Saturday, October 30, 2010

Honduran Soccer Field Massacre

Hondurans suffer another massacre.
A carful of attackers armed with assault rifles drove up to a football field in a poor Honduran neighborhood Saturday and opened fire, killing at least 14 people.
Armando Calidonio, vice minister of security, said the gunmen shot from point-blank range at the victims, who were known to gather there to play football.
Ten were killed at the scene and four died as they were being taken to the hospital. More were wounded — some gravely, Calidonio said, though the number was not clear.

The attackers numbered about five, but police did not have any suspects.

"We still do not know the motive of this tragedy," Calidonio told reporters.

Mark your Calendars

From Inside Costa Rica
The Nicaraguan Supreme Electoral Council officially convoked political parties with judicial personality to take part in the general elections of 2011.
The general elections were fixed for Sunday, November 6, 2011, to choose the President, the Vicepresident, the national and municipal deputies and the deputies for the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN)...
The organizations participating in the general elections should present their candidates for President and Vicepresident in the middle of March 2011, and will have up to May 2011 to present their candidates for departamental (municipal) authorities.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tax Evasion Kills

Zetas in Guatemala

McClathey's Tim Johnson has a few stories out on the presence of the Zetas in the Peten jungle region of Guatemala near Tikal National Park and Laguna del Tigre.
Peten is one of the country's major tourist destinations while Laguna del Tigre is more well known for Perenco's controversial oil concessions.
Johnson relates the story of a confrontation between the Zetas and Guatemalan police and military that ended badly for the Guatemalans.
Around midday on Oct. 5, when police stopped a convoy of 16 or so big double-cabin pickups and other vehicles a short drive south of the Tikal National Park, an amplified voice from one vehicle barked a warning: "We are Los Zetas! Let us pass. We don't want problems."
To make their point, several men carrying assault rifles got out and fired hundreds of rounds into the air.
The police let the convoy pass, then called for help from the army, according to the accounts of several officers, nearly all of whom declined to give their names for fear of retaliation.
However, the military were no more successful.
In a fierce clash that began south of the famous Tikal ruins, the drug gang known as Los Zetas, based in Mexico's northeastern border area and the Yucatán Peninsula, was able to outgun local police by deploying armored vehicles, bigger guns and far more ammunition. Then it fought a large army patrol to a draw, losing vehicles and taking wounded but apparently getting away with cocaine.
Peten is relatively sparsely populated and there are few police and military stationed in meanginful numbers in in the region. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Career in Political Science

In case you haven't had enough of the videos, here's the political science one.

For my English Department Colleagues

In case you haven't seen the law school one before, it's really worth a look (or a second look).

Guatemalan News

Ten days ago, Dionisio Gutierrez, a Guatemalan entrepreneur and journalist, resigned from his position as host of Libre Encuentro because of threats to his life.
"Various forms of intimidation have increased substantially in these past months, including constant death threats against me," he wrote. "This is just one of the many expressions of violence and intolerance that Guatemala is currently suffering from."
Here's a little background on Gutierrez
Dionisio Gutierrez Mayorga (born 1959) was born in Guatemala and was recently listed by Revista Summa as one of the 100 most important businessmen in Latin America. He is Co-President of Corporación Multi Inversiones (CMI), a large agro-industrial conglomerate which is one of the most powerful corporations in Central America. Founded in 1920, CMI now accounts for more than 30,000 employees, operating in 14 countries within six divisions: poultry and pork; Pollo Campero fast food restaurants; flour mills, pasta and cookie production; construction; power generation; and financial services.
Gutierrez and President Colom have been sparring for the last several months with Colom's accusing Gutierrez of being behind a conspiracy to destabilize his government and prevent Sandra Torres de Colom from running for the presidency.

However, it's not just the Colom's who have had heated disagreements with Guetierrez.  In January
Canal Guatevision received a threat from a group calling themselves the Guatemalan Liberation Army, stating that the group would begin taking its vengeance on the country's businessmen, whom it held responsible for the capture of ex-Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo, who had been indicted for tax evasion, fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering and was the subject of extradition proceedings for a criminal proceedings in New York. The first target the group named was Dionisio Gutierrez.
Since that time, Gutierrez, his production company, his program's distributors and others have been threatened and even physically attacked. Although the sources of the attacks and threats remained anonymous, both the current government and organized crime have been vocal opponents of Gutierrez and his allies. President Colom and his government have used the strongest language to date, referring to Gutierrez's programs as a declaration of war.
In editorials shortly after Gutierrez's resignation, Prensa Libre and Siglo XXI speculated that this was a sign of bad things to come in the run up to next year's presidential election.
Gutierrez's program was known to serve as the unofficial ombudsman of the government and the electoral process, demanding political transparency from all of the governments which have come into power since the inception of the country's relatively young democracy. In doing so, he often openly disagreed with the administration of Alvaro Colom and his politically active wife, Sandra Torres de Colom, who is running a campaign for her own presidential bid in 2011.
Over fifty Guatemalans were killed during the 2007 election and there is good reason to fear continued violence in 2011.  Mirador Electoral fears that the prevailing impunity in the country, the operation of organized crime groups, and the illegal start to campaigning by UNE and PP do not bode well for the country.

El Salvador and Taiwan

During a meeting between El Salvador's Defense Minister, David Munguia Payes, and the Taiwanese President, Ma Ying-jeou, Ma said that he was "pleased with increasing military exchanges" between the two countries.
Ma said that ties between the Republic of China on Taiwan and El Salvador go back a long way. He said that since 1961, the two countries have been on friendly terms. Ma also said trade between the two nations has grown several times since they forged a free trade agreement.
Meanwhile, Ma thanked El Salvador for supporting the Republic of China on Taiwan's meaningful participation in international organizations. Ma said he hopes El Salvador will continue to support Taiwan's bids to join the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
El Salvador is one of the twenty-three countries that recognizes Taiwan as the sole legitimate government of the whole of China (twelve are from the Americas).  The two countries already have a free trade agreement that went into effect in March 2008. 

I haven't come across much about their military relationship except that El Salvador is one of several countries with soldiers training at Taiwan's Military Academy
At the moment, the academy is hosting 17 foreign trainees from Burkina Faso, Gambia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. “Such exchange programs play a contributing role in cementing diplomatic ties with our allies,” Chuan said.

It doesn't appear that El Salvador's relationship with Taiwan (rather than China) has caused any trouble within the FMLN.  Some FMLN traveled to the Communist countries during the civil war for training and education while military officials went to Taiwan for training.

Competition with Taiwan is another issue to think about when trying to evaluate China's presence in Latin America.  The search for natural resources and trade opportunities is obviously a consideration, but so is its competition with Taiwan for international recognition.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hunger Strike in Venezuela Ends

Jesuit José María Korta ended his hunger strike Monday when the Venezuelan "government agreed to high-level talks to negotiate the release of three indigenous prisoners facing murder charges and to discuss land claims by Yukpa communities."


If you like the movie Salvador, you'll enjoy Living El – The Making of Salvador at Sabotage Times.  Here's a taste:

Oliver Stone: The original idea was to shoot a semi-documentary in El Salvador starring Boyle as himself and Dr Rock as himself and we were going to get the Salvadorians to put up all their military equipment. Boyle took me down to El Salvador and we partied.
Richard Boyle: We met with [Robert] D’Abusisson’s generals. They liked Oliver because they loved Scarface.
Oliver Stone: These guys were slapping us on the back, drinking toasts to [Scarface's] Tony Montana. They kept talking about their favourite scenes and acting out the killings. They’d go; ‘Tony Montana, mucho cajones [Lots of balls)! Ratta-tat-tat! Kill the fucking communists!'

Richard Boyle: It would have been great to make the movie in El Salvador, spend some hard currency, help the people out. But then people started dying so we had to think again.

Iraq Violence

Al Jazeera has a pretty cool flash animation of the violence in Iraq between 2004 and 2010.  Be sure to check all three maps - roadside bombs, checkpoint deaths, and assassinations. 

Jesuit on Hunger Strike

Photo: Demotix
José María Korta, an eighty-one year old Jesuit priest, has completed the first week of his hunger strike outside the Venezuelan National Assembly.  He is there to bring attention to the Venezuelan government's failure to address the needs and rights of indigenous groups in the country.

According to Nelson Gonzalez Leal on Demotix,
Korta requires that the Venezuelan government complies with the Constitution, the Organic Law of Indigenous Peoples and Communities and the Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, in terms of territorial rights and jurisdiction to indigenous communities.
The problem of demarcation of indigenous lands in Venezuela from the presence of interests of some sectors of government and the industrial livestock sector, who planned the construction of a multimodal transportation system on indigenous territory.
This project was opposed by the Yukpa and Wayuu indigenous groups, whose leaders were arrested and jailed, to be tried by ordinary courts, when the Venezuelan Constitution and the Law of Indigenous Peoples and Communities state that these trials should be conducted under the principles of indigenous jurisdiction.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Zona Viva in Guatemala City

Unsurprisingly, both Guatemalan nationals and foreigners have avoided Zona Viva since last week's shooting at the Taco Inn that left three people dead.
Initial reports indicate that dining was down 40% since last week's shooting.  However, it's still unclear how many people are avoiding Zona Viva because of the killings or because of how uncomfortable they feel surrounded by such high levels of "security."
The National Civilian Police, the Municipal Traffic Police, the Army, and private security have all increased their presence in the area with around the clock patrols.  Two hundred agents patrolled the streets last week and their numbers increased to 400 over the weekend.

Vote for Congressman Carolyn Maloney

I don't know much about Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, but she did help get the government to pay for my high school's new green roof.
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D - Manhattan, Queens) today joined Columbia University Professor Stuart Gaffin, Regis High School Principal Philip Judge and Members of the School’s Board of Trustees, alumni, teachers and students to dedicate Regis High School’s much anticipated new green roof. The green roof at Regis is one of approximately ten roofs that will be the subject of Columbia’s Earth Institute with federal funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The study will determine the effectiveness of green roofs in reducing pollution and conserving energy. At 20,000 square feet, Regis’ green roof is the largest in New York City.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Death and the US-Mexican Border

According to the Arizona Coalition of Human Rights, 2,104 undocumented immigrants have died in the last decade along the US- Mexican border.  Over ten percent (253) of the deaths occurred during the 2010 fiscal year, including 170 males, 32 women, and 51 unknown.  The dead come from Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, and, surprisingly I guess, the Dominican Republic.  Okay, we don't know how many were from the DR, but I still wasn't expecting it to show up.


The coalition's death totals come from coroners offices in the border counties.  The totals wouldn't include, obviously, undocumented immigrants who perished in the desert and whose bodies have not yet been recovered.  It's also quite likely that the organization does not have information from all the offices. 

Given these limitations, we can think of these figures as the lower limit.  If anything, the numbers are higher.

Friday, October 22, 2010

PARLACEN Murder Trial Begins

The trial of nine Guatemalans accused of killing three Salvadoran members of the Central American regional parliament (PARLACEN) and their driver in February 2007 began Thursday in Guatemala City (Washington Post and AP).

The trial is expected to last approximately two months and will involve 140 - 200 witnesses (Prensa Libre gives 140 while the others list 200).  There also appear to be intercepted phone calls where some of the defendants were planning the murders.

Two congressmen (Manuel Castillo and Carlos Silva) as well as several former police officers are charged with the parliamentarians' murder. The prosecutor claims that Castillo and then Silva were the intellectual authors of the crime.  They met four times - twice in Guatemala (Jalpatagua and Jutiapa) and twice in in El Salvador (Santa Ana).  
Guatemalan prosecutors say Castillo and another former congressman, Carlos Silva, planned the killings because the Salvadoran politicians had been urging that Silva be stripped of his legislator's immunity so he could face money laundering charges. Silva fled to the U.S. where was arrested for being in the country illegally.
While the eight will be tried, three others would have also been on trial had they not been killed in prison under mysterious circumstances.

Social networking and Kidnapping in Guatemala

While in the US recent news has focused on cyberbullying, Inside Costa Rica has a story about how criminals in Guatemala are using the internet to help facilitate kidnappings.  The kidnappers are exploiting information found on various social networking websites (Facebook, Hi5, MySpace and Tagged) to make contacts with youth primarily between the ages of 10 and 25. 
Investigators have information about five cases in which the kidnappers chose their victims through those sites. The targets are chiefly people between 10 and 25 years old who are invited by unknown persons who claim to be of the same age.

Guatemalan authorities reported that five or six kidnapping gangs are operating in the country, but a new one using that method is being sought.

The kidnappers begin operating when they create false accounts on those websites, with false data and photos. Then they invite the victims to chat, they get their information, and finally they abduct them.
Like most crimes in Guatemala, authorities are having a difficult time doing anything about it.  The Public Ministry claims that the social networking accounts are created at cybercafes which makes it difficult for them to identify and track down the kidnappers.

New ReVista Edition on Guatemala

When you get an opportunity, I suggest you take a look at the most recent edition of ReVista that is dedicated to Guatemala.  ReVista is published by the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University.  This issue has pieces by Edelberto Torres-Rivas, Jean-Marie Simon, Victoria Sanford, David Stoll, Kate Doyle, and Susanne Jonas, among others.

Murders on the Decline

Contrapunto has a new article detailing some of the progress made by the Funes administration in tackling violence in El Salvador.  However, they also caution against reading too much into any claims about a significant sustained decrease in the murder rate.

According to official reports, between January 1 and October 13, 2010 the total number of murders declined compared to the same period in 2009.  There were a reported 3,157 homicides for an average of 11 per day in 2010 versus 3,449 homicides for an average of 12.1 per day in 2009.  Clearly that is good news and provides a glimmer of hope that the Funes administration has implemented some successful crime reduction policies.

However, Contrapunto reminds us that according to the World Health Organization homicides rates greater than ten per 100,000 are considered an epidemic.  El Salvador still has a homicide rate five times higher.  There's also no guarantee that the reduction is permanent or will even hold before the year comes to an end.   
These are small samples indicate that there is progress, but so far not much. The magnitude of the massacre is still very high, when looking at homicide rates. For example, without complete records (until 13 October both years) in 2009 would have been a homicide rate of 60.5 per 100,000 inhabitants. And in 2010, a rate is 55.3 per 100,000 inhabitants.
All this taking into account the 2007 population census which says that the Salvadoran population is 5.7 million. But it should also clarify that the rate is obtained from an annual cumulative and not 9 months and 13 days.
One can always hope.

Other crimes such as theft, robbery, extortion, auto theft, manslaughter, robbery and vehicle theft of merchandise have also decreased. Kidnappings, however, increased from 18 to 20.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Church News in Central America

Pope Benedict XVI recently addressed Manuel Barrera Roberto López, the new ambassador of El Salvador to the Holy See.  Pope Benedict said that the Church's mission is to foster the "public good in all dimensions."
“Evangelizing and bearing witness to love for God and for all persons without exception becomes an effective element in eradicating poverty and is a vigorous incentive to fight against violence, impunity, and drug trafficking, which are wreaking such havoc, especially among youth," he said...
In Nicaragua, Archbishop Silvio Baez also called on Nicaraguan politicians to tackle poverty and the lack of jobs in the country not for political point scoring but because it is the right thing to do. 
"Populism and paternalism are a continuous temptation", Bishop Baez said in a television interview, "and can dangerously become a means of ideological propaganda of a party's interests. The poor should not be used, but we need to serve them, give them dignity and help them through decent work."
One of the more interesting tidbits from the article was Bishop Baez' response to criticism that Ortega recently leveled against Catholic priests speaking out from the pulpit.
Asked about statements some time ago of Sandinista President Daniel Ortega, who had criticized priests for speaking out from their pulpits and calling on the people to assert their rights, the Auxiliary Bishop of Managua said he did not feel harmed by those statements because this action does not safeguard the interests of any political party.
A statement by the bishop noted, "'I do not repent of what I said,'” and "In the Cathedral I said that the people have the right to hold politicians accountable, as it is the people that elected them...and they are to serve society and not to use it."
All I can think of is Pope John Paul's criticism of Catholic priests who held positions in Ortega's Sandinista government.  Here he is chastising Father Ernesto Cardenal upon his arrival in Managua in 1983.  How times have changed.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Brazilian Journalist Murdered

Speaking of violence against journalists in Latin America
A veteran reporter who had often received death threats for his reports on crime was gunned down in front of his house in northeastern Brazil, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
Francisco Gomes de Medeiros died instantly when he was shot five times on Monday in the city of Caico, said Augusto Bezerra, spokesman for the public safety department of Rio Grande do Norte state.
Bezerra said by telephone that police have arrested a former inmate, Joao Francisco dos Santos, who confessed he killed Medeiros because he felt that coverage of a robbery he committed in 2007 convinced the judge to sentence him 18 months in jail instead of the seven months he expected.

Bezerra said police also are investigating whether the murder could be linked to Medeiros' reports that candidates for the state assembly traded cocaine for votes in the Oct. 3 elections.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 20 Brazilian journalists were murdered between 1994 and 2009.


Insecurity n Guatemala

David T. Johnson, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, gave a speech to the Council of the Americas earlier this month. 

In "Efforts To Combat Organized Crime in Guatemala" Johnson highlights several successful US-Guatemala joint efforts to tackle organized crime, including the Merida Initiative, the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), and some innovative community based projects such as the Villa Nueva Model Police Precinct. 

Fortunatly, Johnson recognizes that
there is no one solution to address Guatemala’s deteriorating security situation; the challenge is complex and multifaceted, and so our response must be targeted and thoughtful. Turning the tide will require collaboration with other donors, other governments, and the United Nations, as well as strong regional programs from South America to Mexico and, most important, good governance from the Guatemalans themselves. Only by coordinating efforts across all these diverse sources can we hope to achieve meaningful and lasting progress.
While perhaps not his area of expertise, Johnson unfortunately does not address any programs that have successfully helped to jump start the Guatemalan economy.  Instead, the focus is on entirely security.

Celebrating Journalists

Colombian journalist for El Universal, Claudia Ayola Escalón, has received several death threats in recent weeks via email.  She also received strange phone calls and an encounter on the streets of Cartagena.  Ayola's writings typically relate to "political and social issues, human rights and sexuality.  As you know, Latin America is a pretty rough place for journalists.

At the same time that journalists in Honduras, Mexico and elsewhere are killed or silenced for their reporting on controversial issues, three journalists were recently honored at the 2010 Courage in Journalism Awards in New York.  The three women were recognized for "penetrat[ing] press barriers in order to report from the frontlines of their countries and communities."

Two of the four winners are from Latin America.  Alma Guillermoprieto is a Mexican born writer known for being one of two journalists to travel to El Salvador to investigate the massacre at El Mozote in 1981.

Colombian journalist Claudia Duque was also recognized for her reporting on child trafficking, illegal adoptions, and paramilitaries.
Since Duque exposed Colombia's secret police, the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), for tampering with evidence in the murder of political journalist Jaime Garzon, she has been kidnapped on multiple occasions, robbed, and issued countless death threats. But what is most vile about Duque's predators is their continuous threat to torture, rape and murder her 10-year-old daughter.
Vicky Ntetema, a Tanzanian journalist, received the award for her work on, among other things, the power of witchdoctors in traditional African society. 
When Ntetema began to investigate rumours of an odious blackmarket in Tanzania that bought and sold the body parts of mutilated albinos, she single-handedly uncovered a story of genocide that has put her in critical danger.
In 2007, Ntetema heard that four albino Tanzanians had been brutally murdered by witchdoctors who used their arms, legs and hair in potions supposed to bring good fortune. Posing as a customer, Ntetema gained access to the repugnant inner workings of the industry, but was exposed when her recording device fell out of her pocket.

Since then, despite countless death threats, Ntetema has continued to shed light on the practices of the witchdoctors who hold tremendous political power in traditional African society. "Eighty percent of Tanzanians survive on a dollar a day," Ntetema said. "And these potions go for a thousand U.S. dollars a pat. The demand comes from the rich."
Finally, Tsering Woeser was recognized even though the Chinese government confiscated her passport so that she could not attend the ceremony.  Woeser is a Tibetan freelance writer and blogger based in Beijng.

In a pre-recorded acceptance speech, she stressed the importance of new media in circumventing the great 'Firewall' in China. She referred to herself as a "media machine, a weapon for the powerless against the power of the world, a weapon of non-violence and non-cooperation."

The Latin Americanist

The Latin Americanist is soliciting submissions for a special edition on immigration scheduled to be published in December 2011.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Violence strikes in the heart of Zona Viva

Three teenagers were killed and another eight injured at the Taco Inn in Zona Viva of Guatemala City.  The people were injuredkilled both inside and outside the Mexican restaurant which sits on a corner in the center of the business and nightlife district. 

The shooting occurred early Saturday morning and appears to have involved rival drug traffickers and/or a revenge killing.  Two suspects were arrested shortly afterwards with an arsenal including three pistols, three rifles, and an uzi.  The shooting occurred in the middle of where young, rich Guatemalans and foreign tourists like to play.   This could get interesting.

Guatemala and the Death Penalty

Guatemalan government officials have been debating the wisdom of reinstating the death penalty in hopes that its application will bring violence under control.  Political parties on the right, the Libertad Democrática Renovada and Partido Patriota in particular, have pushed to reinstate the death penalty as a means of crime prevention and to position themselves as the parties of law and order before the 2011 election.  The URNG was one of the few political parties to criticize the new law.

On October 5th, Congress passed legislation giving the president the authority to issue pardons for those on death row.  The last execution in Guatemala occurred at least ten years ago (1998 or 2000 according to different sources).  The new law would have created a path to execute ten or twenty Guatemalans currently on death row. 

Two weeks ago, the United Nations Office for Human Rights in Guatemala called on the government to promote more effective measures to bring the violence under control such as strengthening its police forces, improving the Public Ministry's capabilities, and attacking the causes of youth violence.  Amnesty International also on the Guatemalan Congress "to abolish the death penalty instead of regulating it."

Colom has said that as a social democrat he does not support the death penalty.  He also said that the power to issue pardons and commute sentences should be decided by the Supreme Court and not the president (Prensa Libre).  In 2005 the IACHR ruled that Guatemala could not apply the death penalty until it had a procedure in place for the granting of presidential pardons. Congress tried to pass a similar law in 2008 to give the president this power, but Colom vetoed the bill.

Guatemala is reconsidering the use of the death penalty at the same time that Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced the creation of an International Commission Against the Death Penalty, The commission's goal is to help achieve a "global moratorium" on its use by 2015.

And in the US, Alejandro Enrique Ramirez Umana of El Salvador is scheduled to be the first member of MS-13 to be sentenced to death under the federal system of capital punishment.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Suicide, Not Murder

A Nicaraguan diplomat's body was found dead in his apartment last month in New York City.  While initial reports speculated that Cesar Mercado might have been murdered, it turns out that it was a pretty painful suicide.
Cesar Mercado, 34, was found Sept. 23 in his apartment with his throat cut and 12 stab wounds in his abdomen, but unnamed police sources told the Post the diplomat stabbed himself after swallowing drain cleaner to cause his death.

Police were already considering that possibility after traces of the corrosive liquid were found in his body, and the discovery that the diplomat had recently been diagnosed with an incurable disease, something that could have brought on depression.

Police officials said that a Nicaraguan forensic expert reported that it was Mercado who stabbed himself several times and cut his throat after swallowing a chemical product that burned some internal organs.

Friday, October 15, 2010

El Salvador in the News

 As you have probably read, the FMLN is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this month.  I don't always equate today's FMLN political party with the FMLN revolutionary party of the 1980s.  Obviously, there remains a lot of overlap but, as the article writes, Salvador Sánchez Cerén is the only remaining member of the General Command still associated with organization. 

However, I'm not entirely sure when the break occurred.  The resignations of Villalobos, Guadalupe Martinez and others to form the PD in 1994/1995 is one possibility.  The dissolution of the five historic organizations in 1995 is another possibility.  Then there were the splits that led to the creation of the Renovators and the FDR in the 2000s. 

In other news, Voices from El Salvador has a nice roundup of discussions about a hypothetical coup in the country.  Funes has dismissed such rumors.  He is pretty popular and seems to have the support of the police and military.  However, he is also calling on the international community to do more to deter future coups and punish attempted or successful coups in the hemisphere.  Salvador Sánchez Cerén and Medardo González have come out with more fiery responses to the rumors and stated the FMLN and the pueblo's resolve in beating back any destabilization from the right (EFE).  According to González
``The Frente not only supports this Government, but it defends it and will defend it with all our strength together with the people against any attempt at destabilization,''Gonzalez complemented, while admitting that there are ``differences''with the president Mauricio Funes.
On the one, the fiery response from the VP and González compared to the muted response of Funes might be interpreted by some as another indication of divisions between the party and the president.  On the other hand, it might simply be the president speaking to the nation and assuring them of his calm, cool demeanor and the party leaders rallying the base. 
Finally, Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas once again brings our attention to the nation's overwhelmed prison system where prisons are at 300% capacity and almost half of all prisoners in juvenile detention facilities are adults.
“I maintain the belief that these prisoners need to be treated in a humane and dignified manner, and I think it is unfair that those who committed a crime should only receive ‘pain and suffering,’” said Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador. “There are elderly prisoners who are no longer a danger to society, and it does not make sense to keep them in jail."

Guatemala Knew of Illegal U.S. Experiments

According to Thursday's reports, "Guatemalan health authorities" were aware of the syphillis tests carried out by US doctors in the 1940s. (Inside Costa Rica)

A report by the U.S. Public Health Service refers to an alleged agreement between high-ranking Guatemalan physicians and the former Pan-American Health Office, a new disclosure in the case.
The supposed agreement gave the green light for studies involving infecting people with venereal diseases, designed by the team of U.S. doctor John Cutler, set as a condition for opening up a research lab in Guatemala, according to the newspaper Prensa Libre...

Though some professionals supported the study on humans, the majority of the local scientific community did not know about it, the daily noted.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Giammattei might have some company

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Carlos Vielman was arrested in Spain on Tuesday or Wednesday.  He was sought for his involvement in the extrajudicial killings of escaped inmates from El Infiernito prison in October 2005 and prisoners who were killed during a riot at El Pavón September 2006.  Vielman is expected to go before Spain's National Court on Thursday for the beginning of extradition proceedings.

The former Director of Police, Erwin Sperisen, is currently under investigation and living in Switzerland.

Former presidential candidate Alejandro Giammattei is currently under arrest in Guatemala.

Another US Citizen Deported

First we had the US citizen deported to Mexico for not wearing a seatbelt.  Now, it appears that a US citizen born in Rowan, North Carolina was deported to Mexico.  Here's some of Mark Lyttle's story.
Lyttle’s entanglement with immigration authorities began when he was about to be released from a North Carolina jail where he was serving a short sentence for inappropriately touching a worker’s backside in a halfway house that serves individuals with mental disorders. Despite having ample evidence that Lyttle was a U.S. citizen – including his social security number, the names of his parents, his sworn statements that he was born in the United States and criminal record checks – officials from the North Carolina Department of Correction referred him to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as an undocumented immigrant whose country of birth was Mexico. Lyttle had never been to Mexico, shared no Mexican heritage, spoke no Spanish and did not claim to be from Mexico.

It's a pretty outrageous story.  Unfortunately, it gets worse when Lyttle gets bounced around Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala.  Fortunately, US authorities in Guatemala spent a few hours investigating his situation.
Lyttle was left alone and penniless in Mexico and unable to communicate in Spanish. Mexican authorities sent him to Honduras, where he was imprisoned and faced with guards who threatened to shoot him. Honduran officials sent him to Guatemala and, eventually, he made his way to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City. Within a day, embassy officials contacted one of Lyttle’s three brothers at the military base where he was serving, leading to Lyttle being issued a U.S. passport. His brother wired him money, and Lyttle was soon on a flight to Atlanta. Upon Lyttle’s arrival, border officials, seeing his history of ICE investigations, held and questioned him for several hours before letting him go.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

News from Guatemala

Four people died and four more were injured during a shootout on a bus near San Jose Acatempa in the department of Jutiapa on Monday.  A police officer on the bus tried to prevent an assault from occurring.  The police officer died in the attack.  The police are still trying to determine the motives for the attack.

In other news, a plane crashed outside San Jose, Costa Rica on Sunday.  The plane was traveling to Guatemala.  Both the Guatemalan pilot and co-pilot initially survived.  However, the co-pilot died the next day.

Officials found over 170 kilograms of cocaine in the engine.  While Costa Rican authorities are worried about this particular failed flight, they are also worried how many more planes might have taken off from this airport.  The airport has limited security because flights from there are local and of limited duration.  Something that tells me that that might change. 

On Monday, two Mexicans were arrested trying to sneak across the border into Nicaragua.  The two men are alleged to be the ringleaders of the trafficking operation.   

As a result, Costa Rican authorities are reconsidering restricting the visas of Guatemalans and Mexicans.  As of today, citizens of Mexico and Guatemala have no restrictions for entering Costa Rica.  Should that change, they will fall into a more restrictive category along with Jamaica and Colombia.

Two Books and a Film

Here are two recent books that might be of interest to those following Central American politics.  The first one is about Nicaragua while the second one is on Guatemala.  The third item is a movie project by Guatemalan filmmaker Mario Rosales that needs help.

Tom Walker and Christine Wade have a fifth edition of NICARAGUA: LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF THE EAGLE.  This is a newly revised history of the politics and foreign relations of Nicaragua, with emphasis on the influence of the United States in shaping Nicaraguan life during and since the Somoza era and the Sandinista Revolution.

The new fifth edition features:

  • A new recent history chapter, which considers both the conservative restoration after 1990 and the return of Daniel Ortega.
  • A closer look at US-Nicaraguan relations, documenting the effect of the historical and ongoing interventions of the United States.
  • Updates of recent events throughout the text.
  • A new coauthor­Central America specialist Christine J. Wade joins renowned expert Thomas W. Walker to create a dynamic new author team.

The book will be available January 2011 (Pre -order an exam copy or purchase at Amazon.)
For Every Indio Who Falls: A History of Maya Activism in Guatemala, 1960-1990

Description: In 1978, a Maya community queen stood on a stage to protest a massacre of indigenous campesinos at the hands of the Guatemalan state he spoke graphically to the dead and to the living alike: 'Brothers of Panzos, your blood is in our throats!' Given the context, her message might come as a surprise. A revolutionary insurgency in the late 1970s was being met by brutal state efforts to defeat it, efforts directed not only at the guerrilla armies but also at reform movements of all kinds. Yet the young woman was just one of many Mayas across the highlands voicing demands for change. Over the course of the 1970s, Mayas argued for economic, cultural, and political justice for the indigenous 'pueblo'. Many became radicalized by state violence against Maya communities that soon reached the level of genocide.

Scholars have disagreed about Maya participation in Guatemala's civil war, and the development of oppositional activism by Mayas during the war is poorly understood. Betsy Konefal explores this history in detail, examining the roots and diversity of Maya organizing and its place in the unfolding conflict. She traces debates about ethnicity, class, and revolution, and examines how (some) Mayas became involved in opposition to a repressive state. She looks closely at the development of connections between cultural events like queen pageants and more radical demands for change, and follows the uneasy relationships that developed between Maya revolutionaries and their Ladino counterparts. Konefal makes it clear that activist Mayas were not bystanders in the transformations that preceded and accompanied Guatemala's civil war - activism by Mayas helped shape the war, and the war shaped Maya activism.

Betsy Konefal is assistant professor of history at the College of William & Mary.

Finally, Guatemalan filmmaker Mario Rosales is trying to raise money to finish his film El regreso de Lencho, a movie which critics past and present government repression. If you will like to know more about the film project and help Mario Rosales please go to

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The most immediate national security threat is...

From Reuters
"Transnational drug trafficking organizations operating from Mexico represent the most immediate national security threat faced by the United States in the Western Hemisphere," he said in prepared remarks for a Mexican prosecutors conference on Sunday in Indiana, which were provided to Reuters.
"The United States should undertake a broad review of further steps the U.S. military and the intelligence community could take to help combat the Mexican cartels in association with the Mexican government," Lugar said, suggesting aviation, surveillance and other intelligence assets.
Lugar, from Indiana, is one of the Senate's most-respected voices on foreign policy.
Describing Senator Dick Lugar as "one of the Senate's most-respected voices on foreign policy" does not inspire confidence.  It appears that Lugar is calling on the administration to simply do what it is already doing - militarizing the border. 

Really, if you believe that the presence of drug traffickers on our southern border is "the most immediate national security threat faced by the United States in the Western Hemisphere" then you really need to increase the country's resources committed to drug prevention and rehabilitation.

If we stopped all the illegal drugs coming across the Mexican border into the US, I have a pretty good suspicion that traffickers would find other ways to satisfy our demand - through the Caribbean, Canada, and the Pacific.  And even if we somehow stopped all the drugs coming in to the United States, I'm sure some local entrepreneurs would step in to fill that void.  That's how capitalism works.

But who I am to go against one of the Senate's most-respected voices on foreign policy.

Guatemalan Sisters Reunite after 30 Years

The Mutual Support Group successfully reunited two Ixil sisters last Friday, thirty years after they were separated during a military attack against their family.  From the Latin American Herald Tribune
The sisters had not since each other since soldiers invaded the village of Cancap 30 years ago in search of leftist guerrillas.
Troops dragged the girls’ parents, Miguel Chamay and Petronila Toma, from their home, tied them up and beat them while demanding information about the rebels.

Though they eventually realized Miguel and Petronilla didn’t know anything, the soldiers forcibly split up the family, according to GAM.

Juana, injured in the encounter with the troops, was sent to a hospital in Escuintla, where she was adopted by nurse Guadalupe Mendez, who subsequently took the girl to live in Guatemala City.

Magdalena remained with her grandmother, Teresa Toma, in San Juan Cotzal, Quiche.
GAM and the Red Cross have helped bring about more than 100 reunions since 2001, including nine this year (See also SIFY and Prensa Libre).

Prensa Libre is the most read paper in the country and is pretty conservative.  For that reason, it was interesting that this story made its front page.  It's also interesting that the paper doesn't shy away from stating the "facts" of the war - something that the Salvadoran conservative press usually obscures (just an observation).
La guerra interna que sufrió Guatemala entre 1960-1996, dejó unas 250 mil víctimas, entre muertos y desaparecidos, y el Quiché fue la región más golpeada por la política de tierra arrasada que impulsó el ejército.

En ese departamento, la Comisión del Esclarecimiento Histórico (CEH) , documentó 344 de las 669 matanzas perpetradas en el conflicto bélico, 626 de ellas atribuidas al Ejército, 32 a la guerrilla y el resto a otros grupos no identificados.
The internal war that Guatemala suffered between 1960-1996 left some 250 000 victims dead or missing, and Quiche was the region hardest hit by the scorched earth policy carried out by the military.
In that department, the Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH) documented 344 of the 669 massacres perpetrated in the war, 626 of them attributed to the Army, 32 to the guerrillas and the rest to other unidentified groups.
Emilio Godoy at IPS also has a depressing overview of Latin Americans disappeared at the hands of their governments (and other actors) over the last several decades while Ibrahim Saleb reports on thousands of Iraqis who went missing between 2005 and 2007.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A little catch up

Here are some interesting reads from the past week:
Identity of Black People Recognised, But Needs Neglected: "People of African descent in Central America and Mexico are among the most vulnerable, poor and excluded on the continent," Alta Hooker, vice-chancellor of the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua (URACCAN), told IPS.

Serious Deficiencies in Salvadoran Jails: According to officials sources, overcrowding of more than 300 percent exists in adult prisons while 45 percent of inmates in juvenile centers have exceeded the age of 18.
Developments in US - Salvadoran Relations:  "On September 29, 2010, President Funes traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  This was President Funes’ second official visit to D.C.; in March he met with President Obama to discuss multilateral projects, security issues in the region, improving El Salvador’s tax collection system, and how the U.S. could serve as a strategic partner in combating drug trafficking and organized crime."
Ehumations at La Berbena (h/t GSN): Exhumations have been going on at a cemetery in Guatemala City for the last seven months.  Check out the link for photos and more information on the exhumations.
Guatemalan woman continues to seek asylum in the US.
Traveling through Guatemala.

Guatemala's Share of the Blame

Here's the NY Times' take on the syphilis experiments were bad but remember Guatemalan authorities were involved too.
The aim of the research was to test whether penicillin could prevent the transmission of syphilis, whether better blood tests for the disease could be developed, and what dosages could cure syphilis. That cannot justify experimenting on human beings without their consent.
Although the American government, which financed the research, bears the chief responsibility, the studies were carried out in collaboration with Guatemala’s top venereal disease expert and several Guatemalan ministries and institutions.
As I said last week, I was expecting something like this to come out.  However, I was expecting it in the comments of a blog, just not the Editorial pages of the New York Times.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How do you like me now?

According to Mitofsky, Alvaro Colom's approval ratings have improved three percentage points since March and now stand at 46%.  Here are the approval rating for the other presidents:
  • Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil checks in at 78 per cent.
  • Mauricio Funes of El Salvador is holding steady at 75 per cent.
  • Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia is still on his honeymoon at 74 per cent.
  • Ricardo Martinelli of Panama, is at 69 percent.
  • Former guerrilla José Mujica of Uruguay is at 63 percent.
  • Porfirio Lobo of Honduras surprisingly checks in with 60 per cent.
  • Sebastián Piñerais of Chile is at 56 percent.
  • Felipe Calderón of Mexico; Laura Chinchilla, and Rafael Correa of Ecuador are average (which I guess is between 49% and 56%).
  • Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic comes in at 49%
  • Evo Morales of Bolivia is at 46%
  • Barack Obama is at 46%
  • Cristina Fernandez of Argentina, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Stephen Harper of Canada, Alan García of Peru, and Fernando Lugo of Paraguay ranged between 36 and 45%

Migration in the News

The Boston Globe recently published a story on remittances from Massachusetts.  According to their reporting, $1.8 billion was sent to over 200 countries last year.  Brazil, the Dominican Republic, China, and Guatemala were the top destinations for remittances. 

I tend not to think about Brazil or China as remittance destinations.  It makes sense, but I guess we hear a lot more about Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.  Ghana, Poland, and Taiwan were also near the top.

I was interested in two particular claims made by the authors in the article.
Brazil, a South American nation that includes skyscraper-studded metropolises and struggling small towns, tends to have a higher cost of living, so immigrants send an average of $500 a month, he said. Remittances to Haiti, a poorer nation, average $120 a month.
Brazil saw remittances from Massachusetts plunge $100 million last year, probably because that country’s economy is stronger and cash-strapped immigrants here could send less. But they rose about $17 million to Guatemala, a nation racked by poverty and natural disasters that depends heavily on money from abroad.
What influences that amount of remittance sent out of the US each year?  Do immigrants send money back to their home country based upon the needs of the people that they left?  Or do Brazilian immigrations make more money that Haitian immigrations, and while the amount that they send home is greater, percentage-wise based upon their total income it is the same?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Media Threatened in Guatemala

Marvin Del Cid Acevedo, a journalist with El Periodico, has had his home broken into twice in the last four months.  Two computers were stolen during the first robbery on June 24.  The intruders left a note hreatening him with death at the time.

More recently, unknown assailants invaded his home on September 28.  During this home invasion, a laptop containing his teaching and reporting materials was stolen. 

In addition, Del Cid has fielded several threatening phone calls and might have been followed by suspiciuos automobiles.

Unfortunately, according to Del Cid, neither the Guatemalan authorities nor his colleagues in the media have been sympathetic to his plight.  Now he is staying at a friend's house..
Del Cid did not say who he thought was responsible for the break-in, but he indicated that he has recently covered sensitive topics such as a call for tender for an arms deal by an unlicensed company, a corruption case at a government agency, and a report on the capture of a businessman with alleged connections to drug trafficking. All of the articles were signed by the newspaper's investigative team.
Unfortunately, Del Cid's situation is typical in Guatemala.  According to Freedom House,
Guatemalan journalists continued to work under difficult and dangerous conditions in 2009. Violence against the press by drug traffickers and other criminal organizations continued and was rarely prosecuted, encouraging self-censorship. A number of journalists also received death threats during the year.

Images of Honduras

Peter Pereira has several photographs of his work in Honduras that are worth clicking through.  Here are descriptions of his two current projects.
One was to document a series of American doctors who donate their time to offer medical assistance to villagers in Honduras, and the other was to visually document life in the Honduran countryside. I wanted to better understand the reasons so many Hondurans have illegally moved to the United States, and I wanted to combine the material I have already shot in Guatemala, Haiti and in the future Nicaragua and El Salvador for a book on Central America.
You can see the photos here.

New Archbishop Named

The Catholic Church recently announced a replacement for Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruño.  Toruño had been serving as archbishop of Guatemala and the neighboring Sacatepequez region since 2001.
Cardinal Quezada Toruño has been an outspoken defender of human rights and the country’s poor and is frequently at loggerheads with Guatemala’s political elites. He has demanded good governance and has called on President Alvaro Colom to address rampant crime and murder
ANS Salesian News Agency
Here is some information on the archbishop designate, Bishop Óscar Julio Vian Morales.
[Vian Morales] was ordained to the priesthood in 1976. He was born in 1947 to Isidoro Vian and Hortensia Morales, who had three other children. He was named to the see of Los Altos Quetzaltenango - Totonicapán in 2007...
Bishop Vian Morales has also served as Titular Bishop of Pupiana (1996-2007), and Apostolic Vicar of the jungle region of El Petén...
He undertook studies in philosophy, pedagogy, and theology in Guatemala while attending San Carlos University, Francisco Marroquín University, and the Pontifical Salesian University at Rome...
Having been ordained, and bearing a Licentiate in Theology, he became a teacher of mathematics in Panama City at the Don Bosco Tehcnical Institute. After two years, he was sent to Rome to study Sacred Liturgy at the San Anselmo Pontifical Liturgical Institute where he was instructed by Benedictines. While in Rome, Bishop Vian Morales took courses in Sacred Liturgy at the Gregorian University. He studied English in London, and also studied German at Münster, Germany. In Israel, he studied the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church.

Upon returning to Central America, he was designated the spiritual director of the Salesian Theologate and administrator of the Salesian Youth Center. Soon after, he was transferred to the Don Bosco Salesian School in Guatemala City as curriculum director. Four years later, he was sent to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to lead the San Miguel School, and later to San Salvador, El Salvador, to serve as counselor to the Salesian Inspector for Central America. In 1990, he was selected by his Province to serve at the General Chapter in Rome.

Bishop Vian Morales has worked to organize several Catholic schools in Central America. At several seminaries in the isthmus, he has taught the Theology of Liturgy, Catechesis, and Youth Ministry.

In December 1996, Apostolic Nuncio Giovanni Morandini, announced in Guatemala that Pope John Paul II had named him as Bishop-Apostolic Vicar of El Petén. He was ordained to the episcopacy in the city of Flores, Petén, on 1 February 1997...He was also named Titular Bishop of Pupiana at the same time...

Bishop Vian Morales has occupied since 1997 the following positions in the Guatemalan Bishops Conference: President of the Commissions on Liturgy, Youth Ministry, and Clergy; Earth; Education and Social and Pastoral Ministry and Caritas-Guatemala. He also has presided over the Commission on Pastoral and Education Ministry of Central America and Panama.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Syphilis Fallout

While the media and blogosphere has mostly been concerned with the horrible act of infecting unsuspecting Guatemalans with syphilis, I've just been thinking about what this means for the United States in Latin American today.

The US provides all sorts of services to the poor in Latin America through the Peace Corps, US AID, and the US military.  I can only imagine how detrimental this news might be to their mission.

Think about the Peace Corps.
Health Volunteers work with local governments, clinics, nongovernmental organizations, and communities at the grassroots level, where the need is most urgent and the impact can be the greatest. They focus on outreach, awareness, and prevention programs in public health, hygiene, sanitation, and HIV/AIDS. Whether playing the role as catalyst for health education or teaching in the classroom, they are limited only by the creativity of the community and the Volunteer.
Or, how about the Southern Command's USNS Comfort?  Here's the 2009 description of the Comfort's activities
Medical /Dental services provided:
The primary focus of the medical teams was to provide a range of health care services ashore. On a case-by-case basis, select patients received medical or dental care on the ship.

The Continuing Promise teams partnered with local health care providers and community officials to provide free medical care to communities with limited access to medical treatment.

These services included general surgery, ophthalmologic surgery, basic medical evaluation and treatment, preventive medicine treatment, dental screenings and treatment, optometry screenings, eyewear distribution, veterinary services, and public health training (plus additional specialties as applicable). Follow-up treatments were arranged with local medical professionals.

Barney Arrested in Guatemala

Guatemalan authorities arrested the "The Purple One" on Saturday in San Bernandino.  The Purple One is wanted in the US on charges of cocaine smuggling.

His real name is Mauro Ramirez Barrios, but I just kept thinking of Barney.  He is also known as the "Sea Lion" if you're interested.
In separate operations, he and his brother were arrested with nearly two million dollars in cash. If case you don't remember, Ramirez was the one who got away during the botched arrest at the Tikal Futura in Guatemala City in which three people were killed.
The courts now have to decide whether Ramirez should be extradited to the US.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Guerrilla News all the Time

There's always something related to former guerrillas in today's Latin America politics.

In Brazil, former guerrilla (sort of) Dilma Rousseff of the Workers' Party is likely to be elected the first female president of Brazil this weekend. 
She and a handful of other young militants, mainly students, took up arms to defy the military regime, in a short, lopsided struggle that began in 1968. Three years later, most of the guerrillas had been exterminated...
In 1969, when she was just 21 years old, Rousseff was the only woman among the five "commanders" of her group, the Palmares Armed Revolutionary Vanguard (VAR), named in honour of the famous 17th century Palmares "quilombo" -- a term referring to communities originally established by runaway slaves.
 The VAR was one of the armed militant groups in Brazil, largely inspired by Cuba's 1959 revolution, that carried out high-profile actions like the kidnapping of the U.S. and German ambassadors, to swap them for political prisoners who had been jailed and tortured.

The front-runner candidate has clarified that she did not actually take part in any armed action, in an attempt to neutralise epithets like "subversive" flung at her by the right, among other misleading depictions of her, like "anti-Christian."...

After four months in the leadership of the VAR, Rousseff was captured by agents of the dictatorship -- secret groups set up in 1969 to torture and kill opponents...When she was released from prison 28 months later, she finished her economics degree, and had a daughter with her second husband, a fellow VAR militant who had also been in prison.
The opposition candidate Jose Serra was also involved in "left-leaning National Student Union" before fleeing the country before the 1964 military coup.

In Peru. Vladimir Monesinos and three other military officers were sentenced to 25 years in jail for ordering the murders of twenty-four people in two massacres in 1991 and 1992.  The killings were carried out by the Colina Group during the country's dirty war against Sendero Luminoso guerrilla group.  
While Montesinios, Fujimori, several army officials and Lori Berenson remain in jail, former members of the Sendero Luminoso are preparing to compete in this weekend's elections. 

They've entered several mayoral and gubernatorial races Sunday under the banner of a movement seeking a blanket amnesty for hundreds of "political prisoners," including Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman.

Led by two of Guzman's lawyers, it's run out of a small office in a Lima slum and is fielding candidates released from prison after serving sentences for terrorism and other crimes. Peruvian law allows former convicts to run for elected office.

While the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights, or Movadef in Spanish, is tiny and its rallies modest, it is provoking alarm among Peruvians who are skeptical of its nonviolent claims and fear a return to political mayhem if it were to gain a foothold in even a few municipalities.
In even stranger news, former Peruvian army major and current leader of the ultranationalist ``etnocacerista,'' Antauro Humala, intends to run for president next year in an alliance with members of the Sendero Luminoso and the MRTA guerrilla groups.  His brother Ollanta is the leader of the Peruvian Nationalist Party who finished second to Alan Garcia in the 2006 presidential elections.

Representative James McGovern (D-MA urged the US government to support President Funes and Police Inspector General Zaira Navas of the FMLN in El Salvador.  Funes has been busy.  He gave a speech at the United Nations calling for more attention to the problem of poverty.  He also recently met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and asked for a more assistance in the war against drug traffickingTim also linked to the Share Foundation's coverage of the Residential Voting Plan in an earlier post to which  I never got around.

We're not done yet. 

Argentina extended asylum to a "former leftist guerrilla charged in his native Chile with assassinating a senator and kidnapping a businessman" in 1991.  On the one hand, I would say that Argentina should have denied asylum to Galvarino Apablaza Guerra.  He committed the murders two years after Pinochet left office because he was "an ideological leader of a branch of Chile's Communist Party" that "refused to put down its weapons" after the dictatorship's end.  That doesn't sound like grounds for asylum from persecution.

On the other hand, i would have reservation about extraditing Apablaza to Chile because he "would be tried under Chile's dictatorship-era anti-terrorism law, which allows for secret witnesses, pretrial detention, military courts and other legal mechanisms they [human rights groups] said would violate his rights to a fair trial."

In Guatemala, the National Reparations Program, the Peace Secretariat, the National Institute of Forensic Science and the Public Ministry will begin exhumations in Huehuetenango next Wednesday and Thursday.

Continuing with Guatemala, the Guatemala Solidarity Network has more on the Dos Erres massacre which involved Gilberto Jordan, the former kaibil who had the book thrown at him for lying on his immigration papers (see the National Security Archive for the original coverage or me).  I'm happy that Dos Erres' families and Guatemalans will get some justice with Jordan's ten-year sentence. 

However, I can't say that I am comfortable giving him ten years in jail for immigration fraud when the penalty is typically 0-6 months in jail and then removal from the country.  If he committed war crimes, charge him with those.  If not, send him back to Guatemala where they can prosecute him.  Don't use the immigration courts to punish people for crimes that they committed before coming to the US. 

What do you think?  Too idealistic?

Cheerleader Ban in El Salvador

I am kind of surprised that the left in El Salvador is banning cheerleading as part of its moral crusade and "deep concerns for the welfare and psychological dignity of teenaged girls" (See LA Times)  Sounds like a policy for a more conservative party.

Even more importantly, I think that they should ban the playing of the U.S. Marine Corps' "Marines' Hymn" during parades in El Salvador. 

Hopefully, the videographer just edited the cheerleader video to incorporate the song.

Friday, October 1, 2010

US to Apologize to Guatemala

While we hear stories like this every now and then, I still find it hard to believe.
U.S. government medical researchers intentionally infected hundreds of people in Guatemala, including institutionalized mental patients, with gonorrhea and syphilis without their knowledge or permission more than 60 years ago.
Many of those infected were encouraged to pass the infection onto others as part of the study.
About one third of those who were infected never got adequate treatment.

On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius offered extensive apologies for actions taken by the U.S. Public Health Service. (MSNBC)
Susan Reverby at Wellesley College found hidden documents about the Guatemala experiments while conducting research research on the Tuskegee experiments. 

The experiments were carried out beween 1946 and 1948 on nearly 700 male prisoners and female patients in the National Mental Health Hospital and was co-sponsored by the U.S. Public Health Service, the NIH, the Pan-American Health Sanitary Bureau (now the Pan American Health Organization) and the Guatemalan government.

Here's the video:

Horrible all around.  The news report says that the Guatemalan government at the time was aware of the experiments.  The MSNBC correspondent seems to think that they must have as well because it was a puppet government of the US at the time. 

I can't say that I've ever heard that before.  Juan José Arévalo was president.  He was elected president after street protests forced the US-supported dictator's removal in 1944.  While I wouldn't doubt his government's knowledge about the project in some capacity, syphilis experiments on the Guatemalan people does not seem consistent with his vision of "spiritual socialism."

While there is little that the US can do today to make up for the damage it did, I do wonder whether this revelation will make US action on TPS more likely.  I do'nt expect anything in the next fews days, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear something before the end of the month.