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Guatemala: News & Updates

Guatemala had the longest and bloodiest civil war in Central American history: 36 years (1960-96). The US-backed military was responsible for a genocide (“scorched earth policy”) that wiped out 200,000 mostly Maya indigenous civilians.  War criminals are still being tried in the courts.

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News Article
As Congress prepares to vote on a massive military spending bill - the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) - we need strong collective action to end U.S. complicity in state repression and human rights abuses in Central America. Thankfully, progressive leader Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) has heard these demands and introduced an amendment to the NDAA that would withhold U.S. military training and equipment for security forces in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. We need as many US reps as possible to co-sponsor this amendment.
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The trauma experienced by Central American minors before, during, and after their unaccompanied journeys to the United States puts them at high risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health problems, creating further obstacles to their success in school and broader integration into U.S. society. New research into results from the CLALS Pilot Project Household Contexts and School Integration of Resettled Migrant Youth, which included interviews and qualitative surveys (including a validated PHQ-9 Modified for Teens and the Child PTSD Symptom Scale, CPSS), revealed that about one-third of unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala show symptoms of moderate to severe PTSD — significantly higher than the general population....Many of the youths suffered deeply from separation from parents who preceded them in traveling to the United States, sometimes blaming them for problems and abuses they suffered back home, but they generally fared better than those whose parents had not emigrated.
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In response to Attorney General Consuelo Porras’ dismissal of top anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval, the Biden administration has taken steps intended as a rebuke. On July 27 the administration announced it had “temporarily paused programmatic cooperation” with the Guatemalan Public Ministry. “Guatemalan Attorney General Consuelo Porras’ July 23rd decision to remove Special Prosecutor Against Impunity, or FECI, Chief Juan Francisco Sandoval fits a pattern of behavior that indicates a lack of commitment to the rule of law and independent judicial and prosecutorial processes,” according to the State Department’s spokesperson. “As a result, we have lost confidence in the attorney general and their decision and intention to cooperate with the US government and fight corruption in good faith.”
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During her visit to Guatemala in early June, Vice President Kamala Harris made comments regarding migration to the southern U.S. border that sparked controversy.
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Thousands of rural Guatemalans — as well as Salvadorans and Hondurans in agrarian areas — increasingly are leaving their communities. These days, migration — including the record number of unaccompanied children — is on the rise in rural areas, as an increasing portion of the country’s land and population faces the fallout from climate change.
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Aviva Chomsky, author most recently of Central America’s Forgotten History: Revolution, Violence, and the Roots of Migration, points out that the president’s new plan for Central America, supposedly aimed at the “root causes” of migration to this country, is the disappointing equivalent of ancient history even when solutions are actually available. He’s once again offering that region the kind of “aid” that helped create today’s “migrant crisis.” As it happens, more military and private development aid of the Biden’s plan calls for won’t stop migration or help Central America.
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In the pursuit of addressing the ‘root causes’ of migration from Central America to the U.S. southern border, the United States is motivated by a foreign policy built on seeking to improve conditions in Central America countries. However, this policy fails to fully grasp the extreme conditions that now mark contexts of forced displacement.
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Please see a summary of the letters we sent to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries. We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, and (3) bring human rights criminals to justice. IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

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