Guatemala, September 2 – 12, 2010

By Daniel Velásquez

I was in Guatemala from September 2 to the 12 to support the work M.I.A. is currently performing in regards to Campaña Hombres Contra Feminicidio (Men Against Feminicide) and raising awareness among civil society organizations of the country’s needs for a Temporary Protection Status (TPS).

Training for Trainers

My first assignment was to lead a workshop for the Campaign facilitators. M.I.A. has recruited about 12 young college students from USAC to facilitate the campaign workshops at the National Police Academy, an elementary school in zone 8 and USAC itself.

Facilitators preparing for a presentation
Facilitators preparing for a presentation

My workshop focused on developing better presentation skills and introducing evaluation techniques. Part of the exercises were to lead a workshop and have a feedback session to identify strengths and weaknesses in their skills.

The facilitators were motivated throughout the workshop. Their excitement was noticeable, specially when they had to make posters for their presentation.

Two facilitators presenting.
Two facilitators presenting.

There was also a chance for Simón Pedroza, a poet and former facilitator, to share his experience with the Campaign.

Simon Pedroza speaking to facilitators
Simon Pedroza, left,  speaking to facilitators

The workshop ended with an evaluation of this same workshop. Among the feedback was the need the facilitator feel for more similar workshops.

Bus Driver Widows

In Guatemala City, many bus drivers have been killed by gangs that demand money for letting them work in the neighborhood the gangs themselves control. (Read more here)

For the past two months, M.I.A. has been meeting with a group of 5 bus driver widows and worked on ways for them to  empower and help themselves have financial stability under the new circumstances. Many of these women have had little education and live in neighborhoods considered very dangerous. M.I.A. recruited two young women to help these women come up with a plan. After a few meetings, they decided to get training to start their own small business. M.I.A. gave these 5 women a micro credit to help them get their business started.

During this trip, I had the opportunity to visit one of the widows and learn first hand about her work. Both of the women we visited are managing their own food stand outside their homes. Among the feedback collected is the need for the women to get more training in accounting and managing their expenses and counting their profits.

M.I.A. volunteers evaluate the developing of the microcredit.
M.I.A. volunteers evaluate the developing of the microcredit.

M.I.A. volunteers visit another of the microcredit receipients.
M.I.A. volunteers visit another of the microcredit receipients.

Although the financial benefits of the micro credit will take a few months to show, the impact they have on the receipients are noticed immediately. The opportunity M.I.A. offers with the micro credit gives these women a boost to their self esteem: independence, control, confidence and a sense of pride and ownership for what they do.

Speaking Immigration at Canal VEA

Through Lucia Muñoz, M.I.A. Executive Director, I was invited to speak live on TV at a local cable channel, VEA Canal. The show was called “Conversemos” and was conducted by Karina Gonzalez de Rottmann. The topics of conversation were about the Temporary Protection Status (TPS), the xenophobic environment for Guatemalans in the U.S. and also the financial and emotional price of migrating from Guatemala to the U.S.

Vea Canal studios.
Vea Canal studios.

The overall interview went really well. However, I had to explain to Karina about my background as an immigrant and how I relate and get myself involved  in the issues of those Guatemalans who live in the U.S. undocumented. I assumed I was not the stereotypical immigrant man he expected to meet.

The HCF Campaing at I.N.C.A.

During the month of September, M.I.A. was most active with the Hombres Contra Feminicidio Campaing at the all-female Instituto Normal para Señoritas Centro América, I.N.C.A. I had the opportunity to co-faciliate workshops there with Lucía Muñoz and Ana L. The topic for that week was sexual harassment.

Lucia Muñoz introduces the topic of sexual harrassement to the students.

Lucia Muñoz introduces the topic of sexual harassment to the students.

The workshop made emphasis on the different ways that sexual harassment occurs. Students discovered that harassment often depends on the circumstances in which it happens and that when it does happen, it is due to a power inequality. They were also made aware of the harassment as something unwanted, discriminatory based on gender and sexual orientation, and it also creates an unhealthy emotional and physical environment for the victim. We also discussed how harassment is an expression of authority and power through sex.

Ana and me explaining to the class the workshop's methodology.

Ana and me checking with the class the workshop's exercise.

Meetings at the Human Rights Ombudsman office

M.I.A. and the GPDN, represented by Lucía Muñoz and myself, respectively, met with the representative of Migrant Affairs at the Guatemala Human Rights Ombudsman office in order to coordinate a letter from the civil society and the Catholic church to the Guatemala President, Alvaro Colom, asking  to pressure more the U.S. in asking for the TPS for Guatemalans in the U.S.

There were two more meetings to polish the content of the letter. It was delivered by activist and representatives of M.I.A. and GPDN on September 24 at the Presidential Palace. Prensa Libre reported on the event here.

Meeting Estudios Tecomate

Lucia Muñoz and I had a chance to meet Abner García from Estudios Tecomate and present to him the Hombres Contra Feminicidio campaign. Among the ideas that were discussed there were Abner’s own: podcasts.

Although podcasts are new territory for M.I.A., and me personally, I offered to write a script for the first show. Abner volunteered his time and expertise in audio technology to produce the shows.

The best part of working with Abner is his professionalism and quick delivery. In less than a month now M.I.A. has its first podcast AVAILABLE HERE. (spanish only)


Daniel Velásquez is Guatemalan and a member of the Guatemala Peace and Development Network. Daniel has helped M.I.A. since its foundation with translating documents and production of graphic materials. He currently lives in New York.

M.I.A. is a founding member of the Guatemala Peace and Development Network, GPDN.

Grupos presionan por el TPS


La Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos (PDH) y organizaciones de migrantes instaron al Gobierno y población a seguir presionando por el TPS para los guatemaltecos indocumentados en EE. UU.

Representantes de organizaciones y de la PDH presionan por la concesión del TPS. Erick Avila

Representantes de organizaciones y de la PDH presionan por la concesión del TPS. Erick Avila

Lucía Muñoz, representante de la organización Red para la Paz y el Desarrollo para Guatemala, expresó que no es posible que este sea el único país centroamericano que no cuente con un Estatus de Protección Temporal (TPS, en inglés), y aseguró que hay poca voluntad del Gobierno para presionar por ese beneficio.

También anunció que se intenta organizar una marcha para presionar al Gobierno de EE. UU. a la concesión de la medida temporal.

Oswaldo Cardona, representante de la Unidad contra la Impunidad, de la PDH, recordó que tras los desastres naturales registrados en el país, el TPS es más necesario que nunca.

“Lo tienen salvadoreños, hondureños y nicaragüenses. Por alguna razón no ha sido otorgado a nuestros compatriotas, y eso nos pone en una situación de mayor vulnerabilidad con relación a otras naciones, en aquel país”, enfatizó.

“Creemos que es justo y humano que sea otorgado el TPS, independientemente de la reforma migratoria”, subrayó.

Trip report on establishing the Hombres Contra Feminicidio Program in Guatelinda

Twelve Weeks in Guatemala City

I arrived in Guatemala on Feb 20, and dove straight into starting programs. Was very fortunate to find a a place to live right smack in the middle of the action, zona 1. I am subletting a room at a friends house. I wanted to stay in zona 1 for many reasons. 1st to not have to wake up to traffic every morning to zona 1 where all the networking needs to be done and almost everywhere I need to go to work is within easy walking distance.

In Guate I felt the need to walk with the pueblo and bump into people and talk to them. It was a surreal experience for me. It was almost like going back to the 3 years i lived in Guate as a teenager.

We did two 4 day workshops at USAC. Sadly, during the course of the workshops two of the students were killed while getting snacks near the university. So sad.

We also started our annual programs at the all boy’s school in Zona 8.

You may remember that we did workshops in the PNC academy in 2009. Since then, they had a complete change of leadership both at the academy and in the PNC overall. Thanks to our work nurturing relationships, we were able to get in again this year. This year we are year round. Remember MIA”s goal is to get in the curriculum and this time we actually are in the midst of signing an agreement to be part of the curriculum on an ongoing basis. This is HUGE!!!

The PNC is in the middle of construction, there is a interium director who does not have the power to sign anything, but does have the power to allow us in every other Friday. We go in 5 classes per Friday and each class has between 40 and 60 students. I feel very optimistic that we wil be signing an agreement with the PNC Academy to adopt our campaign. I have been sitting with instructors and all of them want our manuals. It is a matter of time for the academy to have a stable director and then i think we be able to get a contract.

We’re finding that there are plenty of places ready to take us in to give the workshops. The biggest challenge for us is to find funding to make our work happen. I want to share with much pride that we were also able to get in with an agreement adopting our campaign. The department of health at USAC has welcomed us to their programs. I signed the agreement only days before my departure last May 15. This means that every single student that signs up to go to college will have to go through our classroom *as a requirement*. I am so new inside the USAC system that I still dont understand how this is going to unfold, but during my time here i am in constant contact with their personnel that we are are going to plan it out. USAC is the model and when MIA is able to hire permanent staff, we will be moving in to some of the satellites of USAC. We will become a BIG movement within the university.

I’ve also been dealing with the challenges of getting MIA recognized at a nonprofit in Guatemala. The latest was that my name was misspelled on some paperwork and I had to get it corrected and resubmitted, adding two weeks to the process. In addition, I had to get an ID card at the Guatemalan DMV, and in the process learned that my fathers name on my birth certificate was some stranger, a name I’d never heard of before. This opened up an old wound, my not really knowing who my birth father was. During this trip, I also was spending some time tracking down my birth father. Apparently I’m the result of an Immaculate Conception, which sounds better than not knowing who my father is. My blood father, according to the latest story I hear, was a boss in a bus company where my mother’s then-ex-husband worked. My father had been a bus driver and worked his way up to being the boss. Later, he was killed when returning home from work.

Also met with the Association of Widows of the bus drivers killed while working. As you may know, there have been hundreds of bus drivers killed on duty in the last few years. A reporter asked me why I was getting involved with the bus driver widows and I started crying: I realized right then it was through what happened to my blood father that leaves me feeling so closely connected with the widows.

We are working on a program to help the widows get into small businesses by creating micro loans. In a micro loan program, we would sponsor the women to get basic training on how to make a business work, and a small amount of funding, about $100, to get the means to make their business happen. This is the newest cause MIA adopted, and stuggled with it, because we barely have money for the campaign, but to see the widows going in circles trying to help themselves I could not look the other way. When I visited their little whole in the wall there were five women that for some reason I connected stongly and asked if they would be willing to attend a workshop on Sundays at Jenny’s house. They all come from a distance, one comes from a 2 hour and a half distance and tends to be the one who arrives first. They have been meeting for four Sundays in a row except last Sunday because of the Pacaya volcano and Tropical Storm Agatha. Through Jenny we were able to find them counseling for free on Saturdays too. These women have had no time to grieve. They were forced over night to pick up the pieces for their children and have not had the chance to be swallowed by their pain., and allow themselves to grieve.

I want to end with telling you a little about our facilitators. They are six young men who come from different schools within USAC. Two are artists, who are studying to become music teachers. Our longtime friend Randy from Colectivo Rogelia Cruz is going to school to become an archeologist. William is going for a teaching degree, Gary is going for business administration and Derick is about to graduate as a civil engineer. They are all volunteering and we give them a small stipend for their time and expenses. We meet twice a week.

Our chapina volunteer from Canada, Maria Luisa, is working with them while i am here to support the facilitators in their readings on gender issues and to train them to become strong facilitators.

When the academy called me, I was not prepared with facilitators and told the interim director that MIA was ready to go. I walked out of there with Randy who is a long time supporter, and asked him what to do. He said we (volunteer facilitators) have to go forward and MIA has to train us overnight. We started calling people we have worked with in the past and 5 accepted immediately. I feel I have been training a little too rapidly, but I had no choice.

When we met with the academy they wanted to start that same week I said we couldn’t start that quick, but to give us 2 weeks and we would be ready. Never told them it was because we didn’t have workshop facilitators trained yet. It was exciting to make this happen over night. The facilitators are loving the work and the hands-on training / workshops. We all read and discuss the readings. Then, the next day they train to present, and they all facilitate to the rest to make sure they understand the curriculum.

I can go on and on about the facilitators, I am very fond of them. Because we are meeting so often we have become like a family. They look forward eating together while exchanging ideas on how else they can contribute to a Guate without violence and day dreaming when we have an office. We are meeting at my friends house where I sublet a room, but sometimes we can get loud and we don’t want her to kick us out. I am hoping come next year we can get some serious donations and can have an office and employ them full time.

Unfortunately we were not able to get funds from the private company we were hoping from. As a matter of fact, it was them who prompted my trip in February and decided to stay for so long. But it is all good, we were able to network and find us BIG place to work in where we have a captive audience and helps us from running around all over the city. This private company asked that we revisit the project in July., wish us good luck.

Lastly, we were able finally meet with close people to the first lady again. As you may remember, we met with the first lady last July. She delegated the job of assisting us to certain subordinates, then her words were forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind. Being there for so long, allowed me to sit on it and finally got a person with the power to remind the first lady to revisit our conversation. I will be meeting soon with someone in a position to make this happen, to discuss the national school system adopting our curriculum. This reconnection with the first lady talk from last July delegation happened thanks to assistance from Norma Cruz. Norma picked up the phone and put us in contact with the right people within the Avocado House (Palacio Nacional).

Helping girls in the path of education is an on going project. Because of limited fundsy we are presently only helping 5 young girls. Please help us help them keep them on track.

And now to end, I want to announce that I will be going back to Guate for at least another 3 months if not more. Maybe till the school year ends., that is in October. Chris and I have been talking for the last two years and finally both us are o.k. with me living long period of times in Guate. He will be visiting me a lot .

Don’t forget that we are a 501(c)(3) non profit, and so all donations are completely tax deductible.


Hombres Contra Feminicidio is an educational campaign in Guatemala which objective is to train teachers, students and people in power on how to prevent and erradicate violence against women. M.I.A. strive  to bring the campaign to teachers nationwide in order to bring the topic into the schools curriculum.

Z18 School, San Lucas Sacatepequez, Saturday, July 18

Saturday, July 18, 2009

On our last official delegation day, we got up early to go to a school in zone 18, a pilot program that is sponsored by MIA. Partially destroyed by a flood less than a year ago, much of the school was ruined. The delegates grabbed some shovels and started leveling out the land to supply a foundation where a new computer lab will be built, and met one of the female students that MIA helps to sponsor so that she can continue her education.

We then drove to San Lucas Sacatepequez, for what was the most devastating meeting of the entire week. We went to the home of Aura Suruy, whose three daughters, ages 7, 9, and 11, were all beaten, raped, and murdered this past May 29 ( In unbearable pain, the mother has got help with her case from Fundacion Sobrevivientes and also got some help of MIA’s big sister organization, the Guatemala Peace and Development Network (GPDN), to help sponsor her male children’s continuing education.

Ending the delegation on such a horrific story definitely ignited the anger in us to come back to the U.S. and work for Guatemala in whatever ways we can.

Tuesday, July 14

(more to come, including photos)

At the beginning of the day, MIA received visits from two surviving parents of murdered women. The first parent who visited us was Rosa Franco, whose daughter Maria Isabel was killed in 2001, at age 16. Maria Isabel worked in a clothing store and noticed a man that seemed to have been stalking her on numerous occasions. One night, leaving from work, she was abducted and forced into a car, and was severely beaten, raped, and left in a ditch to die.

Maria Isabel, a beautiful young woman, enjoyed wearing makeup and cute clothing. This, according to the public defense attorney, meant that she must have been a prostitute. After over a year of frustrating attempts to further her daughter’s case, Amnesty International helped Franco get her case into the InterAmericas Court. While Franco says that Amnesty International was helpful pushing her case, she said that that the IAC had its own special political interests connected to Guatemala and thus failed to push a legitimate investigation of her daughter’s murder. As a result of Franco’s determination to obtain justice for Maria Isabel, she has been subjected to various threats and the IAC has provided her family with its own security. Without any satisfactory progress to note, Franco is still trying to push her daughter’s investigation, much to the displeasure of the Guatemalan government, she noted.

Shortly after, Jorge Velazquez met with MIA to discuss the murder of his daughter Claudina, who was raped and murdered while walking home from a party. In a similar fashion to Maria Isabel’s case, Claudina’s murder was delegitimized by the police and the public defense attorney. They insisted that she must have been a prostitute due to the facts that she was wearing sandals, a choker necklace, had a navel piercing, and her body was found in a middle class neighborhood. Consequently, as a “prostitute,” her case was not worth investigating.

Claudina’s fingerprints were not taken at the crime site or at the morgue. The police immediately covered her body, even before the crime scene investigators arrived. There were also major discrepancies surrounding her time of death. Velazquez has been trying to push his daughter’s investigation for several years to no avail, but believes that his daughter’s brutal murder is a result of the reality that narcotic traffickers often use women as tools in their transactions, what is believed to be a major factor of violence against women in the country. While Velazquez and his family have not been able to obtain justice to perhaps ease the healing process, he aspires for a Guatemala in which impunity does not exist to further the pain that families of victims of violence must endure.

The personal testimonies of Rosa Franco and Jorge Velazquez left a heavy air in the room; several of us were in tears. Such tragic accounts, however discouraging as we realized the magnitude of impunity that too often overpowers women’s cases, gave us even further inspiration for the cause to which we have become dedicated.

MIA then visited San Carlos University, the last public university in Guatemala. Randi and Jenny, who are long-time friends of MIA, gave us a presentation along with the rest of their on-campus activist group, Collectivo Rogelia Cruz. Giving a thorough and accurate history of the country, they discussed the military coup in 1951 that was aided by the United States and put Jacob Arbenz in power, leading to the 30-year old civil war that began in 1960 and, despite the signing of peace accords in 1996, continues to haunt Guatemala. The group also presented on the student movement that arose in the 60’s and 70’s as a result of the massive inequalities that ensued as a result of war and contributed to society’s overall resistance to the political climate. As the student movements began at this very university, Collectivo Rogelia Cruz gave us a tour of the incredible murals around campus that serve as both intricate works of art and heartfelt accounts of the country’s history.

Wednesday, July 15

(more to come)

Katherine reports:
Wednesday morning we spent time supporting Fundacion Sobrevivientes and the hunger strike they are doing to bring home the three Guatemalan children who were sold into illegal adoptions. Norma Cruz, the founder of Sobrevivientes, is leading the strike along with several mothers of the kidnapped children, as well as Sheryl Osborne, an American who moved to Guatemala 13 years ago as a missionary and started a home for children who have no other place to go. The strike started at 9am sharp and drew a crow of reporters and supporters in front of Guatemala City’s courthouse. We all received t-shirts with the phrase:

Enterremos Juntos
La corrupcion
La impunidad
Y La injusticia

Which translates into English as,

Together we will stop
The corruption
The impunity
And the injustice.

While wearing our shirts we held the banners for Hombres Contra Feminicidio (MIA’s chapter of the universal White Ribbon Campaign), and the Guatemala Peace and Development Network, which was also co-founded by Lucia and is the proud big sister of MIA.

Two of the three families that have illegally adopted the children have been notified of the circumstances under which they received the children, and one has vowed to fight until the very end to keep the child, while the other has gone into hiding so as not to lose the baby.

Lots of pictures were taken throughout the morning and several crews filmed us. Many people walked trough our demonstration on their way to or from the courthouse, so we hopefully got the message across. We were able to use the restrooms in the courthouse, but we had to take the t-shirts off before they would let us in.

After the day’s activities we went back to the strike for a few hours to show our support. The demonstration had been moved to a tent under an awning on the concrete square in front of the Palacio de Justicia (Plaza of Justice), a very ironic title given the state of justice in Guatemala. The media was gone, as were many of the supporters from the morning. People gathered in small groups to chat or make a trip to the Burger King across the square to use the restrooms.

Human trafficking is not a new issue for Guatemala, especially the illegal adoption industry. We hope for the sake of the people not eating and for the families involved that these children will be brought back to their home where they belong. Bringing these children back would be a great start to fighting this illegal industry and asserting the basic human rights of the Guatemalan people to the world.

Marlene Reports:

The MIA delegation met with Ana Moraga, the director of MuJER, a non-profit organization that aims to empower sex workers in Guatemala City. Ana gave an overview of the different services that MuJER provides. For instance, the organization puts on workshops that address several critical issues, such as self-esteem building and protection from violence. Furthermore, MuJER offers classes that provide skills training for sex workers in several areas. These classes include cosmetology, computers, English, and primary education. One of the more popular classes shows the women how to make jewelry that they can sell to supplement their income.
In addition to discussing MuJER’s activities the group also addressed sex workers’ current situation. Three women that have benefited from MuJER’s work were part of the discussion and graciously answered our questions. Among several themes that emerged from the discussion was sex workers’ vulnerable status in the country. The Department of Health regulates the sex work trade, although sex work itself is illegal. A recent human trafficking law meant to protect children and youth prohibits sex work in bars and brothels, which had previously offered a minimal level of protection. Therefore, sex workers are in a precarious position due to the clandestine nature of their work.

Another theme that came up and that demonstrates another level of vulnerability is the fact that about 60% of sex workers that MuJER works with are not Guatemalan citizens. Most are migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. These women often lack documentation that allows them to remain legally in Guatemala. Furthermore, officials continually demand to see a work visa which migrant sex workers cannot obtain since their trade is illegal. Therefore, officials subject sex workers to arbitrary and discriminatory policies since they do not have any kind of legal protection.

In a country where women as a whole have a subordinate position in society, sex workers are among the most marginalized group at both the social and economic levels. Two of the women who visited us were single mothers. They were forced to take sole responsibility for their children’s welfare after their husbands abandoned the family. One of the women emphasized that she had tried to work as a waitress but simply could not make ends meet with the dismal salary that the job provided. By choosing to work in this sexual commerce, these women engaged in one of the more economically viable options available to them, which brings us to one of MuJER’s key objectives, which is to provide skills training that simultaneously empowers women. MuJER emphasizes that sex work is a choice. The women, due to a range of circumstances, weighed their options and decided that sex work was the choice that worked for them at these particular moments in their lives. Therefore, while the organization teaches them skills that could eventually lead to alternative employment strategies (all three women brought jewelry they designed and the delegates went on a mini shopping spree!), it simultaneously promotes the development of self-awareness and stresses women’s autonomy.

Katherine reports again:

Wednesday evening before dinner, Carlos Ibanez, an expert on human trafficking in Guatemala, joined us at our hotel to give a brief overview of the trafficking infustry in Guatemala.

There are three main characteristics of human trafficking: 1) loss of freedom and liberty, 2) others gaining from one’s exploitation, and 3) the trafficked person is taken from their native culture and home. Currently, 7,000 Guatemalan children are being trafficked and sexually exploited.
The laws and justice systems of many countries have not caught up to this issue of modern day slavery, and Guatemala is no exception. Only recently have they adopted a law against trafficking, and there is yet to be a case taken to court using the new law. Many people in Guatemala, as well as the anti-trafficking community, agree that it is not the law itself that will make a difference, but rather the enforcement of the new law that will being an end to trafficking.

Because of Guatemala’s unique location, sharing borders with four other nations and between two oceans, Ibanez emphasized that it is an ideal place for traffickers to target their victims.

Many people play a role in the trafficking of humans, so cracking down is often a long and sometimes complicated process. Understanding the various roles and how we as U.S. citizens benefit from the trafficking is crucial to understanding how to fight smugglers and end human trafficking,

U.S. Embassy, the First Lady, and Sobrevivientes Monday, July 13

MIA’s first meeting of the day was an 11am appointment at the United States Embassy with the U.S. Embassador to Guatemala, Stephen McFarland (“The Unusual Diplomat,” in the July 13 issue of El Periodico Guatemala, Accompanying us was Gladys Monterrosa, the wife of the ombudsman, who was recently a victim of horrific rape and violence. In demonstration of Guatemala’s system of severe injustice for women, Gladys testified her experience and the extremely flawed investigation that followed.

During the investigation, no efforts were made to gather information or evidence from Monterrosa regarding her experience. An investigator, however, visited Monterrosa’s office and interviewed her assistant. He asked questions about Monterrosa’s salary, money spent, and call history, among other irrelevant inquiries. Additionally, the investigator asked about the office assistant’s marital status, which at the moment was single. Later in the investigation, this information was used against her to build the defense against Monterrosa’s case – the office assistant had since married, yet because she had previously stated that she was single, she was considered a “liar” in order to discredit Monterrosa’s case. Since the investigation began and was picked up by the CICIG Rincon, all of the questions asked of Monterrosa have to do with personal matters instead of details of her assault. Monterrosa noted that there has been no investigation of any potential suspects – the only one being investigated is Monterrosa herself.

As her husband was suspected to eventually run for office, some believe that successful prosecution in Monterrosa’s case would amount to sympathy for the family and result in an increase in women’s votes. Monterrosa’s brave testimony gave MIA an important opportunity to show that impunity, especially in cases of violence against women, affects even the upper class.

Embassador MacFarland commended Monterrosa’s courage and says that he has faith that the CICIG will eventually lead her to justice. Keeping in mind that Monterrosa’s tragic case is all too familiar in Guatemala, McFarland said that the solution to the profound problem of violence against women must be recognized and dealt with from within the justice system, as well as changes to the overall mindset of society. He noted the implementation of USAID to the Guatemalan government to combat impunity, as well as potential police reform – both of which, provoked by questions from two of the delegates, resulted in two more related invitations for appointments for MIA later on in the week.

MIA’s next meeting was with the First Lady of Guatemala, Sandra Colom. As we had been learning a great deal thus far about the impunity system, it was helpful to learn more about what Colom believes to be the major factors that add to such violence in the first place. She asserted that femicide and other violence is not only a problem of law, but that it is a social systemic problem that starts at home, facilitated by “machismo” culture, poverty, poor health, and lack of education.

Colom was candid in her responses. Admitting her regrets that she has been so overwhelmed with the seemingly infinite problems that plague Guatemala, she admits that she has not been able to focus a significant amount of time and energy to the issue of femicide. She discussed the new series of social programs called “Consejo de Cohesion Social,” which, according to Colom, do address what she considers to be factors that contribute to violence – particularly poverty and education. Addressing the high illiteracy rate among indigenous women, financial dependence of women on their husbands, domestic violence, the overall malnutrition of society, and intergenerational poverty, Colom hopes that as long as these programs generate results, they will continue in the coming years. She noted that the economic elite, however, will likely be the main obstacles to the success of these programs, as interruptions of the cycles of poverty and violence are contrary to their political agendas.

MIA’s third meeting of the day was with Fundacion Sobrevivientes (Survivors Foundation), an organization that works to ensure justice for women in cases of rape, sexual violence, illegal adoptions, and other crimes, as well as provides a shelter when necessary. It was founded in 1999 by Norma Cruz and her daughter, Claudia Maria Hernandez Cruz, and plays a vital role in intervening in women’s legal cases that would otherwise be subjected to the injustice of impunity. Norma, pictured above, was awarded the “Women of Courage” award this year by the Obama administration.

They essentially “make a system work that doesn’t want to work,” according to Eugenia, the assistant to Norma Cruz who spoke with us. Aside from the improbable circumstance that a woman would be able to find justice in the Guatemalan system on her own, most women with whom Fundacion Sobrevivientes works cannot afford the high cost of legal systems – so the organization provides its services for free.

Currently in the center of the foundation’s heart is the issue of illegal adoption, for which Norma Cruz told us she was planning a hunger strike. At the subject of the strike are three different cases whose scenarios are all too familiar for Guatemala. In many cases, a young child or infant may be abducted and declared “abandoned,” yet when a mother may come forward, the defense facilitating the illegal adoption claims that the mother is too impoverished to provide a decent life for the child.

In one of the cases for which Sobrevivientes is protesting, a woman had left her infant with a relative while she went grocery shopping. While she was gone, someone entered the house claiming to have been told by the mother to pick up the child, and kidnapped her for a lucrative illegal adoption in the United States. Because illegitimate procedures were followed in each three cases, Sobrevivientes is calling for legal procedure both in Guatemala and in the U.S. to void all three adoptions.

Norma Cruz, along with Sheryl Osborne – an American working with orphans in Guatemala – have both said that they are willing to starve to death in the hunger strike if all three children are not returned home. Learning about the important work that Fundacion Sobrevivientes does for women in Guatemala and the amazing strength of Norma Cruz, we gained tremendous inspiration for the rest of our delegation and for our work in the U.S. in the future.

EN EL MARCO DE LA VISITA PARA LA ASAMBLEA DEL COI: Mujeres protestan por feminicidio

Nacionales | GUATEMALA, AFP

Jóvenes de la Fundación Sobrevivientes exigen un alto a los feminicidios frente al hotel donde se realizan las reuniones previas del Comité Olímpico Internacional (COI).
Jóvenes de la Fundación Sobrevivientes exigen un alto a los feminicidios frente al hotel donde se realizan las reuniones previas del Comité Olímpico Internacional (COI).

Una veintena de mujeres guatemaltecas residentes en Estados Unidos, iniciaron ayer una protesta ante la indiferencia mundial que existe por los crímenes de mujeres en este país, paralelamente a la Asamblea del Comité Olímpico Internacional (COI).

Jóvenes de la Fundación Sobrevivientes exigen un alto a los feminicidios frente al hotel donde se realizan las reuniones previas del Comité Olímpico Internacional (COI).

“Hoy venimos porque queremos aprovechar que están reunidos los seis continentes sobre un mismo techo”, dijo la dirigente de la organización Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, Lucía Muñoz, residente en California, Estados Unidos, desde 1969 cuando llegó con apenas un año.

“Este evento (el del COI) es sobre deporte, felicidad y paz, y estamos de acuerdo, pero también queremos que el mundo sepa lo que esta pasando aquí, donde dos mujeres son asesinadas diariamente”, agregó, mientras sus compañeras colocaban los cinco círculos que identifican al olimpismo, pero con cruces en el medio, en la periferia sur de la capital, donde el COI celebra su asamblea.

La sede de los Juego Olímpicos de Invierno-2014 se definirá el próximo miércoles en Guatemala y las ciudades participantes son la rusa Sochi, la surcoreana PyeongChang y la austriaca Salzburgo.

De acuerdo con las manifestantes, la protesta inició este lunes y concluirá con una velada el próximo sábado, como lo hará el COI.

Aseguró que la situación de las mujeres guatemaltecas es similar a la de Sri Lanka, Gaza, Afganistán e Irak, pero como en este país en 1996 se firmó la paz después de 36 años de guerra, la comunidad internacional abandonó a la nación.

“El mundo cree que Guatemala está en paz, que no está pasando nada, que todo es felicidad, pero nos han olvidado”, lamentó.

“Esta actividad es porque queremos de alguna manera hacer saber la situación de las mujeres, que necesitamos la ayuda internacional para que presionen al gobierno a detener este feminicidio”, insistió.

“Las mujeres tenemos el derecho de vivir, de poder respirar y salir a trabajar sin miedo que nos vayan a matar”, puntualizó.

Según datos de la policía, el año pasado se registraron 603 muertes violentas de mujeres, cifra que superó los 527 de 2005.