Monday, April 13, 2015

ACOGUATE turns 15!

This year, ACOGUATE honors 15 years providing a physical international presence to threatened Guatemalan human rights defenders as they work towards social justice and transformation. 

In 2000, NISGUA joined international accompaniment organizations from Canada and Austria to form ACOGUATE, drawing from experiences accompanying refugee communities during their return to Guatemala from Mexico in the mid 1990s. Since that time, committees from seven other European countries - including France, Sweden, Germany, Spain, England, Denmark and Switzerland - have joined the coalition. While the initial request for accompaniment came from the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR) as they launched the legal cases against former military for committing genocide and crimes against humanity during the internal armed conflict, ACOGUATE's mandate has expanded over the past 15 years to include other cases of truth and justice, labor rights and the defense of land, life, and territory. 

Since ACOGUATE's inception, more than 600 international volunteers have dedicated anywhere from 3 months to two years to this project and have returned home to continue to ensure that Guatemalan voices speaking out against human rights violations do not go unheard.

Read NISGUA's reflections on how accompaniment has changed over the years.

ACOGUATE's report, "Enduring bonds: Although we part ways, we walk together" was published to commemorate the anniversary. In the report's introduction, the founding coordinators of the project remark: 

"Celebrating 15 years is two sides of the same coin: on the one side, we value the efforts of many volunteers from different parts of the world who continue to be involved in the project; on the flipside, we are witnessing continued insecurity at the level of the state, which should be guaranteeing the rights of its citizens without exception. In spite of advances in truth, justice and defense of life in Guatemala, extreme poverty continues alongside violence, racism and the exploitation of natural resources without the free, prior and informed consent of communities."

Víctor Sales of the Departmental Assembly of Huehuetenango (ADH)
calls for continued solidarity. Photo credit: Jhonathan F. Goméz

Their comments were echoed by many of the people who attended the publication launch, including several people and organizations that we accompany.

Anselmo Roldán, the current president of the AJR and former NISGUA speaking tour participant spoke about his experiences with accompaniment:

"I remember the beginnings of international accompaniment, when agreements were made between the refugee-led Permanent Commissions and the government. At the time, accompaniment was the eyes for Guatemala as we once again reintegrated into our normal lives and continued our fight for justice. We must recognize this important work - a type of accompaniment that is up close and personal, near to us, that each accompanier plays a role in our struggle. They are our compañeros. They help us denounce what is happening - not only the crimes of the past but the current reality as well. 

Thank you. I am grateful to the international accompaniment that is present today and continues to act in solidarity with Guatemala."

AJR President Anselmo Roldán speaks about the importance of ongoing
accompaniment.  Photo credit: Jhonathan F. Goméz

Online copies of ACOGUATE's publication are expected soon.

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