EVENTS: Reweaving the Social Fabric in Post-Conflict Guatemala

2-20-09 IPJ Daylight Series at USD Joan Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice

Thursday, September 3, 12:15 – 1:45 p.m.


This past summer USD sent a team to Quiché – the department in the western highlands of Guatemala that was hardest-hit during that country’s 36-year civil war – to conduct a workshop on conflict transformation. Panelists including the new IPJ Executive Director Milburn Line; IPJ Program Officer Elena McCollim; Community Service Learning Director Elaine Elliott; and Anu Lawrence, M.A. in Peace & Justice ’09, will discuss the outcomes of the workshop and its relevance for peacebuilding efforts in Guatemala. No RSVP required. Feel free to bring a lunch; light refreshments will be provided.

University of San Diego: 5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, CA 92110-2492

Tel: 619.260.4600

Three Days for Three Daughters international hunger strike – Sept. 2009

September 1, 2, 3, 2009. Join Us.

three_daysImagine if your child was kidnapped. Imagine when you reported this to authorities, you were ignored, bullied and dismissed. Imagine thinking you would never see your child again. And that you could do nothing about it.

Three Days for Three Daughters is an international hunger strike to be held on September first, second and third. The strike is named after three girls who were kidnapped from their three mothers in Guatemala. These mothers, like hundreds of other mothers and fathers in developing nations, wait without answers, help or justice.

In continuation of the hunger strike that was started by Norma Cruz and Fundacion Sobrevivientes in Guatemala on July 15, we are striking for three days, one day for each daughter, to seek justice for the mothers in Guatemala, and to bring attention to the problem of child trafficking in international adoption. Your commitment can help bring justice and give a voice to those that have been silenced.

We are asking people around the world to fast for three days, one day for each daughter stolen. We are not gathering physically in one spot, we are gathering virtually through the web. We are asking participants to commit to documenting their strike through words and/or photograph(s) that they will provide to us via email. At the end of the strike, a book will be designed of the strike documentation and given to key governmental officials and journalists in an effort to expose the issue.

We have commitments from people in India, Guatemala, Germany, The United States, Canada and Denmark. Your commitment can help bring justice and give a voice to those that have been silenced.

If you do decide to join us, please sign up at and sign in as a MIA delegate and notify us.

MIA ofrece curso en la USAC



En el marco de la Campaña “Pasa la voz! Las universitarias tenemos derecho auna vida libre de violencia!” promovida por el Instituto Universitario de la Mujer de la Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala-IUMUSAC, y la campaña “Listones blancos, Hombres contra el feminicidio” impulsada por MIA organización con sede en Los Ángeles, California.


• Sensibilizar sobre la necesidad de transformar lasrelaciones de desigualdad de género.

• Enseñar alternativas para transformar la violencia contra las mujeres.


• Rolesyestereotipossexistas

• Reconociendouncomportamientoabusivo

• Poniendofinalaviolenciadegénero


• 3 sesiones y una actividad de cierre.

• Talleres, video foros ylecturas seleccionadas.

• Se otorgará constancia de participación.

Dirigido a:

Mujeres y hombres estudiantes de las diferentes Unidades Académicas de la Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala


Jueves 20 de agosto

Jueves 27 de agosto

Viernes 4 de septiembre

Viernes 11 de septiembre

Horario: 14:00 a 17:00

Lugar: Aula Dr. Carlos González, Edificio DDA 2º. Nivel Ciudad Universitaria

Inscripción: Enviar correo electrónico a

Mayor información: Celular 5776-8918


Canary Institute Guatemalan News Summary ~ August 5-11, 2009

Compiled by Patricia Anderson and Santos Tale Tax


Experts and community leaders from around the world met held an International Conference on Mining in Antigua, Guatemala last week. Members of communities affected by mining gave testament to the contaminated water, desertification and general community conflict caused by mines. Pedro Pinto, of Honduras, commented: “The extraction of gold in my country has been going on for five years and has caused the death of several animals on two occasions because the cyanide used to extract the metal has contaminated the rivers.” Guatemalan delegates emphasized the importance of respecting community voices in the mining process.

On its closing day, the International Conference published a declaration detailing the ways in which mining companies enjoy impunity. The statement notes how mining companies damage the environment and the health of their workers and surrounding communities with rare regulations or sanctions from Latin American governments.

In response to the Conference, Douglas González, director of the Mining Guild, said: “In Guatemala we have no cases of environmental catastrophe due to mining; and since the technology used has advanced considerably, the impact on the environment has been mitigated. The population of Guatemala has no reason to worry.”


An outbreak of dengue in the Eastern department of Izabal has caused 170 people to be hospitalized. Ninety-two of the cases have been reported by the department as hemorrhaging dengue, all of which are children under the age of 13. However, the Ministry of Health has only reported 18 hemorrhaging cases. Hospital workers have denounced the Ministry of Health for its unwillingness to confirm all hemorrhaging cases, its lack of preventative measures and its overall poor management of the outbreak. Nine children died due to dengue last week.

The number of gripe A cases (H1N1)—Swine Flu — has risen to 624, an increase of 92 people since July 31.


In the department of Izabal, 5,197 square kilometers of virgin forests are cut down per year to make way for expanding agriculture and growing urban areas. Forty percent of the department’s lands are protected, making a portion of the deforestation illegal. The National Counsel of Protected Areas has urged vigilance, control and community education to prevent illicit deforestation.

Climate Change

An exceptionally dry rainy season with unseasonable frost has caused wide-spread crop damage – the estimated at crop loss totals 38,000 quetzales. These uncharacteristic weather patterns have been attributed to overall climate change. More than 16,000 families have been affected, and corn production is down 40%. Crop production is not expected to better in 2010 due to the long draughts and characteristic cold of El Niño.


Due to the long dry spell, three thousand communities are in risk of hunger and starvation. In the department of Zacapa 17 children have died this year from severe malnutrition and related diseases such as diarrhea.


The Basic Cost of Living has risen 2.8 quetzales in the last month and 18.99 quetzales in the last year. The director of the National Institute of Statistics emphasized that only 7 of the 26 crops that make up the calculation have risen, and that 17 crops have actually dropped in price. The price of onions has increased the most, 16.5 percent since 2008.

Analysts from the Association of Investigation and Social Studies say that the government of Guatemala had too small of a vision and invested too late in the economy when faced with last fall’s economic crisis. While time was being spent coming to an agreement about inversion, commerce and consumption fell by 8 percent. In relation to last year, commerce has fallen by 1.7 percent overall in Central America, compared to the 1 percent decrease in the United States.

Women’s Rights

400 women have been violently killed since the start of the year, 6 in the last week. Human rights attorney Sergio Morales says that 82 percent of the women were killed strictly because they were women. However under the current laws, only 19 can be classified and charged as femicide. 56 of the women were under the age 18. A large number of the victims were raped, tortured or dismembered.

Migration and the Economy

Remittances have fallen 9.5 percent in the first seven months of 2009, a difference of 248.2 million USD. Remittances were highest in July of this year, with 365.3 million USD entering the country. However, this number still falls sort of the 409.66 million USD seen in July 2008.

In 2008, more than 4 billion dollars were sent back to Guatemala in the form of remittances. Remittances make up 12 percent of Guatemala’s GDP and sustain at least 1 million Guatemalan households.

Esa vieja esclavitud

EL QUINTO PATIO: Carolina Vásquez Araya

Guatemala es uno de esos países donde aún existe el servicio doméstico, casi como un derecho adquirido, sin regulación legal alguna, fuente de explotación laboral y de abuso físico y económico contra las mujeres cuya situación les impide tener acceso a otras fuentes de trabajo, principalmente porque jamás tuvieron acceso a la educación.

El tema de las regulaciones legales del trabajo doméstico, en Guatemala, es casi como discutir la legalización del aborto en una asamblea de fundamentalistas religiosos: casi imposible. Existe una resistencia atávica de un fuerte sector de la población cuyos ingresos les permiten conservar el privilegio de tener una empleada trabajando a tiempo completo por un sueldo de miseria, y no será fácil cambiar su visión de las cosas.

Uno de los mayores obstáculos lo constituye la grada socioeconómica entre patrones y empleadas, con toda la carga de menosprecio y discriminación que ello involucra. La mayoría de las mujeres trabajadoras en casas particulares pertenecen a la población indígena. Son jóvenes que emigraron hacia las ciudades, en búsqueda de mejores oportunidades para ganarse la vida, y se encontraron, la mayoría de las veces, enfrentadas a una situación de dependencia y explotación fomentada por los altos índices de desempleo y la enorme competencia por encontrar una fuente de ingresos.

Obligadas a iniciar el día durante las primeras horas del alba y a mantenerse atenta a servir hasta que el último miembro de la familia decida lo contrario a avanzadas horas de la noche, la mayoría de trabajadoras recibe a cambio un sueldo inferior al mínimo fijado por ley.

Mantenido a capricho de la sociedad como una actividad informal, el servicio doméstico se ha convertido en una de las más humillantes formas de esclavitud para miles de mujeres cuyas limitadas opciones de supervivencia las someten a la aceptación forzada de unas condiciones de vida tan precarias como humillantes.

En este contexto, el maltrato contra la mujer toma una forma de convivencia natural e indiscutible. So pretexto de proporcionarles trabajo, casa y comida, sus patrones tranquilizan su conciencia ante las variadas forma de abuso a las cuales las someten de manera consuetudinaria.

Por supuesto, las excepciones existen y eso hace la regla. Sin embargo, el solo hecho de comenzar a discutir recién en el siglo XXI el tema de las regulaciones laborales para este numeroso contingente de trabajadoras, demuestra lo poco que se las valora en el ámbito de la productividad y la generación de riqueza. En estos tiempos de búsqueda de la justicia y la equidad de género, es imperioso enderezar estos entuertos, resabios de la época colonial, y eliminar esta degradante forma de discriminación.

Muerte violenta de mujeres no cesa

Por Cristina Bonillo

El número de mujeres asesinadas no deja de subir. Según datos oficiales, del 1 de enero al 26 de julio de este año murieron 394, y con crímenes cometidos esta semana superan las 400.

El 2 de enero último, Lourdes Alva López, de 17 años, murió acribillada a balazos mientras celebraba el Año Nuevo. Sara Escalante Vásquez, 53, fue hallada muerta con signos de violación y tortura, el 4 de agosto recién pasado. Entre la muerte de ambas mujeres han transcurrido siete meses, y lo que tienen en común es que han pasado a formar parte de las frías estadísticas: 394 fueron asesinadas en hechos de violencia en lo que va del 2009, según los últimos datos del Ministerio de Gobernación.

Ni siquiera la aprobación de la Ley contra el Femicidio ha conseguido que las cifras se reduzcan. Norma Cruz, de la Fundación Sobrevivientes, considera que, si bien hay un marco legal más enérgico, los castigos se aplican a parejas y convivientes, “y no a otros agresores que están fuera del círculo del hogar”.

Este año, el Organismo Judicial ha recibido 19 casos tipificados como femicidio, los cuales se encuentran en proceso de debate, y el Ministerio Público reportó hasta el 30 de junio 11 denuncias más por ese delito.

Sergio Morales, Procurador de los Derechos Humanos, reveló que el 82 por ciento de asesinatos de féminas se cometen por el hecho de ser mujeres, y no por delitos comunes. “Esto demuestra que hay un problema cultural grande, donde la mujer es vista como objeto”, señaló.

Otra de las manifestaciones de esa valoración equivocada de la mujer es la saña con la que son asesinadas. Como el caso de Escalante, decenas de mujeres han aparecido estranguladas, descuartizadas o torturadas.

Crímenes imparables

Cada año aumentan las cifras de muerte de mujeres por hechos de violencia, en Guatemala.

• Del 1 de enero al 26 de julio de este año, 394 mujeres perdieron la vida en actos violentos.

• La capital concentra la mayoría de casos —198—, seguida de lejos por Escuintla y San Marcos, con 18 cada uno.

• Entre las mujeres asesinadas se cuentan 56 menores de edad.

• 298 féminas fueron asesinadas con arma de fuego; 56, con arma blanca; 22, con armas cortocontundentes, y 30 fueron estranguladas.

DC Crime Bill May Hurt Victims of Sex Trafficking – Please Take Action

Washington DC: Take Action on the DC Crime BIll

Sex trafficking is horrific crime whereby a person is forced or coerced to take part in sexual acts in exchange for something of value. In Washington D.C. such abuse of women and children is not uncommon. Unfortunately, in many cases a person who is sex trafficked is treated as a criminal rather than a victim who is unable to escape the physical abuse and psychological coercion to which she is subjected. Now, the D.C. Council is poised to vote on legislation, entitled the Omnibus Crime Bill 18-151, which includes a provision that will make a third arrest of a prostituted person a felony level crime. These penalties are far too stiff for the prostituted person, will do little to address the instances of prostitution or sex trafficking in D.C., and may cause further damage to trafficking victims.

Polaris Project serves clients throughout the D.C. metro area, as well as in NJ, who have been forced or coerced into prostitution. In many of these cases the victim, even at the age of just 18, will have a litany of arrests or convictions for prostitution both in DC and other jurisdictions. This demonstrates the transient nature of the pimps’ operations. Arresting the prostituted person does little to deter the trafficker/pimp or provide relief or rescue for the prostituted person. In fact, if enacted, this provision may cause further victimization as well as present increased obstacles as a woman with a felony conviction attempts to rebuild her shattered life.

Sex traffickers and pimps are motivated only by money, and the people they prostitute are easily movable, disposable and replaceable. Therefore we urge you to join with us and ask the D.C. Council to oppose the overreaching penalties for prostituted persons, and consider focusing their attention on the pimps and purchasers of sex or “johns”.

Polaris Project strongly supports the increased penalties for johns proposed in this bill. Johns exercise meaningful choice when they engage in commercial sex transactions, so efforts to deter their activity will have a greater impact in reducing prostitution and sex trafficking, which are inextricably intertwined.


The crime bill was passed by the DC Council on July 30th and the bill now moves to the Mayor. Your quick action is imperative to helping victims of sex trafficking in DC!

1. Please take a moment to call AND email Mayor Fenty and urge him to send the DC Crime bill back to the Council and recommending that they remove the increased penalties for prostituted persons.   Contact Mayor Fenty here.  In your call you can simply say:  

”My name is …. And I live at…. I am calling to urge Mayor Fenty to send the DC Crime Bill (18-151) back to the Council to remove the increased penalties for prostituted persons.”

2. Be sure to follow up with a quick email.

Additional Talking Points:

• The proposed penalties are far too stiff for the prostituted person – up to 2-5 years in prison and or up to $4,000 to $10,000 in fines. These fines will simply result in the re-victimization of the prostituted person or trafficking victim, and there’s no evidence that this approach will decrease prostitution in the District.

• Victims of prostitution and sex trafficking commonly have many arrests or convictions for prostitution because pimps and traffickers are constantly moving them around to different areas to profit off of them [we never call this work]. Increasing penalties for the victim will do little to deter the trafficker/pimp or provide relief or rescue to the prostituted person.

• Greater penalties for prostituted persons may cause further victimization as well as present increased obstacles as a woman with a felony conviction attempts to rebuild her shattered life.

• The vast majority of states retain the misdemeanor penalty for subsequent convictions of the prostituted person. In the handful of states which make subsequent convictions a felony for the prostituted person, there is no correlation between these higher penalties and a decrease in prostitution and the closely related activity of sex trafficking. This is likely due to the fact that traffickers and pimps are motivated only by money, and the people they prostitute are easily movable, disposable and replaceable.

• Studies have shown that focusing criminal prosecution on the purchasers of commercial sex will have an immediate and long-term effect in curbing the demand for prostitution.

FOCUS: Guatemala’s ‘femicide’ crisis

By Teresa Bo in Guatemala City

Gang-related violence has increased in recent years alongside a rise in drug-trafficking activity

A white sheet covers another victim of Guatemala City’s violence in District 16.

Jocelyn was shot dead while walking home. She was only 17-years-old.

Her family has no idea why she was killed. Her murder, like so many others in this country, will probably remain unpunished.

Guatemala’s shocking ‘femicide’ rate

Situations like this one have become regular in Guatemala as violence against women – termed “femicide” – continues to increase.

The savage methods being used by street gangs in their fight against each other are now being used against women.

Gang-related violence has increased sharply here in recent years, amid an increase in drug-trafficking activity.

But while the murder rate cuts evenly across both sexes, women’s groups point out that females are often killed simply because of their gender.

In 2007, more than 700 women and girls were murdered.

Assault and torture

The pattern of violence includes sexual assault and physical torture before the women are killed and their bodies dumped in public places.

Odilia Sanchez’s niece was raped and killed by three men hoping to rise through the ranks of their gang. She was only three-years-old.

Her father found her dead, naked and badly beaten after searching for hours.

Two of her killers were stoned to death by the community and then set on fire.

This is a common practice in poor communities where the justice imposed by the state is non-existent. Afraid of revenge, the little girl’s family fled town.

We found them hiding in a small house in the capital.

“I am afraid for my family so I brought them all here” Odilia Sanchez told Al Jazeera.

Those who dare challenge the power of men in Guatemalan society often pay with their lives and only two per cent of crimes against women are solved.

Adela Chacon Tax was tortured and stabbed to death by a man whom she refused to date.

Her body was thrown in a ditch in Escuintla, in the southern part of the country.

She left behind three children, who continue to visit the humble tomb where she is buried.

Catalina Fajarto Perez, her sister, told Al Jazeera: “There are other cases like her. After my sister was killed the bodies of two other women appeared. There is impunity and nobody really cares.”

Fighting for justice

The pattern of violence against women in Guatemala has been termed ‘femicide’

We went along with her family to see her accused killer face trial.

Her two young children could not stop crying.

The trial was being pushed by Norma Cruz, a lawyer who has become a champion for abused women across the country.

She leads the non-governmental organisation Survivors and helps abused women and the family members of those who were killed fight for justice.

“We are a society that has gotten used to death,” she said.

“We had the longest civil war in Latin America with thousands of people dead, so people here take it as something normal.

“Women are not seen as great contributors to the country, so violence against them seems to be acceptable.”

Others also blame much of the violence against women on the country’s 30-year civil war.

In a country ensnared by residual violence from Central America’s longest-running internal conflict, where many of the crimes committed by the state and anti-government fighters remain unpunished, murders are not front-page stories – especially when those killed are women in what is a predominantly paternalistic Guatemalan society, critics say.

No state protection

According to a Guatemalan Human Rights Commission report, femicide is often carried out with “shocking brutality”.

A contributing factor to the continued crime is the absence of state guarantees to protect the rights of women, the report says.

But the hard work of women’s rights groups has seemingly paid off.

In April 2008, Guatemala passed a law against femicide, which officially recognised it as a punishable crime.

However, much more is needed to fight this battle as the crimes against women continue and perpetrators remain unpunished.