Guatemalan Activists Threatened

01 Sep 2011

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.

Attorney General
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
Casa Presidencial
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.

Executive Director

What are some steps you can take to save money and reduce your carbon footprint?

Here are ten good ones, courtesy of Terry Tamminen, author of
Lives per Gallon: The True Cost of Our Oil Addiction.


1.  Adjust your thermostat by two degrees (cooler in winter, warmer in summer), to save one ton of greenhouse gas emissions a year.

2.  Switch out incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescents and save three hundred pounds of greenhouse gases per bulb.  Switching ten bulbs saves 1.5 tons of greenhouse gases and cuts the household electric bill by seventy-five dollars a year.

3.  Insulate your hot water heater with a simple thermal “jacket” and save 550 pounds of greenhouse gases a year.

4.  Replace air-conditioner filters to save 350 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions a year.

5.  Unplug “vampire” electronics that suck up electricity even when turned off—TVs, VCRs, DVD players, cable boxes, chargers—anything that is instant-on or that has a blinking light. The typical household will save a half ton of greenhouse gases just by making sure “off” is really off.

6.  Wash clothes in cold water and save one ton of greenhouse gases.

7.  Dry clothes on clotheslines and save nearly one and a half tons of greenhouse gases.

8.  Take mass transit or telecommute once a week to save one ton of greenhouse gases.

9.  Check tire inflation every week to increase fuel efficiency by three percent and save a quarter ton of greenhouse gases (as most drivers have chronically under-inflated tires, which makes the engine work harder and burn more gas).

10.  Lose ten pounds—the average weight gain for Americans in the past ten years.  Airlines use 350 million more gallons of jet fuel every year hauling around those extra pounds.

Bonus items to substitute where necessary: eat fresh food, not frozen (fresh consumes ninety percent less energy); eat less beef (the production of beef, pound for pound, uses up more energy than any other food); avoid bottled water and disposable grocery bags; buy local produce and other foods to avoid the 1,300 miles the average American plate travels on its way to the dinner table, using fossil fuels all the way.

More substantial steps: plant a vegetable garden, weatherize your home, install a solar water heating system or solar electric panels.

From Eco Barons by Edward Humes; reprinted with permission of Terry Tamminen.