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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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A 14-year old told us she was taking care of a 4-year old who had been placed in her cell with no relatives. "I take her to the bathroom, give her my extra food if she is hungry, and tell people to leave her alone if they are bothering her," she said.

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The law openly defines a family as being made up of a “father and mother with children,” places all responsibility for sexual education on the parents, and defines sexual diversity as “incompatible with human biology.” The proposed definition of a family as a heterosexual couple has led to fears of discrimination against single-parent households. “The law will affect single mothers who have been abandoned or whose partners have migrated, or [single women who have] adopted a child,” Dávila says. “The law will mean that the state no longer recognizes [a single mother] as a family.” The United Nations’ High Commission on Human Rights called the law “regressive.”
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Women from CONAVIGUA - an organisation founded by women whose husbands were killed or disappeared during the armed conflict - and supporters protested Wednesday outside Congress in anticipation of the second reading. They vow to return when the bill is back on the agenda. "Victims have a right to justice. We reject any attempt to grant amnesty. We reject impunity," CONAVIGUA national coordinator Rosalina Tuyuc told reporters at the rally outside the Congress building on Feb 13.
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A woman spreads incense over the remains of 172 unidentified people who were discovered buried at what was once a Guatemalan military camp during the civil war in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala, a day before their formal burial at the same site where they were unearthed. A genetic bank of the unidentified is saving DNA samples from the remains for those searching for relatives...If passed, the proposed Amnesty Law would undo decades of work to provide justice to victims of wartime atrocities; it would represent an unequivocal return to the reign of impunity long sought by the powerful, military-backed networks of corruption that the United States has invested significant resources into dismantling.
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Death of Jakelin Caal in US custody highlights how land conflicts and displacement fuel flight from indigenous villages...The oil extracted from the palm fruits is used for biofuel and in all kinds of household products, from ice cream and instant noodles to lipstick and detergents..."Before there was palm and before there was sugar cane...we farmed watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, tomato, chile, papaya and other crops that helped our families subsist and also generated work," said community leader Albino Mejia...Starting in 2005, palm and sugar cane companies moved in to take over land rights for plantations, raising lease rates for subsistence farmers, and draining water sources used by those small farmers who still had access to land. As a consequence, people have been displaced. Many migrate north to the US.
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For more than a decade, U.S. presidents and lawmakers from both parties agreed that the U.N. International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala—known by its Spanish acronym, CICIG—offered the best hope of confronting a destructive legacy of corruption in the Central American country. The State Department’s regional experts believe the commission has stemmed the flow of immigrants and drugs to the United States. But now, Guatemala’s conservative president, himself an evangelical Christian, has succeeded in shattering the political consensus, forging alliances with a coalition of U.S. conservatives: Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, former U.N. envoy Nikki Haley, Sen. Marco Rubio, evangelical Christians, and conservative think tanks and pundits who share antipathy toward the United Nations and a preference for friendly sovereign states to be able to act as they please.
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The Q’eqchi women of Sepur Zarco were forced into sex slavery during Guatemala's civil war. The trial against the perpetrators ended in the conviction of senior military officers last year. Between 2008 and 2018, Guatemalan courts issued 16 verdicts in human rights cases linked to the 36-year civil conflict (1960-1996), convicting 33 former military officials, military commissioners, and former civil defense patrol members of a series of war crimes, including torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial execution, aggravated sexual violence, and sexual and domestic slavery. A proposed Amnesty Law would terminate all ongoing proceedings against grave crimes committed during the country’s civil war, free all military officials and guerrilla leaders already convicted for these grave crimes, and bar all future investigations into such crimes.
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The 63-year-old Aldana was Guatemala’s top prosecutor from 2014 to 2018. Her biggest successes were the jailing of former President Otto Perez Molina, his Vice President Roxana Baldetti and most of his cabinet on corruption charges. Perez Molina resigned in 2015 and is awaiting trial in corruption cases.

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