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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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The Butler County Jail--one of four county jails in Ohio that has been detaining immigrants--is getting out of the business of “civil” immigration detention, and the community is celebrating. Advocates and lawyers spoke with reporters about this development in a Zoom meeting on May 28, which included remarks from people who had spent time in that jail. Sandra Ramírez described what it felt like to visit her brother at the Butler jail every week during the time he was detained there by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Watching him lose weight and become a shadow of himself was so painful for her, as a 16 year-old, and the scars remain with her and her family today. A year from now, Sandra hopes that immigrants are no longer detained in jails for ICE, and that everyone who needs it can have a path to citizenship. Read more about this important development at http://ohioimmigrant.org/. If you missed it, watch the press conference here.
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The countries of Latin America commemorated International Labor Day on May 1 with restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic but with firm claims of a speedy economic recovery. Colombia again witnessed demonstrations but, unlike the previous three days of protests against the tax reform proposed by the government, they took place calmly and without major incident on May Day in different cities, where better labor conditions were demanded. Hundreds of Honduran workers marched to demand that the government promote “mass vaccination” against COVID-19 and other measures to mitigate the crises caused by the pandemic. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Latin America in March 2020, the region has lowered its gross domestic product to 2010 levels, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, 57 percent of employment is precarious and poverty has returned to the levels of 15 years ago, according to the secretary general of the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI) for Education, Science and Culture, Mariano Jabonero, in a recent interview with EFE.
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*Thanks to The Associated Press for the article*

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration has struck an agreement with Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala to temporarily surge security forces to their borders in an effort to reduce the tide of migration to the U.S. border.

The agreement comes as the U.S. saw a record number of unaccompanied children attempting to cross the border in March, and the largest number of Border Patrol encounters overall with migrants on the southern border — just under 170,000 — since March 2001. 

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As we continue to face a refugee crisis on the U.S. southern border, it is imperative to address the destabilizing threat posed by environmental degradation in Central America. In particular, climate change and illegal cattle ranching—often by organized crime and narcotrafficking entities—is driving forest destruction and lawlessness within Central America’s largest wildernesses, directly imperiling the physical, cultural, food and water security of local communities and Indigenous peoples.
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39th anniversary of Rio Negro massacres in Guatemala, carried out by the US-backed genocidal military regimes on behalf of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Banks’s Chixoy hydro-electric dam project. Some 450 people were killed outright. Villagers were killed by machete blows, gang-rapes and beatings, being strangled, small children beaten against rocks, and shot. Thereafter, massacre survivors perished in the surrounding mountains due to hunger and disease, after the final Rio Negro/Chixoy dam massacre in the village of Agua Fria, on September 14, 1982. This slaughter of Rio Negro villagers served as the Chixoy dam project’s “relocation” of the villagers to make way for the filling of the dam flood basin. In total, over 30 Mayan communities were forcibly evicted in whole or part, up and down river from the Chixoy dam wall. No community suffered more than Rio Negro. To this day, neither the World Bank or IDB have accepted any responsibility for Chixoy dam massacres and other deaths, the forced evictions and widespread loss of land, property and livelihood.
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Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), presented her oral update (https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26806&...) as well as her reports on Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras. Few countries in the world were as open to international human rights scrutiny as Colombia, which has the largest UNHCHR in Latin America and serious deadly violence against social leaders. Turning to Guatemala, Ms. Bachelet welcomed measures strengthening access to culturally appropriate health care and providing information in accessible formats and in indigenous languages. Her Office continued to observe the erosion of civic space, with increasing attacks and intimidation against human rights defenders, including journalists in the country. Honduras’ human rights challenges included high levels of violence, impunity, discrimination and lack of access to economic, social and cultural rights. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact of hurricanes Eta and Iota, had exacerbated the obstacles faced by the most vulnerable people.
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It is with great sadness that we share this news. Sister Dianna Ortiz passed away this morning (Feb 19 2021). Sister Dianna was well-known in the Latin America solidarity movement for the past 30 years. "In 1989, while working as a missionary in Guatemala, Sister Dianna Ortiz, an American Ursuline, was abducted by security forces and brutally tortured. Her case attracted international attention-- not because it was so unusual, but because of the explosive charge that the man who intervened with her captors, a mysterious "Alejandro," may have had connections with the US Embassy." (From the book jacket of her autobiography, which she wrote with Patricia Davis, The Blindfold's Eyes: My Journey from Torture to Truth)

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