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Afro-Descendant & Indigenous: News & Updates

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On January 31, 2022 family and friends of detained migrant Jauna Alonzo Santizo traveled from San Mateo Ixitán to Guatemala City to present a petition letter to the Mexican Consulate. This letter–signed by 5,135 individuals and 43 organizations–demands the immediate release of Santizo, who has been detained in Tamaulipas, Mexico for seven years for a crime she and her family maintain that she did not commit. In an attempt to migrate to the United States in search of better economic opportunities in 2014, Santizo was kidnapped in Mexico and forced to work for her captors. When police arrived on the scene, they accused Santizo of being a trafficker, but because Santizo–a Maya Chuj woman–did not speak Spanish at the time, she was unable to defend herself. Without legal counsel, consulate support, or even an interpreter, Santizo was forced at gunpoint to sign a document incriminating herself. US Border Patrol and Customs has reported an increased need for interpreters that speak languages like Chuj; the number of migrants that speak only Mayan Indigenous languages apprehended at the US Southern Border doubled from 2020 to 2021.

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Guatemala's highest court has sentenced five former paramilitaries to 30 years in prison for raping dozens of indigenous Mayan women during the country's civil war in the 1980s. The men were members of so-called Civil Self-Defense Patrols, armed groups formed and supported by the military. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala said the sentence was a "landmark advance in the access to the rights to truth, justice and reparation for female victims of sexual violence during" the war.

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The community assembly in Nebaj, Guatemala is part of the Ixil’s historical struggle to pursue peaceful and local community-based solutions and transparency to institutional, governmental, and structural corruption and impunity at all levels of government. Guatemala is experiencing a weakening of democratic structures and the further entrenchment of corruption and impunity. Many Indigenous communities have been abandoned by the corrupt state and are displaced from their territories by the armed forces. The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), created in 2006, gave Guatemalans hope that justice would be served to corrupt politicians, but the right-wing and military backlash was swift. In recent years, the Guatemalan state has become increasingly militarized and has overused states of sieges to suspend civil liberties. As a result, some fear that the government is regressing towards authoritarianism. Twenty-five years after the Peace Accords, Guatemalan democracy is at a crucial political juncture in which the safeguards against corruption, impunity, and state violence are being dismantled by the politicians, elites, and military.

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On September 16, 2021, a military helicopter appeared and began firing—seemingly indiscriminately—from above. The unsuspecting residents of Ibans, a small Afro-Indigenous community on the northeastern coast of Honduras, ran for cover from the stream of bullets raining down. The authorities, including DEA, initially tried to cover up the Ahuas incident and subsequently to justify it as a matter of security: they alleged that the commercial passenger boat was involved in trafficking drugs and that it opened fire on the military helicopter. Illicit drugs do transit parts of this region in Honduras, and much of the rest of it. In fact, since the Ahuas massacre, cocaine transit through the region has remained, on average, unchanged despite ongoing U.S.-funded enforcement. In this context, these extrajudicial killings have come to represent an ongoing counter-narcotics operation that serves not to stop illegal drug trafficking, but rather to perpetuate violence and impunity through the militarization of Indigenous territories in Honduras. The cost of this overzealous response and intentional neglect can be seen in the lives of Miskitu, Tawhaka, Garifuna, and other Indigenous Peoples.
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Women have been at the forefront of struggle in Honduras throughout its history, from fighting dictatorships to challenging political corruption to seeking civil improvements such as gender parity in politics and education. The recent presidential election of Xiomara Castro Sarmiento Zelaya of the Libertad and Refundación (Libre) party has exhilarated women from various sectors and in the diaspora. And as the first woman president, In her campaign and platform, Castro embraced gender rights and sought to address femicides and structural violence against women and LGBTI communities—issues ignored in previous campaigns. But the most far-reaching policy for women is Castro’s support of the right to sexual and reproductive rights. Now, 67 years after women won the right to vote, Xiomara Castro is promising to be a president of the people and to restore Honduras’s constitutionality and rule of law. It promises to be a new era for women, of all races and ethnicities, and LGBTI communities.

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