Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guatemalans in London

Purple Roofs has a write-up on nineteen Guatemalan Olympians competing in London this summer.
Juan Maegli, 24, is currently a senior at College of Charleston (South Carolina, US) and this will be his second Olympics. In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Maegli represented Guatemala in Sailing (Laser Class) and is doing so once again in this year’s Olympics in London.
Maegli is currently ranked No. 21 in the world in lasers sailing, but recently he was 4th in the World Championships in his class so hopes are high that he might be the first Guatemalan athlete to ever win an Olympic Medal!
In addition to Maegli, hopes are also high that Guatemala’s Kevin Haroldo Cordón Buezo might also “medal” in the 2012 Olympics. Cordon, who competes in badminton, is from La Union, Zacapa and he currently ranks 26 in the world in badminton. Like Maegli, this is Cordon’s second Olympics and he too had the honor of carrying the Guatemalan Flag into the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony – but at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Erwin C. has some news and notes on how Latin America is faring in London, including Honduras historic victor in futbol over Spain on Sunday.

Monday, July 30, 2012

El Salvador wins in London

According to E Online, El Salvador emerged as a fashion winner on opening night at the Olympics in London.
El Salvador for the win! We're shooing these athletes straight to the victory podium for adding a touch of real-world style to their Olympic uniforms with these ombré sweaters and fitted blue skirts. World-class athlete or Excel whiz, who wouldn't wear this to work Monday morning?
Evelyn Garcia carried the flag for El Salvador. Ten Olympians are representing the country in seven different sports including judo, shooting, rowing, swimming, and weightlifting. You can check up on El Salvador's Olympians on this Wikipedia page.

Here's more official coverage of El Salvador's Olympic participation.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Homicides in Guatemala

Carlos Mendoza has the PNC's numbers on homicides committed during the first six months of 2012. June saw a bit of an uptick, but 2012 is still on pace to have fewer homicides committed than 2011, which was less than 2010, which was less than 2009 in case you were wondering.

Femicide looks like it will decline as well. In 2009, 262 women were killed during the first six months of 2012, nearly 100 less than the 340 killed during the first six months of 2011.

Homicides are the only way to measure violence in Guatemala, but it is important to get the trend right.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Young martyrs of Suchitoto, El Salvador, 1980

John Donaghy has a short post on José Othmaro Cáceres, a young seminarian who was murdered in El Salvador in 1980.
His death and the death of the twelve others are just a few of the deaths by the military and death squads in El Salvador who had a deep hatred of the church leaders who had taken the side of the poor.
The war in El Salvador was a war against the poor, the reformists, the revolutionaries, those who sought a better life for themselves and their families, the democrats, union workers, teachers, etc. The list goes on and on.

And it was obviously a war against church leaders who made a preferential option for the poor.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Troubles in Northern Ireland, Part II

So, we're almost done with our three week program in Northern Ireland. As you would expect, the conflict in Northern Ireland was/is much more complicated than a conflict between Catholics and Protestants. In terms of the physical violence during The Troubles (more the Unionist/Loyalist term) or war (what the Irish Republican Army would like to characterize it) or the conflict (which is what those trying not to upset anyone call it), it was much different that what we are familiar with in Latin America.

Between 1969 (more or less following the Battle of the Bogside) and 2001, 3,526 people were killed. Twenty-two years of violence left the same number dead as died in Chile, more or less, during the Pinochet dictatorship. The Republican paramilitary groups (IRA, INLA) killed about 60% of all those who died during the conflict. The Loyalists paramilitaries (UDA and UVF) killed 1,019 and the British security forces another 363. While the Loyalists and the British security forces were not one and the same, I've heard several stories of kill lists being passed from the Brits to the paramilitaries and weapons leaving British military bases in the middle of the night only to be cleaned and returned after some Catholic had been killed.

The violence is described more along the lines of mafia violence. There were numerous assassinations of men. Many of these murders were done in the homes of the victims. Gunmen came through the front door and killed their targets. From what I understand, they did not go out of their way to kill the children in the house or the women even if they were in the same room. I asked if any norms had developed whereby women and children were declared off limits. No one said that that was the case. Part of the reason was that bombs were often left in public places that sometimes killed children (about 75 children under the age of 15 died as a direct result of the conflict).The explanation for why the children or the women weren't killed? Well, we were told that it was so that the survivors would have to live with the memory of what they had seen. I can't say that it was the most convincing of arguments.

What else? During the conflict, something known as kneecapping began to occur. No one remembers it having existed prior to the Troubles but during the conflict both sides ended up adopting the tool.
Kneecapping is a form of malicious wounding, often as criminal punishment or torture, in which the victim is injured in the knee, often using a firearm or power drill to damage the knee joint and kneecap.
According to this story, people were rarely shot in the knee. They were shot in the back of the leg. You really had to earn having your knee cap blown out. As a result, word has it that Belfast has some of the finest knee surgeons around.

I'm still getting my head around the level of violence here during the last forty years. 3,500 deaths doesn't sound like an extraordinary number, especially over 30 to 40 years. However, it took place in a country with a population of only about 1.5 million at the time. According to one of the speakers, that would have amounted to 500,000 US deaths given the size of our population.

Mineria en Guatemala

No es la lucha de indígenas contra "empresarios" No es cosa de izquierda o derecha, es solo que alguien se benefició regalando los bienes del estado.
Mining in Guatemala via the URNG-MAIZ Facebook Page.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Police Reform in Guatemala from the International Crisis Group

The International Crisis Group has a new report on Police Reform in Guatemala: Obstacles and Opportunities. The Executive Summary and Recommendations look similar to what we've heard for the last few years. However, the full report, which can be accessed here, looks like it has taken recent developments into account.
The urgency of building competent, professional police has only grown over the past decade. More than 57,000 people were murdered from 2001 through 2011; the homicide rate climbed from 28 per 100,000 persons in 2001 to a peak of 46 per 100,000 in 2009.

There is hope that this trend may be reversing: the rate fell to 41 in 2010 and to 39 in 2011. But that is still higher than Colombia (32 per 100,000), where guerrillas and other armed groups continue to operate, and more than double the average in the Americas overall (sixteen), about eight times the rate in the U.S. (five) and ten times the average in Europe (3.5).
"There is hope that this trend may be reversing"? Isn't the decline in 2010 and 2011 evidence that it is? And last I looked, Guatemala was on pace for ~33 per 100,000 in 2012.

Why not compare Guatemala's rate to El Salvador and Honduras? Who compares it to the US, Europe, or Colombia? Would Guatemala's rate look too good if they compared it to its neighbors in the Northern Triangle?

That's not to say that Guatemala doesn't have a lot of work to do. It obviously does. I just always find the comparisons that people choose to be strange at times.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Troubles in Northern Ireland, Part 1

Corrymeela, Ballycastle, Northern Ireland
Sorry for the lack of updates, but as I mentioned a week or so ago, I am in Northern Ireland on a program entitled Teaching Peace and Reconciliation: Theory and Peace in Northern Ireland. I thought Northern Ireland would be a great place to learn about another country that underwent a sustained period of violent intrastate conflict and is generally considered one of the more successful peace processes. That plus the fact that the program is all expenses paid.

Northern Ireland (N.I.) is a part of the United Kingdom located on the northern eastern section of the island of Ireland. Since partition in 1921, N.I. has been comprised of six northern counties (Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone) and the Republic of Ireland of twenty-six.

Long story short, the Catholic population was treated as second class citizens for about 300 or so years. They rebelled quite frequently until partition. After partition, creating Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (where my family is from) they were still treated like second class citizens in N.I.

Then in the 1960s, Catholics began to mobilize for greater civil rights (pretty much at the same time that civil rights movements were taking place in many other countries of the world. Demands for civil rights were repressed by the government leading to the outbreak of what it referred to as the Troubles.

The Troubles began in the late 1960s with no agreement on an exact start date. For the next forty years, suffered an intense period of violence conflict involving a variety of Protestant Unionist forces (those seeking to remain part of the UK) including Loyalist paramilitaries, Irish security forces, and British security forces
versus Republican and Catholic paramilitary groups such as the Provision Irish Republican Army. We would then consider this conflict more of an ethno-sectarian conflict. As a protestant bishop here told us,
The troubles result from unresolved tensions between two competing communities, from a time when politics and religion were inseparably linked.
For the Protestant Unionists and Loyalists, they believed that they had a had a constitutional right to the land (the fact that the land had been stolen from the Catholics and distributed to Protestant plantation owners by the British centuries earlier was not significant). They also supported preserving the Union with Britain and resisting the perceived threat of a United Ireland (the six counties of the north joining with the twenty-six of the Republic of Ireland) under which they would be a distinct minority. In a similar vein, they fought against the Catholics out of fear that a Catholic government would be subservient to the Pope. They warned that "Home Rule is Rome Rule."

However, two former Loyalists paramilitaries that we spoke to last week (one from the UDA and one from the UVF) explained their joining the Loyalist cause out of a desire to defend their local community and in response to a murdered uncle. Instead of joining the police or military, they joined the paramilitaries because they believed that the military and police were too handicapped by the rule of law.

I told other on my group that in Latin America many would have referred to the two men as death squad members. This was especially the case for "Walter" because he only spoke about killing. A member of the police or military would slip him a name or photo and he would "stiff" him. At at times, they would just go out and kill a Catholic, any Catholic, in response to the murder of a Protestant police officer or soldier. Not everyone in my group agreed with this characterization, probably because most of them enjoyed the stories and laughed along with them.

On the Catholic side, they were fighting because they believed that the Border separating N.I. and Ireland was undemocratic. A majority of Catholics wanted a United Ireland. Some wanted (or might have settled for) a Northern Ireland independent of both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Finally, others simply demanded equality, justice, and human rights (following unfair practices which bolstered Protestant Power 1920-1970), perhaps even remaining part of the UK.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Two charged for torturing Bachelet's father

In Chile, retired colonels Ramon Caceres Jorquera and Edgar Benjamin Cevallos Jones were charged with torturing former President Michelle Bachelet's father, General Alberto Bachelet. General Bachelet was convicted of being a traitor by the Pinochet regime and died in prison in 1974 after he was convicted of being a traitor. General Bachelet was 51 when he died of heart complications most likely related to his torture.
Gen. Bachelet had told his family of being tortured by the same young air force members he had trained.
"They broke me from the inside," the general wrote in a letter from prison. "At one point they had morally torn me apart. I never thought to hate anyone, I always thought that the human being is the most marvelous of this creation and should be respected as such, but I found myself confronted with air force comrades whom I've known for 20 years, my own students, who treated me like a delinquent or a dog."
While the trials of former military officials for crimes committed during the Cold War have helped to uncover greater truth about what went on and has contributed in some ways to attaining justice, does anyone get a sense that it has brought about reconciliation among the individuals/groups involved in the violence?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ex-colonel who killed Bishop Gerardi goes free

This is very disappointing.
Byron Disrael Lima Estrada was freed for good behaviour, the Roman Catholic church said, after serving 11 years for his conviction in the murder of Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi. Estrada, 80, had been hospitalised for the past seven years.
The church archdiocese said it had received formal notification of the release on Friday.
Gerardi was killed in April 1998, two days after releasing a report on abuses of power during the country's 36-year civil war. Many of the cases were blamed on the army. Estrada was given 20 years' jail over Gerardi's death.
Gerardi, a human rights campaigner of many years stranding, was bludgeoned to death outside his home in Guatemala City on 26 April 1998. He was 72.
Two days earlier he had released a scathing report on human rights abuses attributed to the military during the 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996.
The report, which for the first time named individual officers allegedly responsible for many of the 150,000 killings that took place during the conflict, apparently incensed Estrada and other senior officers.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grants to Guatemalan survivors of human rights abuses

From the GHRC
The Guatemala Human Rights Commission is offering grants to Guatemalans who are survivors of human rights abuses (including domestic violence and sexual assault). They must be actively working in the United States (or in the United States and Guatemala) to publicize human rights conditions in Guatemala or have expressed a strong interest on the topic. Individuals may receive up to $5,000 for one year. They may write the application in Spanish or English. The deadline to apply is July 30, 2012. Please visit the Web site for further information: www.ghrc-usa.org or contact Joan Dawson at joan_dawson@ymail.com

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Violent deaths during the first half of 2012

According to INACIF in Guatemala, violent deaths during the first half of 2012 were down a little more than ten percent compared to the same numbers from last year.
Now the National Forensics Institute counts homicides plus other deaths so the number are a bit inflated. However, by their calculations, 3,239 Guatemalans were killed violently during the first six months of 2011. During the first six months of 2012, 2,896 were killed.

That's 343 fewer deaths, or almost 11%, which isn't too shabby.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Partnering for a new Guatemala City

Here is a guest post from Andrea Stachnik. Andrea has been living in Guatemala for the last two years where she has started a not for profit social enterprise in Guatemala City called Unmarked Streets.
I just moved into a new home/office in zone 4, which is right in the center of the capital. Zone 4 used to be the up and coming part of the city, there is an area right outside my front door called “4 Grados Norte”, which for awhile was supposed to be a young, cool area for urban professionals to work and hang out. There is one main drag, which used to be full of restaurants, bars, cafes, jazz clubs and so forth. The NY Times even covered it last year, hailing the area the “A Silicon Valley dream in Guatemala”. They mention right at the end of the article the trend I have seen in the last couple of years: drunks, drug dealers, and petty criminals came in and started lurking around all the brand new restaurants and cafes. Before long people stopped coming in, because they were unnerved by all the seediness that had sprouted on the other side of the small chain that separated the wealthy Guatemalan elite from everyone else. Now every single one of the restaurants and bars on that street has closed.
Now when people talk about the new, cool, young part of town, they point to Sixth Avenue in Zone 1, just a few blocks away. For the most part 4 Grados Norte was abandoned, and now in the middle of zone 4 there is an adorable, tree lined street, which has not one restaurant, café, or bar still standing. It is absolutely bizarre to me that so much money flooded in: five years ago they created an entire buzzing neighborhood. And just a few short years later almost all signs of it are gone, the only thing still running is Campus Tec, which is home to some young tech and advertising companies.
It seems to me like the way to deal with 4 Grados Norte is relatively straightforward: develop the surrounding areas. Fix the broken windows, add proper street lighting and pick up litter in the surrounding areas, not just the one street where people go to spend their money. The main drag that runs down 4 Grados Norte is still beautiful, but the surrounding streets look just as grimy and dirty as the rest of Guatemala City. It’s no wonder that people thought it was a good place to get drunk on the street and/or commit crimes: it was a rundown area with a lot of rich people nearby. And the lessons of 4 Grados Norte don’t seem to have guided the development of Sixth Avenue in Zone 1. Sixth avenue itself is charming and lovely, but everything around it is still a mess. And the criminals know that: the Public Ministry just declared the area surrounding 6th Avenue (from 5th to 9th) a “red zone” for petty theft, vandalism and the like.
I would love to see a project that was more comprehensive: Guatemala City is full of shopping enclaves that are completely isolated from the rest of the neighborhood that they sit in (Las Majadas, Paseo Cayala, Oakland Mall, Fontabella, Portales). They are completely insular experiences: shut off and guarded from the businesses and neighbors that sit right across the street. But you can’t “develop” just one street or block, you have to take the whole neighborhood with you. I would love to see a long term project that was run by a partnership between the city and multiple developers. I am thinking of something along the lines of the redevelopment of Times Square, which changed and integrated all of Midtown, or the reduction in gang related violent crime in Chicago when they broke up and re-developed Cabrini Green. Both projects were controversial, but both achieved the objective of reducing crime rates. And survey after survey say that that things that Guatemalans want to see most in their country is improved security and lower crime rates. Real, long lasting economic development in the capital will continue to lag until businesses and the people think of Guatemala City as a safe place to live and work.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland

I am in Northern Ireland for the next three weeks as part of the Lilly Fellows Program Summer Seminar on "Teaching Peace and Reconciliation: Theory and Practice in Northern Ireland." We are staying at the Corrymeela Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in Ballycastle. Corrymeela has been around for a few decades trying to bring Catholics and Protestants together. It sees itself as an open Christian community committed to reconciliation.

While I am here, I hope to learn a lot about the Troubles as well as the peace process that led to its "resolution." My family is from Ireland, not Northern Ireland, but this is the first time that I've been to either. It'll will be an opportunity to learn some new things and to better incorporate Northern Ireland into my Comparative Civil Wars course.

I also hope that my time here will help me to think a little differently about truth, justice, reconciliation, and forgiveness in the Central American nations of which I am more familiar. That should help with the blog, research, and teaching. I also run the University of Scranton's Education for Justice Program and this program is already giving me a number of ideas.

However, that probably means that I won't be posting much here over the next few weeks. So, if anyone with a background in Central or South America would like to submit a guest post, please send it a long and I will get them up.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Guatemala News Stories

Nic Wirtz writing at Americas Quarterly has an update on the student protests in Guatemala that I mentioned the other day.
This is the first real test of Pérez Molina’s administration in the capital city. Given his liberal use of states of emergency in the national hospital and San Marcos, it will be interesting to see how he reacts to this latest wave of civil unrest. But the more crucial question for Guatemala is what reforms can and should be implemented to improve a subpar educational system.
Upside Down World has another post from Beth Geglia on the student protests.

Renata Avila writing at Global Voices has information on another attack against Guatemalans protesters.
The intensity of violence against female activists is on the rise in Guatemala. Lolita Chavez, member of the K’iche’ People’s Council, was attacked by armed men who attempted to lynch her as she was returning home after a peaceful protest against abusive extractive practices and projects affecting the environment.
Kate Newman has an article on at Americas Quarterly on how the Otto Perez Molina administration has asked the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to declare itself incompetent on its Rio Negro massacre rulings. OPM's administration also reiterated that genocide did not occur in Guatemala.

Here are a few others to take a look at:
U.S. soldier killed on humanitarian mission in Guatemala
Even Court-Approved Extraditions Have a Troubled, Bloody History in Guatemala
Guatemala farmers losing their land to Europe's demand for biofuels

Friday, July 6, 2012

Salvadoran Reporter in Ga. Faces Immigration Drama

I'm sympathetic to many Central Americas who requests asylum in the United States even though I don't always buy their claims of persecution. Here's the latest one.
A reporter for Georgia's largest Spanish-language newspaper who frequently writes about immigration issues has recently found himself caught up in his own immigration drama.
When an immigration judge last month denied Mario Guevara's application for asylum and ordered him and his family to leave the country within 60 days, his world was turned upside down. Guevara said he left El Salvador in 2004 after he was beaten and repeatedly harassed by leftist groups because of his work as a political reporter for La Prensa Grafica, a conservative newspaper with close ties to the political party that was in power at the time, according to documents filed in an Atlanta immigration court.
It's always possible that Guevara is telling the truth. Reporters do get harassed, beaten, and sometimes killed because of their reporting in El Salvador and elsewhere. According to a Swiss press freedom group, the Press Emblem Campaign, Latin America is the most dangerous region in the world for journalists.

However, the reason it looks like Mr. Guevara wants to stay in the United States is because his family lives here.
Guevara has two young sons who were born here and are U.S. citizens. His mother and brother, a veteran who fought in Afghanistan, are also citizens.
He may or may not have suffered past persecution in El Salvador. I don't know. However, his petition to stay in the country should get a second look simply to not break up families.

h/t l

Hug it Forward in El Salvador

Tracy Lopez has a piece on Hug it Forward building a school out of plastic bottles in Guaymango, a town in Ahuachapán, El Salvador.
While this classroom is the first of its kind in El Salvador, more than a dozen “Bottle Schools” have been built by communities in neighboring Guatemala, coordinated by the Hug It Forward organization. The process, pioneered by the Pura Vida organization, requires discarded plastic bottles to be collected and filled with compacted plastic wrappers, like the ones commonly used for commercial snacks. These bottles become "eco-bricks" which are stacked in between chicken wire on either side and then covered in cement. The bottles serve as insulation rather than structural support but the benefits are far greater.
At around $5,000, "Bottle Schools" cost half of what a traditional classroom costs to build,
they encourage communities to work together to clean up litter while teaching environmental awareness, plus they give children pride in their classroom as they are part of the project.
Here's video from their work in Sepalau, Guatemala.

You can volunteer or donate to Hug it Forward through their website.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Guatemalans Used in Experiments Deserve Compensation

I. Glenn Cohen and Holly Fernandez Lynch have an op-ed in the New York Times on "Guatemalans Used in Experiments Deserve Compensation."
IN the late 1940s, researchers from the United States Public Health Service, in cooperation with the Guatemalan government, carried out experiments on Guatemalan prisoners, soldiers, sex workers and patients in a mental institution, exposing them to sexually transmitted diseases without their consent, in order to develop new methods of prevention. Research involving intentional exposure to infectious pathogens had been done before, and still occurs today, but with ethical safeguards that were not in place in Guatemala. What happened there was wrong because of the lack of individual consent, the subjects’ vulnerability and the degrading nature of some research methods; in addition, the science was shoddy and the record-keeping so poor that it is hard to know how many Guatemalans were exposed to infection, successfully infected or adequately treated, let alone precisely who the subjects were.
Nonetheless, Guatemalans claiming to be research victims and their heirs brought a class-action suit in federal court last year seeking compensation, after unsuccessfully urging the government to set up a claims process like that of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. On June 13, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia rejected their claims on jurisdictional and technical grounds.
They argue that the United States should do more for those Guatemalans who were experimented on without their knowledge during research carried out in the 1940s. While the US has apologized and has delivered some financial support, it just hasn't done enough to assist those who were directly affected by the program.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Student protests in Guatemala

One of the continuities between the Alvaro Colom administration and previous governments in Guatemala was the frequent use of force in responding to the mobilization of civil society. There's no indication that matters are about to change with Otto Perez Molina's administration.

In Guatemala City, dozens of people have been injured in clashes between police and students. The students were protesting an education reform that would extend the curriculum from three to five years. Forty students were taken to the hospital. The country's Interior and Education ministers were also injured.

But, of course, those involved in the protests were not just students. There were people with hoods who had infiltrated and manipulated the crowds. They were very aggressive towards the security personnel which is not normal.

I'm sure that it is possible that individuals were manipulating the crowds so that they became more violent towards the security personnel. However, given the country's history, it's just as likely, perhaps even more so, that they covered their faces so as not to be identified by the police and to not suffer the same fate as have other protesters.

Colin at Americas North and South has more on the proposed educational reforms in Guatemala.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mari Carmen Aponte Returns

Mari Carmen Aponte has returned to El Salvador just in time for another constitutional crisis. 

Be sure to check out Tim's blog for full coverage of the events that have led to Two groups of judges claim to be the Supreme Court.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Happy Canada Day!

Back when I was backpacking through Guatemala in 1998, the Americans that I ran into used to joke that if anyone asked where you were from, you should say Canada. Guatemala was, obviously, emerging from 36-years of war in which the US played a not so pleasant role.

Today, when I hear that the US has lost influence in Latin America, I sort of laugh. We've been hearing that for so long that the US must have gone negative years ago. Anyway, if you really want to know who has lost influence in the region, you need to look to our northern neighbors as they celebrate Canada Day.

Here is Reverend Emilie Smith, a Canadian living in Guatemala, writing about how the people of that country view Canada.
Happy (ahem) Canada Day. I wish we could return to the days when that would have made me proud. Canada's name is mud in Guatemala, where mining companies with the maple leaf have been ravaging community after community.
Every one of us, as we quietly remove the Canadian flags sewn onto our backpacks, and pocket those little pins they give us on Canada Day, should know by now: around the world, in our name, and to our financial benefit, Canadian mining companies are destroying the earth. Chasing after the love of gold and money, they care not for communities, the land, the water, or due process of consultation, or the fair sharing of profits. They come, blow the earth up, suck up the water, leaving cesspools of poison behind. And promising trinkets, 'development' and jobs to the desperately poor and starving, they divide households and communities, leaving bloodshed and fear in their wake.
On June 13, my friend, community leader Yolanda Oqueli, was ambushed and shot as she was leaving the peaceful blockade to the entrance of the proposed site of the Canadian-owned Tambor gold mine, near Guatemala City.
My how the time have changed.

I wonder if this will end up like other opinions of the US. When I was staying with a family in Kingston, Jamaica in 1995, the family said that they loved the American people. It was our government that they hated. I used to hear the same thing in El Salvador in 1997. I'm sure that many of you have heard similar stories.

However, when I returned to El Salvador in 2006 the relationship changed. Salvadorans were rightfully angry about the US war in Iraq and their military's participation, our illegal treatment of detainees, and our meddling in their 2004 elections. They were no longer as ready to accept the distinction between the American people and the US government. Some would say that if the American people differed from President Bush on those issues, they wouldn't have re-elected him.

They were not quite swayed by the argument that most Americans vote for president based upon the country's economic performance. We don't pay much attention to international affairs.That argument didn't sway them.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Former first lady to run in Honduras

While Mexicans go to the ballot box today to elect their next president, the followers of former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya will gather to select the former first lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya as the the presidential candidate of the leftist Libre Party (Libertad y Refundación). Elections are scheduled for November 18, 2013. Libre was formed by members of the National Resistant Front who organized against the coup that deposed Manuel Zelaya three years ago.

Here are three reflections on the anniversary of the coup from Honduras Culture and Politics, Hermano Juancito, and Voices from El Salvador.

Given the muddled US response to the recent constitutional crisis in Paraguay, it doesn't appear that the US has gotten any better at defending democracy and the rule of law in the region. I don't think that it is because the US doesn't want to defend democracy and the rule of law. Part of the US' response seems to be driven by other interests (drug trafficking concerns, economic interests, lukewarm support for democratically-elected leftists aligned with Venezuela, etc.).

Another part is driven by a lack of knowledge about the constitutional powers of the different branches of government in Honduras, Paraguay, and elsewhere. See Tim for the recent constitutional crisis in El Salvador here and here.

Finally, even when the US wants a desired outcome, it's not clear that it has the power to cause Latin American elites to change. I've always thought that people overestimate US power in Latin America. Sure the US is powerful economically and militarily, but that doesn't always mean that it will get its way.