UPDATE: Guatemalan human rights defender Rubén Herrera has been released!
Rubén Herrera has been released following a decision by a Guatemalan court. Thousands of people around the world gave their support to a Friends of the Earth International email campaign.
Rubén Herrera’s most recent hearing resulted in a provisional decision to grant his release. Friends of the Earth International will continue to monitor the situation. Family and friends have expressed their thanks to everyone around the world who sent an email to the Guatemalan authorities calling for his release.
Rubén Herrera was arrested as he left his house in Huehuetenango district, Guatemala on March 15 this year.
Rubén has been an active community organiser, working on many environmental and social justice campaigns and bringing together networks and organizations commited to social good for most of his adult life.
The flimsy reasons for his arrest – including incitement and kidnapping – were decisively refuted by Rubén and his defense during a hearing on March 19. However, despite requests by Guatemala’s Public Prosecutor to dismiss the case due to a lack of evidence, the judge ordered that the case continue and that Rubén Herrera return to court at the end of May. Following this hearing, the judge decided to release him.
Rubén’s case is part of a deeply disturbing cycle of criminalization of human rights and environmental activists in his part of Guatemala (Barillas, Huehuetenango). Spanish company Hidralia SA is building a hydroelectric dam in the area, despite 90% of local community members voicing their opposition to and voting against the implementation of hydroelectric and mining projects in a 2007 consultation. Local communities have repeatedly implicated the company in political repression, intimidation and manipulation of local and national legal processes in recent years. Rubén has been involved in efforts to demand that the company pull out of the area.
Read more about the controversies surrounding transnational corporations in Guatemala
Read an interview with the director of Friends of the Earth Guatemala