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  • Soldier in a temporary state of seige in Guatemala along the coast Sept 11, 2019

    Soldier in a temporary state of seige in Guatemala along the coast Sept 11, 2019 | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 September 2019

Guatemala’s Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart says the government is considering declaring a state of seige in Solola after centuries' old land, water dispute erupts again. 

Guatemala’s Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart said Wednesday that he is "analyzing" the idea to declare a state of emergency in two municipalities of the centrally located department of Solola after an armed conflict between two local communities left two dead and about 15 injured.

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"Indeed, we have already received a request (and) it’s being analyzed,” Degenhart told reporters Sept. 18. Procedurally, the minister will prepare a recommendation, which is sent to the president.

According to the president’s cabinet, Degenhart said, only one person has been killed over the local feud, but the prosecutor's office tells EFE that there were at least two dead and 15 wounded.

However, Solola governor, Rodolfo Salazar, confirmed the local press that at least four were killed in the shoot out. Two residents from Nahuala, Francisco Feliciano Tzoc and Florencio David de Paz were killed, says Prensa Libre, and two from Ixtahuacan, whose names are unknown because relatives took away the bodies. One of them died from a gunshot wound to the head, reports local media. 

The Assistant Director of the Human Rights Department of the Prosecutor’s Office Miguel Colop says that on the evening of Sept. 17, community members of Nahuala had entered the bordering town of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan, about 171 km from Guatemala City, to intimidate Ixtahuacan residents, resulting in deaths and injuries.

Historian Diego Vasquez Monterroso says the confrontations between Nahuala and Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan are "not new" because the municipalities, which judicially separated in the 19th century, are still arguing over territorial boundaries and water rights. 

Mayor of Nahuala, Manuel Tzoc Carrillo, says the problem persists because the "central government does not litigate the issue." He added that Nahuala residents are “dismayed” and that "the situation is very bad because the authorities cannot solve this problem” even though they have been working with residents to resolve the issue.

According to national law, the executive can decree the state of emergency for reasons of "terrorist, seditious or rebellious" acts that pose the potential for public violence, or when serious events "endanger the constitutional order or state security. "

The emergency can also be called when "acts of … kidnapping, murder, armed attacks against individuals" are occurring. The decree obliges the public to provide the military authority "with the assistance and cooperation required of them, within the scope of their capabilities," and citizens’ rights, movement and ability to protest will be restricted by state security forces.

Regarding the local conflict, in June one person was injured over the feud and another was shot dead on April 1, 2019. 

The Guatemalan government recently declared a state of emergency over more than twenty municipalities in the northeast sector of the country to allegedly combat drug trafficking after the military was attacked by narcotics groups.

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