Tag Archives: Guatemala

Otilia Lux de Coti on Guatemala’s Rios Montt Trial

Our partner Otilia Lux de Coti spoke out at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues about Guatemala’s prosecution of Efraín Ríos Montt, the former dictator who carried out a brutal genocide against Indigenous Peoples (you can find out more here and see a collection of resources here). Below is her statement in Spanish and a complete translation.

Translation:

It must be acknowledged that the trials against the generals, beginning with General Ríos Montt’s trial, have demonstrate Guatemala and the whole world that justice is possible when there is the will to enforce it.

This is not the case when there are, let’s say, economic forces and political forces which unite in order to go on encouraging impunity in Guatemala and other countries. These forces are dark and factual that prevent the enforcement of laws because they know this would go against their interests; this is so because they hold responsibility for many negative events that have happened in our country.

It is regrettable the revocation of the trial by the Constitutionality Court three days ago. To annul a trial that has obeyed all the procedural steps… The fact that an attorney was not allowed at the courtroom because he declared he was an enemy of the jury does not mean that the whole trial was a mistrial. In fact, this was a strategy aimed at undermining the whole process.

They did not succeed on the first phase because the Judge was scrupulously respectful of the Law. If she had stopped the trial, this one would have been declared illegal. But she did not do so; she continued the lawsuit.

This is why the Judge gave a sentence of 80 years in prison to the icon of the military regime and genocide in Guatemala.

However, they know that if this case goes on, there will follow other people, automatically, to be prosecuted.

So what they are doing now is to undermine this legal process so that nobody can be sued for justice, no businessman, no politician, no more military men or maybe no civil person.

Now, with this sentence, I think that the lawyers, the attorneys of the victims’ families should present other appeals.

Anyway, the battle has been won. Because there are legal battles in which applications for amparo can be filed, which should be the right submission here,  or petitions in error, as it is also known, as another legal resource.

So we consider that the victims’ families must be safeguarded. On the other hand, the attorneys must have already submitted appeals, I guess since I still have to confirm this information today.

However, the revocation of this trial represents an outrage for the Mayan People and for all the Indigenous Peoples in the world. It constitutes an outrage for the victims’ families.

Because they sued someone who officially ordered, signed the decrees with different plans, like Plan Sofía as the military plan conceived in 82 and 83; there, you can read a lot about the orders to massacre villages, families, entire towns.

This genocide has been studied by the Commission of Historical Clarification; this study includes all the events. A suitable methodology was applied to carry out the study, with four groups.

It was determined a genocide had been committed in the light of multiple events, like the massacres, the compulsive displacement of many peoples, burning everything and leaving just scorched earth behind; they burned houses, they burned animals. So the people had to flee in order to survive.

All these elements demonstrated that there was genocide. However, there were other elements, for instance, the sexual assault of little girls, adult as well as old women, the devastating murder of pregnant women.

According to what the Ichile women testified, the military men opened the pregnant women’s wombs in order to extract the seed and “eliminate that seed”, as they said, “which was the internal enemy of the Guatemalan army”…

So all those elements made the law experts determine that there really was a genocide in Guatemala. There really was! We saw it, we can confirm it.

As I say, this is a trick, the bad habits of some lawyers, to set legal traps so that their defendants can be acquitted.

In this case, what is rightful now is the appeals.

But this is regrettable for the Guatemalan justice, the Mayan Peoples and for all Indigenous Peoples because this sets a negative precedent in Guatemala. Anyone can commit a genocide and he will be set free? Won’t they find him guilty of anything?

Sometimes, the massacres are ordered; the person who does it does not do it willingly but because he received orders.

The real origin of those orders have also been determined.
The very military men said that the orders come from their hierarchy. What does that mean? If there’s a Defense Minister, who is his superior? They said this themselves in the trial.

We consider that having their testimony, it should be necessarily understood that the order came from the highest rank.

Furthermore, Colonel Ayuso testified: “We have a hierarchy; orders come in a hierarchical order and the Chief of State in those times was General Efraín Ríos Montt”.

This has been registered, recorded; he said it now at the court room. What does this mean? That there was a mandate.

We now question, if there has been a legal process, why didn’t the generals come to present their deposition? They never came to say “this is false”, never. This means that what was said was the truth.

With this shameful Constitutional Court sentence, we can say that they are extremely compliant of the Guatemalan corporations, compliant to the military men, compliant to some intellectuals who said that there was no genocide in Guatemala, compliant to military retirees, who are associated to Avenir Foundation, they are compliant to the Association Against Terrorism, compliant to the terrible lawyers that exist in Guatemala, because they are really a mafia.

Therefore, I think the Mayan People feels thorougly insulted; we call this an outrage, because this constitutes the utmost insult against the dignity and the spirit of our people.

Because it is not a question of only accepting that there were massacres. What does it mean five hundred corpses found just one and a half year ago in a place called Alta Verapaz, en Cobán? Five hundred corpses…

What does it mean the existing police files where all the information can be found? There is the information. What does the research and studies carried out by various academics? The academic is scientifical, he sticks to reality. An academic cannot lie in a scientific work, he has to stick to the scientifical methodology.

In this sense, there are proofs and bases upon which it can be said that there was a genocide in Guatemala.

Unfortunately, the trial has been suspended right now. A resolution has been issued to continue this trial.

I think the organizations will go on with it.

But I would really like to ask from the international communiy; in fact, I asked for it at the International Forum of Indigenous Peoples that United Nations could have a say in this. We have the Security Council, the Human Rights Council, the Rapporteurs should also say something about this.

They have to say something about this because this will bring justice in the world so that peace can be achieved, to achieve reconciliation and harmony. It is United Nations’ main aim to keep peace so they must say something; they cannot keep silent.

In this way, they would help strengthen the justice systems in any country, not only in Guatemala, in any country.

Because, today a blow has been given to justice in Guatemala, a terrible blow to peace and to the state of law. We cannot go on like this.

Then, what are laws for? What are laws passed for?

In Guatemala, there are laws that should be enforced. Besides, we have signed Conventions that are binding. These Conventions should be honored because they are international legal instruments that inspire national laws.

Also, we have the Constitutions, which are crystal clear in this sense and where it is clearly stated that these crimes against humanity must be punished.

In my opinion, all human beings must unite for justice because justice is universal.

Thank you very much.

 

Illygrl Reports Back From MADRE Partners in Guatemala

In September Illygrl, an interventionist collective, touched down in Guatemala City, inspired by the need to connect– to render the invisible and hear their stories, their voices that had been filtered out of our culture of consumption. We came with questions that could only be answered by women maquila workers. With the help of MADRE we made contact with Sandra, head of the Women Workers Committee. For the next ten days Illygrl ventured to Barcenas, a community found between the town of Antigua and some 25 textile factories, between ruins and reality.

Something is wrong with our society when over one thousand people die in a sweatshop collapse in Bangladesh the same week thousands of people buy from the very companies that neglected those workers. The New York Times reports the engineer of the building was recently arrested, and the factory managers will also be prosecuted. But we seem to be missing that puzzle piece, the link to understanding that our daily lives and daily buys are intrinsically connected with the millions of working women and men that sweat, slave, and sometimes die while making our stuff. The threads we wear pass through many hands and cross many borders. These are the ties that bind us.

While corporations wish to make these ties seamless Illygrl is dedicated to tracing their threads; we are speaking to those that have been rendered silent and bringing their voice to the masses who have been misinformed.

“Uno se pone un pantalón, una camisa pero no se pone a pensar cuantos han sufrido para hacer un pantalón o una camisa. Cuantas lágrimas han llorado, muchos…cuantos gritos a recibido uno, cuántas humillaciones por un pantalón”

“Someone puts on a pair of pants or a shirt but they don’t stop to think how many have suffered to make a pair of pants or a shirt…how many tears they’ve cried…how many times they’ve been yelled at, how many humiliations for a pair of pants.”

~Rita: Mother, fighter, sweatshop worker

Sandra guided our search and made it possible for IllyGrl to interview nine women who have previously worked in maquilas, making clothing for large corporations like GAP, Walmart, POLO and American Eagle.

“Yo practicamente pedí favor al jefe que me despidiera porque estaba demasiado enferma de los nervios porque había mucha presión del trabajo. Porque como ellos va ellos nos ponían a nosotros una cierta cantidad, entonces ellos hacen un contrato verda con el cliente de que mes a que mes van a entregar el producto. Entonces nosotros tenemos que sacar una cierta cantidad al dia para la hora de que la fecha de exportación se llegara, sacar un dia antes o unas horas antes el producto verda pa que se fuera la exportación…a mi me pedian 1,800 piezas diarias si yo no sacaba esa cantidad…pero fue por eso que yo estaba demasiado, estaba demasiado alterada de los nervios.”

I practically asked as a favor that the boss fire me because I was so sick with anxiety because there was so much pressure from work. Because they, lets say they gave us a certain quantity, then they make a contract right with the client from what month till what month they will need the product to be turned in. So then we have to make a certain quantity per day for the time of whatever day the date of exportation was set, to get it out one day before or a few hours before, right, so that it would be exported…they had me make 1,800 pieces a day if I didn’t meet that quantity…but it was because of that that I was so, I was so sick with anxiety.

~Carmen

Carmen was the first woman we spoke to. A cousin of Sandra’s, she had left the factory three months prior to meeting us. What was clear from Carmen’s story was that the daily dehumanization of being constantly rushed to produce takes its toll, to the point she asked to be let go. Carmen worked thirteen years in garment factories, making fast fashion clothes for companies like GAP, Polo, Kohl’s and Walmart. While here in the U.S. people relish in the newest $10.00 trends we are ignorant to the 25-hour shifts- blood, sweat and tears imposed to produce – like machines – for the clothing companies’ bottom line.

The regular anxiety workers face carry a deep, psychological and physical trauma akin to war conditions. Most of the women we spoke to described regular nightmares about the factory, one even suffered insomnia for 15 days straight. They all describe an inability to relax even on their single day off, being ON became part of the job.

When we asked the women if they felt like people or machines, nine voices echoed maquila.

When she started the Comité de Mujeres Trabajadoras in Guatemala, Sandra committed to educating women in her community: to make them literate and better understand their labor and human rights. With the help of MADRE, her Comité has provided sex health information and contraceptives to working women. Fearlessly fighting against a broken system, we followed Sandra as she distributed condoms outside a sweatshop one afternoon, as the workers streamed out of the factories. Sandra and the Comité are an active part of the Barcenas community, which they live in.

Recognizing the systematically abusive conditions of the factories, Sandra serves as a resource when women are facing abusive bosses. She has archived each of the many cases women have filed against maquilas, seeking justice for her community. Sandra would love to build a library for the women to read more, to expand her classes and always keep the women empowered. She is a fearless leader.

Our final day in Guatemala we drove past many maquilas. Most looked like prisons, with seven foot walls laced with barbed wire. We filmed the factories, but what remained elusive was the history of how they got there. As Americans, we learn that some countries are underdeveloped “third world” nations, and what is left untold is how many countries were sabotaged by the U.S. for capital interests.

“Yo creo que Estados Unidos es el principal responsable de la guerra en Guatemala. No se permitió que Guatemala lograra una reforma agraria que estaba indicada para mejorar la situación económica de toda la nación. Estados Unidos derrocó al presidente Jacobo Arbenz porque él había iniciado una expropiación de fincas de la United Fruit Company. Pues entonces, tocó intereses norteamericanos que no le convenía a los Estados Unidos. A través de la participación de la CIA se derroca al presidente y se le roba a Guatemala la oportunidad de desarrollarse… Guatemala se convierte en escenario de la guerra fría.”

I believe that the United States is the main one responsible for the war in Guatemala. Guatemala was not permitted to achieve the agrarian reform that was proven would improve the economic situation of the whole nation. The United States overthrew president Jacobo Arbenz because he had initiated the expropriation of the factories of the United Fruit Company. It affected North American interests and was not convenient for the United States. Due to the participation of the CIA the president was overthrown and Guatemala was robbed of its opportunity to develop… Guatemala became a stage for the Cold War.

~Representante del Ministerio de Educación

Through Sandra, we met with a representative from the Ministry of Education in Guatemala, who did not wish to be identified. The representative and her/his family lived through the violent repression of Rios Montt. S/he recognized how different Guatemala could have been without the interference of the CIA’s support of Efrain Rios Montt. Underlying the unjust conditions women endure daily at the maquilas is the truth that Guatemala still writhes from the pains of dictatorships.

Montt was recently tried for Genocide and convicted, though the conviction has been overturned. We hope the pueblo of Guatemala stands firm on seeking justice but we in the states shouldn’t forget our government is also guilty. Montt was backed by the Reagan administration, supplied with close to $10 million in military hardware. The genocide of thousands would not have been possible without it. We will likely never see the C.I.A stand trial for crimes against humanity.

In trying to become “objective,” western culture made “objects” of things and people when it distanced itself from them, thereby losing “touch” with them. This dichotomy is the root of all violence.

~Gloria Anzaldua

Bangladesh and Guatemala seem worlds apart, but they are not. They are in your closet if you look. We are connected: Our dollars, Their blood, sweat and ashes. In light of the lives lost in Rana Plaza many companies are finally agreeing to support the Bangladesh Safety Pact. Companies will be legally bound to financially support unions to do regular inspections. This is largely because activists on the ground have not rested since Rana Plaza. Still, several U.S. companies like Walmart and GAP have refused.

We must remember Rana and also beyond it. Everything has its source, everything has its history. For those that live in the underbelly of globalization, democracy is a myth and their reality relics of war. We must extend ourselves beyond this notion of “American exceptionalism” and attempt to understand- to imagine- who it is at the nadir of this system, who bears its immense weight everyday.

We must see ourselves as citizens of this world. Bangladesh is a beacon, a possible beginning, beyond its borders reaching Barcenas; but we must do our part. Illygrl is an interventionist collective and we believe consciousness begins with sight, touch, memory. We believe now is the time to push back on these companies who seemingly have no heart. It is time to boycott.

Follow the Rios Montt Trial

The trial of former Guatemalan General Rios Montt, accused of human rights abuses and genocide against Indigenous Peoples, displacing nearly 30,000 Guatemalans and overseeing thousands of acts of sexual violence, is underway. Today, the defense asked that the trial be suspended. Follow the trial:

On Twitter:

@xeni

@RiosMonttTrial

@NISGUA_Guate

@PzPenVivo

Online:

http://www.riosmontt-trial.org/

http://www.wola.org/highlight/para_que_se_conozca_blog_covering_the_rios_montt_trial

http://www.ghrc-usa.org/

http://www.awid.org/eng%3D/Library/Guatemala-Genocide-Trial-Begins-Be-Part-of-this-Historic-Process

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/Latin-America-Monitor/2013/0404/Guatemala-Rios-Montt-trial-hears-testimony-on-conflict-era-sexual-violence

Former Guatemalan Dictator to Stand Trial for Genocide

Former Guatemalan Dictator Rios Montt will finally stand trial for genocide during the Guatemalan Civil War – 30 years after the crimes he perpetrated took place.

The 36-year-long US-backed civil war officially came to an end in 1996. The state-sponsored violence led by Montt in 1982 and 1983 disproportionately targeted Indigenous communities.  The military campaign killed more than 200,000 Indigenous Peoples and displaced one million in Guatemala, as well as driving more than 200,000 to take refuge in Mexico.

MADRE has previously called for Montt’s prosecution following the sentencing of a former Guatemalan special forces member who took part in the murders of 201 Indigenous Peoples to 6,060 years in prison.

In 2011, MADRE traced the origins of an ongoing femicide, in which nearly 5,000 women have been killed, to the conflict that technically ended in 1996:

Multiple human rights investigations have found evidence that this violence against women was part of a systematic counterinsurgency strategy by the government. Over one million members of the Guatemalan army, paramilitary forces and police were trained to attack women with rape, mutilation and torture. Today’s attacks reproduce the gruesome tactics of these wartime atrocities.

Many Guatemalan feminists say that is because the perpetrators were never brought to justice once the peace accords were signed in 1996. They were simply re-absorbed into society, taking on new roles as police or in powerful criminal gangs that infiltrated many government agencies.

MADRE found that the same patterns of intentional, militarized violence against women were repeating themselves in Iraq following the 10 year US occupation. More of that analysis can be found here.

Despite a history of state-sponsored violence in countries including Colombia, Nicaragua, and Argentina, Montt will be the first ex-President to be charged with genocide in a Latin American court.

US Biofuel Development Has World-Wide Consequences

You’ve heard the story of the butterfly in Asia that flapped its wings and caused a tsunami in North America? In our increasingly globalized world, every policy change is a butterfly wing flap that has the potential to create a chain reaction that can result in food shortages, a climate crisis, or a democratic revolution halfway around the planet. In the case of biofuel, the United States’ purported attempts to cut down on oil dependence and even help the environment are a direct cause of malnutrition in places like Guatemala, where MADRE partners with the Women Workers’ Committee in Barcenas and the Indigenous women of Muixil.

A recent New York Times article observed that:

With its corn-based diet and proximity to the United States, Central America has long been vulnerable to economic riptides related to the United States’ corn policy. Now that the United States is using 40 percent of its crop to make biofuel, it is not surprising that tortilla prices have doubled in Guatemala, which imports nearly half of its corn.

The result has been severe and widespread malnutrition, and an uprooted population as families move to find work.

This problem is not new, nor is it limited to Guatemala. “In a globalized world, the expansion of the biofuels industry has contributed to spikes in food prices and a shortage of land for food-based agriculture in poor corners of Asia, Africa and Latin America because the raw material is grown wherever it is cheapest,” says the New York Times. What long-term good might be done by moving away from fossil fuel dependency is countered by the immediate human suffering of the unexamined consequences of new kinds of consumption. Misael Gonzáles of C.U.C., a labor union for Guatemala’s farmers, noted in the same article, ‘These people don’t have enough to eat. They need food. They need land. They can’t eat biofuel, and they don’t drive cars.’”

One analysis the article cited found that corn, which constitutes a large part of the Guatemalan diet and is now prohibitively expensive, cutting some families monetary access by half, would be 17 percent cheaper if the United States did not incentivize biofuel consumption.

As MADRE warned in a 2007 statement:

If we don’t reduce the demand for energy by consuming less, we risk a scenario in which most of the Earth’s arable land will be dedicated to growing ‘fuel crops’ instead of food crops. Growing agro-fuels on a mass scale is already jacking up food prices, depleting soil and water supplies, destroying forests, and violating the rights of Indigenous and local people in areas newly designated as ‘biofuel plantations.’

The Earth itself is, in fact, a finite resource; in order to preserve it, we must address overall energy consumption as well as ways to make the forms of energy we do use more generally renewable.

More than five years ago, MADRE observed that, “We need to consume less, not just differently, and steer clear of solutions that would expand the reach-and all the pitfalls-of industrialized agriculture. Creative and practical solutions for meeting our energy requirements-including some local, sustainable agrofuel programs-are being developed around the world. We can support proposals for developing sustainable renewable energy sources, while recognizing the need to reduce overall consumption .” That need to reduce overall consumption has never been addressed, and the world’s population continues to expand, having recently exceeded 7 billion. The only sustainable solution remains to consume less and in better ways.

World Food Day 2012: The Power of Agricultural Cooperatives

Today is World Food Day, and this year’s focus is on agricultural cooperatives—powerful examples of active, life-changing community engagement.

Worldwide, women and girls are primarily responsible for feeding their families. Women are disproportionately, overwhelmingly impacted by the expanding global crisis of poverty. Climate change exacerbates food insecurity, causing droughts one year and floods the next, and forces people from their homes. These conditions all exacerbate poverty – and again, disproportionately impact women.

MADRE advocates for food sovereignty, meaning that every person has not only the right to food, but the right to choose what food we eat and an understanding of where that food comes from and how it is produced.

Today, we are highlighting three of our partners, whose work to promote food sovereignty allows them to feed their families and support one another through the many challenges they face. By embracing sustainable farming practices, women and their families have the opportunity to support themselves for generations.

In Sudan, Women Farmers Unite to grow the food their families need to survive and encourage young women to become farmers.

Unlike emergency food aid, Women Farmers Unite gives women the tools, resources and technical assistance they need to sustain their families for the long haul. With our Sudanese partner organization Zenab for Women in Development, we provide women farmers with organic seeds and supplies, including plows and a tractor. A special focus on young women helps ensure theirgeneration continues to provide a local, sustainable food supply.

Women gain the resources they need to grow and produce food, alleviating hunger, improving health and nutrition, and fueling local economies. By working together to grow crops, participants build a network of women farmers who share resources and boost their economic status. Elder women transmit skills and lessons to younger women. Many participants are using their increased incomes to pay for their daughters’ educations, breaking the cycle of poverty and increasing the chances for further political, economic and social empowerment.

In Nicaragua, women farmers are Harvesting Hope.

MADRE partners with Indigenous Miskito women to promote organic farming and provides families with vegetable seeds. Harvesting Hope organizes a seed bank, through which women cultivate, save, and share local, organic seeds from one growing season to the next. The program emphasizes sustainable land use methodologies, safeguards traditional Indigenous knowledge of natural resource management, and strengthens women’s economic self-sufficiency and participation in public life.

Through MADRE’s longtime sister organization Wangki Tangni, Harvesting Hope organizes local farmers’ markets where the women sell surplus produce.  The markets have become a focal point for community cohesion, with Wangki Tangni hosting innovative culinary contests, games, and musical entertainment. The markets also serve as an opportunity for Wangki Tangni to distribute popular education materials about women’s rights, collective Indigenous rights, and women’s health. Women are earning much-needed income for their families, and are able to pay for necessities such as shoes and school books for their children. In the process, women are boosting their economic autonomy and sense of agency.

In Guatemala, women are Farming for the Future.

Indigenous Ixil women living in the Quiché region of the Guatemalan highlands endured 36 years of civil war. The Quiché region was the area most severely affected; nearly half of all recorded human rights violations – including the killing of 200,000 Indigenous People – occurred here.

Today, many widows and single mothers are the sole breadwinners for their families. MADRE has established small chicken farms as a source of food security and income. The project improves families’ diets by providing eggs, generates income for women, and builds participants’ technical and business skills, in turn creating more economic opportunities for young people in Quiché.Based on a community-centered model of micro-enterprise, Farming for the Future not only brings in money; it also creates opportunities for women to learn and then teach other community members about human rights.

Women are also now in a stronger position to negotiate the distribution of work in the household and provide positive role models for their daughters and sons. Nutrition is improving, which will ultimately boost maternal and infant survival rates and the overall health of the community. Indigenous women are strengthened as leaders come together to attend human rights trainings and plan future community development projects.

Celebrating International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

Today is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People! It was established in 1994 by the UN to promote the achievements and rights of Indigenous Peoples across the world.

Here are just a few of the ways that MADRE works with our Indigenous partners for rights, resources and results worldwide.

Farming for the Future

Indigenous Ixil women living in the Quiché region of the Guatemalan highlands endured 36 years of civil war. The Quiché region was the area most severely affected; nearly half of all recorded human rights violations – including the killing of 200,000 Indigenous People – occurred here.  Ixil women are among the poorest people in Guatemala, which itself has the highest infant mortality rate in Central America and one of the world’s worst rates of malnutrition for children.

MADRE is establishing small chicken farms as a source of food security and income for Ixil women in Guatemala. Implemented in cooperation with Muixil, the project improves families’ diets by providing eggs, generates income for women, and builds participants’ technical and business skills, in turn creating more economic opportunities for young people in Quiché. Based on a community-centered model of micro-enterprise, Farming for the Future not only brings in money; it also creates opportunities for women to learn and then teach other community members about human rights.

Defending Territories and Traditions

On the North Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, Indigenous Peoples face entrenched human rights abuses, including poverty, the denial of education and healthcare services, and the degradation of the ecosystems that are the bedrock of their traditional diet, economy, cultural practices, and very identity as Indigenous Peoples. Having survived and resisted genocide, colonization, forced assimilation, and multiple invasions by the United States, families here now face further danger from governments and corporations seeking profits from the minerals, timber, fish, and other natural resources located on Indigenous territory.

MADRE has co-founded the Center for Indigenous Peoples’ Autonomy and Development (known by its Spanish acronym, CADPI) to promote the education, culture, political participation, and community cohesion that people need to effectively demand their rights and develop their economy and government according to their own vision. CADPI offers art and music classes, human rights trainings, and children’s recreational and skills-building programs for local Indigenous and African-descent communities. CADPI’s museum, Casa Museo, displays the work of local artists, organizes international cultural exchanges, and encourages appreciation of Miskito culture among young people in the area.

Voices for Justice

In Peru, more than half of all people – and nearly 80% of Indigenous Peoples and those of African descent – live in poverty. Indigenous women face the additional challenge of gender discrimination. They are underrepresented in local government, exposed to gender-based violence and lack access to health care. Maternal mortality in the region is 185 deaths per 100,000 live births, as compared to an average of nine per 100,000 in industrialized countries. Indigenous women who seek health care often encounter professionals who do not speak their local language and cannot fully explain reproductive health information.

MADRE and our partner CHIRAPAQ (The Center for Indigenous Peoples’ Cultures of Peru) are using radio to share information on health, domestic violence, women’s political participation, food security, climate change and more in these geographically isolated communities. Together, MADRE and CHIRAPAQ are training Indigenous women and men in radio production and broadcasting, providing equipment to a network of radio producers and developing programming to promote women’s human rights and collective Indigenous rights.

Demanding a Political Voice for Women

MADRE partners with the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (better known by its Spanish acronym FIMI) to equip women leaders in Bolivia with the skills they need to succeed in politics. The project brings Indigenous women leaders from around Latin America to conduct trainings with Indigenous Bolivian women who want to run for public office. In order to reach the greatest number of Indigenous women leaders, FIMI and MADRE are working with Bartolina Sisa, the largest Indigenous women’s organization in Bolivia, to train Indigenous women for leadership roles at the local, national and international levels.

An Email That Makes It All Worth It: Joy in Guatemala

In March, MADRE sent one of our Helping Hands shipments to Guatemala that included toys, sewing supplies, clothing, medical equipment and over-the-counter medication, toiletries and school supplies. These shipments are made possible entirely through donations from you, our supporters. Aid – sending things to people who need them – should be incredibly easy; when you have too much of something, and someone else has too little, you should simply be able to give it them. Unfortunately, international aid is often a complicated and time-consuming process, and getting supplies from our generous donors to our partners and sister organizations often requires a great deal of effort from our dedicated staff. So why do we devote time to this particular project, when so much work requires our attention?

Oh, well, that’s easy:

What wouldn't you do for this face?!

When the supplies arrived, our Program Director Natalia (future MADRE!) got a lovely email from Ana Ceto, the head of MUIXIL, one of our sister organizations in Guatemala, letting us know how happy they were to receive them:

“Hey pretty woman, future mother.
Helping Hands, helping students!

I’m attaching photos of people that received the presents that I
received from MADRE.  Thanks a lot for everything.  I’m letting you
know that the people are so happy.  Inform your team that the work you
all accomplished is enormous.

The young man that received the medical equipment was happy; he is getting his degree in medicine and he hasn’t had the money to buy this equipment.  His family ran out of money because one of his brothers got sick with leukemia and died.  Because of this, they ran out of money and days before, his mother had asked me if I had friends that could help her son because he was really interested  in studying, but he didn’t have money to buy his equipment.

At least on the trip that I made all was worth it; I brought him something useful.

Well, I wish you the best and take really good care of yourself.

A hug, see you soon”

Thank you to our staff and supporters for all you do for this program, so we can keep receiving pictures like this.

They match!

New Report Released on Violence against Women in Central America

“Our bodies are still used to torture and divide our communities” –Indigenous woman, Polochic, Guatemala

(c) Nobel Women's Initiative

The Nobel Women’s Initiative recently released a report on violence against women and women human rights defenders in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. The report, entitled “From Survivors to Defenders,” follows a delegation to these three countries, and reflects on input from government agencies, non-governmental organizations and women on the ground.

As the report explains, the current epidemic of violence against women in the region is the result of many factors: a history of militarization in the countries, backed largely by the United States, the ongoing military and police presence in the context of the drug war, corrupt and inadequate justice systems, and targeted attacks on human rights defenders that go unprosecuted.

We’ve seen this through our work with Muixil and the Women Workers Committee in Guatemala, where women still feel the effects of a decades-long civil war and where women continue to seek justice in a corrupt system for the crimes committed against their loved ones. And we’ve seen this through our work in Nicaragua, where women’s rights are increasingly deteriorating in the context of the war on drugs. Our partner Mirna Cunningham recently alerted us that girls in the Miskito region of Nicaragua are being sold to drug traffickers for sex.

As stated in the report, “peace is not just the cessation of war.” In fact, efforts to create security in the region, within the context of the war on drugs, have done the opposite, especially for women. The report found that most women did not feel safer with heightened military and police presence. This is particularly telling, given an increasing US military presence in Honduras. Most troubling was news that in May, two pregnant women were killed during a raid (we wrote a blog entry about this surge in militarization here).

The epidemic of violence against women in Central America deserves a response. And that response should not mean an increase the foreign and domestic military and police presence in the country, emboldening military officials sometimes guilty of atrocities. The response, as put forth in the report, must be based in human rights. It requires justice for women and their families, sending a message that people who commit crimes against women and women’s human rights defenders will not walk free. It requires consultation with women in communities hard-hit by drug trafficking. And it requires support and protection for women.

The report reminds us that we each can offer some of this protection to the women of Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala. We can do this by acknowledging their search for justice and their fight against violence and publicly denouncing acts of violence against women and human rights defenders.