you can’t access them for development, much less berry picking. That’s not keeping our promise.”
The Tyonek and Ounalashka Corporations will each receive $1 million in funding.
Tyonek will use the money to inventory and clean-up contaminants on the Iniskin Peninsula.
The Ounalashka Corporation will target pollution from World War II, removing soil contaminated with PCB’s as well as sampling soil and water at a warehouse in Dutch Harbor.
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