Guatemala: Suppressing dissent at home and abroad. Human rights defenders in Guatemala are facing the worst environment since the civil war.

by Janet Redman, Emira Woods and John Cavanagh

It’s a rare occasion when the president of a small Central American country tries to get a U.S. Senate aide fired. But Guatemala’s Otto Pérez Molina is not having the typical term.Pérez Molina presided last year over the sharpest escalation in targeted attacks on human rights defenders since Guatemala’s armed conflict ended in 1996. Attacks on human rights defenders—a term encompassing journalists, judicial workers, unionists, indigenous leaders, and others working for basic rights—increased last year by 126 percent, by far the greatest jump recorded in any year in post-war Guatemala. Eighteen human rights defenders were assassinated, a 72-percent increase over 2012, even as the country’s general murder rate has decreased. Also last year, President Pérez Molina was accused of participating in genocide. A former soldier testifying during the trial of former dictator General Efrain Ríos Montt swore under oath that President Pérez Molina had committed atrocities.