Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dean Brackley, S.J.

Today, The University of Scranton honored Dean Brackley, S.J. of the University of Central America Jose Simeon Canas with the 2010 Pedro Arrupe, S.J. Award for distinguished contributions to Ignation mission and ministries.

Father Brackley is a professor of Theology and Philospohical Ethics.  He currently serves as the rector of the UCA in San Salvador, a position he has held since he volunteered to go to El Salvador following the deaths of the six Jesuit martys in 1989.

Father Arrupe was the twenty eighth Superior General of the Society of Jesus, serving from 1965 until 1983.  In speaking of education, Arrupe said
Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-and-women-for-others; men and women who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ—for the God-human who lived and died for all the world; men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men and women completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce. (Pedro Arrupe: Essential Writings, Kevin Burke, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books 2004, p. 173)

A well-deserved honor.  Congratulations.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Revolution will now be Twittered

From CNN
one of the most controversial world leaders– is planning to join Twitter.
Not only that. He wants to dominate it.
“Comandante Chavez is going to open his Twitter account soon to wage the battle online,” Diosdado Cabello, head of the country’s telecommunications regulator, said on state television, according to the news organization.

“I’m sure he’ll break records for numbers of followers.”
Chavez responds to US electronic warfare with a little Twitter.  This is getting good.

Slain 'homeless hero'

On Sunday, I wrote about the good samaritan from Guatemala killed in Queens.  At the time, I asked what happened to the woman who he was supposed to have saved from an attack. 

The NYPD are obviously looking for her.  However, they believe that she hasn't yetcome forward because she knows the person who attacked her and doesn't want him to get in trouble.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Guatemalan Good Samaritan Killed

Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax was a Guatemalan immigrant living and working in Queens.  He was stabbed to death Sunday morning because he tried to prevent an attack on a woman.

How does anyone not call the cops?  What happened to the woman being assaulted?  Did she not call the cops following the attack?

How is this supposed to be a good idea?

From the Latin American Herald Tribune
Prison officials told reporters Saturday that the 45 gangbangers, members of the feared Mara 18 youth gang that rioted in the Fraijanes jail, at some 22 kilometers (14 miles) southeast of the capital, were taken to the Area 18 pre-trial detention facility on the city’s north side.

They said that upon being moved from the maximum-security Fraijanes jail, the inmates freed a guard in that prison, and when taken to the detention facility they released the other agent.

The gang members rioted in the two jails simultaneously as a way of getting themselves moved to the less strict detention facility, where another 365 members of youth gangs are being held.

The authorities, according to delegates of the human rights prosecutor’s office who were the mediators on Friday night, signed an agreement with the inmates to put an end to the riots.

The agreement entailed moving the 45 youth-gang members to the pre-trial detention facility, and they in turn committed themselves to not run extortion networks from jail nor ask their families to bring them illegal objects.

Colbert on the Arizona Immigration Fiasco

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Dashed Hopes

There's an interesting story by Oscar Rene Oliva in the Latin American Herald Tribune about the plight of Guatemalan immigrants to the United States.  It identifies several topics to consider when discussing both legal and illegal immigration in the classroom (as my US-LA class did this week using Greg's book).
The hopes of most that "set off in search of the “American dream” end in frustration
Repatriated migrants return deeper in debt with traffickers charging a non-refundable $4,000 - $6,000.
It's difficult to identify "the traffickers because they’re often camouflaged among the migrants.” 
Women “are highly vulnerable to sexual exploitation and white slavery.”
"Children are taken to serve as beggars, gum vendors or clowns.”

Approximately 80% of the Central American migrants traveling through Mexico are exploited.

Immigration leads to broken and/or separated families and people losing touch with their culture.

Governments can't "tell people not to migrate, because it is a right that is linked to development.”
At the same time, remittances create new problems including a dependency on relatives living overseas.  The $100 or $200 sent from the US is more than many would make working.
Remittances are not invested to satisfy long-term needs.  Guatemalans tend to use them to meet basic survival needs (food and shelter) or on luxury goods (Sky and Direct TV).
Children don't concentrate on their education.  Instead, they focus on following a parent to the US.
And the final kicker

Despite the risks and the constant deportations in handcuffs, during the flight, Guatemalans will not stop pursuing the “American dream,” Maldonado said.
I'll bet that very few of those involved with the recent Arizona immigration bill have thought about any of these problems.  Actually, I'm not sure that they care.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tikal Investment

From the Agence France-Presse via Inquirer Global Nation
Japan has donated $6 million to build a conservation and research center at Tikal in northern Guatemala, the largest archaeological site and urban center of the Maya civilization, a Japanese diplomatic source said Monday.
The complex, to hold laboratories for archaeological research and a digital archive center, will also store and display Mayan relics at Tikal National Park, a popular Unesco World Heritage Site near the Belize border, said Japanese embassy official Jisasi Ueno.

More Sofia files

From the Washington Post
Guatemala's government handed over a military document on Thursday containing evidence soldiers massacred villagers during the country's civil war which could help prosecute top officials for genocide.
A copy of a military file dating from the 1980s, complete with maps, telegrams and hand-written patrol reports about an operation known as "Plan Sofia," was mailed anonymously to President Alvaro Colom last year.
Colom's government verified its authenticity and passed it to the attorney general's office, which has a long-running case against the Central American country's former dictator, Efrain Rios Montt, accusing him of ordering the murder of thousands of civilians....
These documents paint a picture of command responsibility," said Andrew Hudson of the Washington-based group Human Rights First. "When put together they show Rios Montt and the top commanders were aware of and were directing a policy which the United Nations says constituted genocide," he told Reuters.

Jesuit Padre Melo in Honduras

From John Donaghy at Hermano Juancito
Statement of the Jesuits of Honduras
The superiors of the Society of Jesus in Honduras, in the face of the threats and duress that repeatedly target Father Ismael Moreno, S.J. (Padre Melo), we declare the following before national and international public opinion:
First: We denounce the fact that in the last few weeks Padre Melo has been the object of death threats by unknown persons through text messages and calls to his dell phone. Such threats are related to the humanitarian decision to provide protection for the young woman Irma Melissa Villanueva in a case already known by the Public Ministry’s District Attorney’s office and by various national and international human rights organizations.

Second: we affirm that the relation of Padre Melo with Irma Melissa and her family is exclusively in terms of the actions that occurred on August 14 in Choloma, the day Irma Melissa accused various policemen of having raped her on the occasion of a march of the Resistance in that city. The action of Padre Melo is in the framework of a Christian commitment in the face of situations that require the humanitarian accompaniment of members of religious communities such as he.

Third: we note that the threats against Padre Melo don’t refer only to him. The Society of Jesus denounces the fact that Gerardo Chévez, Radio Progreso reporter, also is receiving threats and intimidation for his informative work in the Radio.

Fourth: we note that on Friday, April 17, Father Valentín Menéndez, S.J., superior of the Jesuits in El Progreso, Yoro, presented a formal complaint (denunciation) to the Special District Attorney for Human Rights in San Pedro Sula in which he asked that there be an ongoing investigation of the threats and duress against Padre Melo.

Fifth: we demand that the national authorities conduct a diligent and effective investigation of the deeds which have been denounced and we make an urgent appeal to national and international human rights organizations to follow up on this case.

Released in the city of El Progreso, in the department of Yoro, the nineteenth of April, 2010.

Valentín Menéndez S.I.
Superior of the Jesuits of El Progreso.
Carlos Solano S.I.
Superior of the Jesuits of Yoro
Juan José Colato S.I.
Superior of the Jesuits of Tocoa.

CICIG Update

On Tuesday, CICIG Commission Carlos Castresana argued that his commission has so far been successful in curbing impunity in Guatemala.  

Mr. Castresana noted that its work had led to the dismissal of almost 2,000 policemen, about 15 per cent of the national force, an attorney-general, 10 prosecutors and three justices of the Supreme Court.
“We have sent to jail 130 individuals, the kind of people who had never been prosecuted in Guatemala before, a former president, a former defence minister, a former finance minister [and] two acting directors of the national police.” (UN News)
According to The Guatemala Times, Castresana also said
that the country had reached a turning point now, where the rule of law was improving. The United Nations had given a hand to the Guatemalan people and its institutions, which were threatened by transnational criminal groups. In the 1980s, the human rights violators were the States in the region, and citizens had to be protected from the State. Today, however, the main abusers were non-State actors. The challenge, for which Guatemala had sought international support, was to build institutions strong enough to protect its citizens and to provide for their real enjoyment of human rights.
He is also calling on the international community to extend the commission's mandate to include organized crime and corruption issues.  It's unclear how long Castresana want to have CICIG's mandate extended, however.
Asked how long the fight against impunity would take, he estimated that dismantling the illegal groups of the past war would take some 10 years, but that that task was one to be undertaken by Guatemalans. The mandate was not broad enough and should include organized crime and corruption issues. (The Guatemala Times)
I'm not sure why dismantling illegal groups originating from the period of the country's civil war is going to take ten years (not five or twenty?) and how or why he distinguishes between illegal groups from the war and those created in the postwar period. 

I'm also worried that CICIG will declare victory in having reformed the state and will divert its attention away from the state by having the organization to take on new responsibilities.  The institutional reforms are going to stall without continued pressure from CICIG and it is in the medium- and long-term interests of the Guatemalan people to strengthen their own institutions to tackle organized crime and corruption.

 See also here and here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Family Reunion

Pro Busqueda is a Salvadoran organization dedicated to reuniting families separated during the country's civil war.  ContraPunto recently posted a video highlighting a family reunion that occurred twenty-seven years after the family was separated.

Monday, April 19, 2010

That's a new one

Hot off the pages of

A senior Iranian cleric says women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes.
Iran is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, and the cleric's unusual explanation for why the earth shakes follows a prediction by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that a quake is certain to hit Tehran and that many of its 12 million inhabitants should relocate.
"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media.
I'm confused.  Last I heard from Hugo Chavez via Fox News, the US was responsible for causing earthquakes.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

50,000 Guatemalans a Year Emigrate to U.S.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune
Most of the estimated 50,000 Guatemalans who leave their country every year with hopes of reaching the United States are undocumented, according to the secretary of the government council charged with looking out for the emigrants, known as Conamigua.
“They risk their lives to travel by way of Mexico in search of the so-called American dream. Many don’t succeed and return disappointed and deeper in debt,” Erick Maldonado said here Friday in an interview with Efe.
The official, appointed to the post in October 2008, said that close to 1.6 million Guatemalans are living in the United States, of whom as many as half are undocumented.

“In Los Angeles and its suburbs alone there are some 600,000 Guatemalans,” he said.
"According to estimates, 50,000 Guatemalans travel annually to the United States. A high percentage of them go overland through Mexico,” Maldonado said.
Nothing profound to say about this.  I'm just thinking that it is in everyone's best interest that we come up with a long-term solution.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Presidential Approval Ratings

The Nicaraguan M&R Consultores recently published approval ratings for the presidents of Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador.  The polls were carried out electronically between March 18 and April 8, so take them for what you will.

Mauricio Funes of El Salvador remains popular with 67% approving of his performance.  Funes is followed by Porfirio Lobo of Honduras with 47%.  Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom checks in with 45%.  Finally, Daniel Ortega limps in with 23%.

Former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez on Trial

Former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez went on trial Wednesday in a corruption case that forced him to resign as head of the Organization of American States six years ago...
Rodriguez is charged with taking bribes in exchange for giving the Latin American branch of the French telecom company Alcatel a $149 million cell phone contract with the Costa Rican Electricity Institute while he was president in 2001.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of four years in prison. However, Rodriguez would be unlikely to go to jail if convicted because Costa Rica generally provides probation to those with no criminal record who get sentenced to four years or less.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Zetas in the News

In Guatemala
The chief of the anti-drug office in Guatemala's Peten region has been arrested for allegedly passing information to Mexico's Zetas drug gang.
Prosecutors charge officer Noe Vasquez sent text messages to an imprisoned Zetas leader to warn the gang about police raids and searches in the prison.
And in El Salvador
President Mauricio Funes says Mexico's Zeta drug gang has entered El Salvador and has made contact with local gangs in what appears to be an exploration of opportunities.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Vatican has not finished alienating the human race

Glad to see that the Catholic Church has its PR strategy now in place.
As the scandal over sexual abuse of children by priests has spread, some in the Catholic Church have called for a review of the Church's rule that prohibits priests from marrying, saying marriage would allow priests to enjoy a healthy sex life.
Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, who is sometimes called the "deputy pope," told a news conference in Santiago on Monday:
"Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and pedophilia, but many others have shown, I have recently been told, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia."

A Turnaround in Remittances to El Salvador

From the Latin American Herald Tribune
Remittances sent by Salvadorans living abroad – mostly in the United States – rose 8.7 percent in March, compared to the same month in 2009, to $343.2 million, El Salvador’s Central Bank reported.
“This is first positive rate observed since October 2008,” the Central Bank said.
Remittances last month were $27.2 million higher than in March 2009.

The increase in remittances was the result of the “positive influence of Holy Week,” the Central Bank said.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Worse than War

On Wednesday night, PBS will air "Worse than War."  The film is based on the book of the same name written and published by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen.  The book and film explore the causes of mass killing from a rationalist approach.
that genocide does not “break out” but is always planned; that those who initiate it are making a rational decision based on political gain; that it feeds off of longstanding fears and reflects a confidence on the part of the perpetrators that there will be no consequences.
Goldhagen's arguments sound similar to last week's readings by Stathis Kalyvas and Benjamin Valentino in my Comparative Civil Wars class .   His recommendation of a rapid reaction force sounds familiar to tomorrow night's Morton Abramowitz and Thomas Pickering's essay from Foreign Affairs.  Abramowitz and Pickering, like many others, call for the creation of a permanent military force capable of being called into immediate action.  However, Goldhagen looks for the establishment of a force that would operate outside of the UN.

I mention the film because Guatemala is apparently one of the countries highlighted in his work.
Its dramatic high point involves Mr. Goldhagen’s stalking Efraín Ríos Montt, the former dictator, through the halls of Guatemala’s Parliament until Mr. Ríos Montt agrees to talk about the killings of Mayan villagers during his time as ruler. As a smiling Mr. Ríos Montt says that he would be in jail if he were responsible for the deaths of 200,000 Mayans, Mr. Goldhagen’s voice on the soundtrack says, “Staring into the eyes of this killer, I feel outrage and disgust.”
Unfortunately, I have class tomorrow night.  If you get a chance to check out the film, please let me know whether it is worth watching.

New Book on El Salvador

Hopefully, I'll get to the book this summer.  In the meantime, I thought readers might be interested in this new book on El Salvador by Ellen Moodie.

El Salvador in the Aftermath of Peace: Crime, Uncertainty, and the Transition to Democracy challenges the pronouncements of policy analysts and politicians by examining Salvadoran daily life as told by ordinary people who have limited influence or affluence. Anthropologist Ellen Moodie spent much of the decade after the war gathering crime stories from various neighborhoods in the capital city of San Salvador. True accounts of theft, assaults, and murders were shared across kitchen tables, on street corners, and in the news media. This postconflict storytelling reframed violent acts, rendering them as driven by common criminality rather than political ideology.

Moodie shows how public dangers narrated in terms of private experience shaped a new interpretation of individual risk. These narratives of postwar violence--occurring at the intersection of self and other, citizen and state, the powerful and the powerless--offered ways of coping with uncertainty during a stunted transition to democracy.

Ellen Moodie teaches anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Life of Bishop Gerardi on the Big Screen

From Danilo Valladares at the IPS
Now a feature film has been made with the support of the Archdiocese of Guatemala's Human Rights Office as a tribute to the life and tenacious social commitment of Gerardi (1922-1998).
"Many people first heard of Gerardi on account of his death, and all the twists and turns in the investigation of this terrible murder, but it's important to know about his life and track record," Spanish-born priest Santiago Otero, the bishop's biographer and screenwriter for the movie, told IPS.
The 90-minute film "Gerardi", which premièred Mar. 26, narrates the life of the prelate when he was in charge of the diocese of the northwestern province of Quiché, one of the areas that suffered most during the war, as well as his exile in Costa Rica and his work compiling the Guatemala: Never Again report.

It highlights his fight for victims of the war to have access to truth and justice. "His message was that Guatemala can pursue paths of change, reconciliation and forgiveness in order to consolidate and rebuild the social fabric destroyed by the civil war," Otero said.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tenant Arrested in Florida College Professor's Murder

My prayers go out to the Morrissey family in Florida.
Florida police arrested the tenant of a murdered college professor, reported.
Forty-six-year-old Joseph Morrissey, who taught at Nova Southeastern, was fatally stabbed in a home invasion in Plantation, Fla., last Monday, the site reported.
Randy Tundidor Sr., a tenant of Morrissey, was charged Friday with murder, kidnapping, robbery, home invasion and arson. Tundidor's son, Randy Jr., was questioned by authorities as a "person of interest" and arrested for violating probation, reported.
Police said Morrissey and his wife were confronted by a robber who walked them to an ATM machine before tying the couple up at home and setting the kitchen on fire, according to the site.

Brotherly love

According to a report in Inside Costa Rica, the Nicaraguan vice president assures the people of Costa Rica that they need not fear the colossus to their north.  

Jaime Morales, Nicaragua's vice-president, said on Thursday that Costa Rica does not have to fear a military attack by Nicaragua, as Costa Rica has 'A Police better equipped than any army".

The comments by the Nicaraguan VP were made on Nicaragua's local television channel 12, rejecting claims of a Costa Rican newspaper that the Army of Nicaragua is "armed to the teeth" and constitutes a threat to the southern neighbor.

"Costa Rica has always said it has no army, but has a better equipped police that any army. You do not have tanks, helicopters or aircraft, but has a super well-armed police, and very large also," he said.

Morales explained that Nicaragua only seeks to defend its sovereignty against drug trafficking and other external threats, but "not to attack or to have confrontations with neighbors (because) they are our brothers."

"These are myths, rumors and gossip," he insisted to play down the report by the Costa Rican newspaper Al Día.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Organized Crime Coordination

 According to Inside Costa Rica,
Guatemalan and Salvadorian police forces signed an agreement at the border post Pedro Alvarado to increase joint efforts to confront delinquency and organized crime in Central America.
Both parties stated that want to speed up the information exchange to carry out a more effective work against drug trafficker, hooligans and people traders.
 The agreement includes supplying information on criminal security methods, criminal profiling of those people arrested, kidnapper's groups and robbery gangs from both countries.

Organized crime groups use at least 40 border post of the 126-mile border between Guatemala and El Salvador to deal drugs, arms and people.

Phototography Opportunities for Guatemalan Youth

Check out Fotokids for an uplifting story about their effort to provide kids with an alternative to gangs and street life.  They are an "organisation that attempts to bring young people in Guatemala out of poverty by providing training in the visual arts." 

The pictures used in the article are worth the visit.

Honduran Official Dies In Guatemala

According to Inside Costa Rica,
The Presidential Commissioner for the southern zone of Honduras, Salomon Jaar, has died in Guatemala after a robbery, said Reinaldo Sanchez, private secretary of Honduran president, on Thursday...
Jaar died of a heart attack after being robbed on a highway 30 kilometers away from Guatemala City when he was driving a car with his relatives.
Jaar took office in February and managed the reactivation of the aid and financing of agriculture for the southern zone of Honduras.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ron Zacapa

If you are traveling to Guatemala, be sure to pick up a bottle of Ron Zacapa for your friends at home.
Ron Zacapa 23 is a beautiful blend of 6- to 23-year-old rum, formulated by Spanish doctor and chemist Alejandro Burgaleta in Guatemala.

Zacapa is produced from virgin sugar cane honey. It is then aged in Guatemala using the Sistema Solera in old bourbon, sherry and Pedro Ximenez barrels. The Sistema Solera is a process also used in the production of sherry, madeira and other wines and spirits.

The process is essentially a rotation of product — rum in this scenario, from younger batches to older barrels. When they pull the rum to bottle from the older barrels, the rum is replaced by younger rum from other barrels. In the end, the master blender chooses rum varying in age to produce the final blend. This unique process is very rarely used in aging rum, giving Ron Zacapa a special place in the premium rum market.

Ron Zacapa Rum has a mahogany appearance with great butterscotch, oak and raisined fruit flavors. The nose is a mix of vanilla and caramel aromas accompanied by a very nutty, toasty and toffeed banana smell.

On the palate, Zacapa has a complex, full-bodied feel in the mouth, more reminiscent of liqueur. In the mouth, raisined fruit and notes of tobacco and leather accompany the flavors of oak, vanilla and cinnamon. Zacapa has a very balanced flavor, allowing for a smooth and pleasant finish.

Although Ron Zacapa 23 can be mixed in any traditional rum cockatails, I enjoy it either neat or on the rocks. Recognized as the “cognac” of rums, I treat this product as I would any fine brandy, scotch or any other sipping spirit.

Ron Zacapa has received numerous accolades over the years, including a gold medal in the premium category at a rum tasting held in Barbados in 1998. It is gaining popularity and recognition across the globe, making the rum industry as well as Guatemalans proud along the way.
 I used to enjoy Flor de Caña while I was in El Salvador, but if you have some spare change lying around, Zacapa is the premier choice.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Argentina's stuggle for justice

Marcela Valente at IPS News has an interesting write-up about some of the challenges that Argentina confronts as it continues to pursue justice for crimes committed during the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983. Several plantiffs, court employees, and witnesses have suffered harrassment, assault, intimidation, and death as a result of their involvement in the cases.

Silvia Suppo might be the most recent person to be victimized again. 
In 1977, Suppo was kidnapped at the age of 18 and taken to a provincial police station where she was tortured and raped by her captors. When she became pregnant as a result, she was made to abort.
Her testimony played a key role in the December conviction of six human rights violators in Santa Fe, who were found guilty of torture and kidnapping. One of the six was former federal judge Víctor Brusa, the first judicial employee in Argentina convicted of crimes against humanity, for which he was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Two former provincial police officers were also sentenced to 23 years in prison, two former civilian officials to 22 years, and the former prison guard who took Suppo to have an abortion was given a sentence of 19 years, becoming the first woman to be convicted for her participation in the "dirty war" against political dissent.

Suppo was also a witness in other cases of kidnappings committed in 1977, including that of Reinaldo Hammeter, one of the dictatorship's 10,000 to 30,000 victims of forced disappearance (depending on the source of the statistic - the government truth commission or human rights groups). She was scheduled to testify against four people charged in the Hammeter case.

The government's National Human Rights Secretary Eduardo Duhalde and Santa Fe Deputy Governor Gabriela Tessio said that no possible leads should be ruled out.
Suppo was killed after being stabbed several times during an attack last week that might or might not have been a robbery.
Suppo was initially thought to have been killed during a robbery. But human rights groups and authorities speculate that she may have been killed in order to silence her, as she planned to testify in court again.
The 51-year-old woman was brutally stabbed a number of times Monday in her shop in Rafaela, a city in the eastern province of Santa Fe, and money and merchandise were taken...
"The level of brutality was odd, for supposed thieves. It might have been a hired killing made to look like a robbery," Tessio speculated.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Social cleansing or gang murders?

According to the Latin American Herald Tribune,
 Four people were killed and two others wounded in a possibly gang-related attack in central El Salvador, El Diario de Hoy newspaper reported Thursday, citing police.
The bloodbath took place Tuesday on the outskirts of San Jose Villanueva, 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of San Salvador, according to the head of the national police homicide division, Marco Tulio Lima.
He described the assailants as between five and eight heavily armed men dressed in black with their faces covered.

Apparently looking for gang tattoos, the intruders ordered all the males present to lift their shirts, Lima said.

Two of the fatalities were former members of the powerful Mara Salvatrucha gang, the detective said, suggesting the killings might have been carried out by members of the rival Mara 18 group.
According to the article, the killings were most likely carried out by members of Mara Salvatrucha or Mara 18.  From the article, however, it seems more likely that the killings were carried out by a death squad involved in the social cleansing of gang members.  It doesn't appear as if the intruders had specific people in mind during the attack.  They simply targeted males with tattoos.  In this case, they killed two people who had left Mara Salvatrucha. 

Unfotunately, the killing of former gang members makes it more difficult for existing gang members who contemplate leaving to actually leave gang life behind.  They might conclude that it is safer to be part of a gang.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, a Guatemalan appellate court overturned the decision to grant parole to Col. Byron Disrael Lima Estrada, one of the individuals convicted in the killing of Bishop Juan Gerardi.
Presiding Judge Carlos Contreras said the ruling was reversed due to irregularities in the reports Lima Estrada submitted to secure his release for good behavior.

The irregularities were detected in reports related to a work-and-study program that Lima Estrada supposedly carried out while at the Military Medical Center – a prerequisite for requesting a sentence reduction, Contreras said.

The human rights office of the Guatemala City Archdiocese stated last week that Lima Estrada had been spent two years at the medical center due to alleged “serious health problems” and therefore was unable to perform legally required social work.