Central America
Diana Isabel Hernández

Environmental defender slain in Guatemala

Environmental activist Diana Isabel Hernández was slain in an attack by armed men on a religious procession in her community of Monte Gloria,  in the Guatemalan department of Suchitepéquez. Hernández was a leader of the Mujeres Madre Tierra Association, a group linked to the local Catholic church that worked to protect forests and promote organic agriculture. The Alianza por la Solidaridad human rights network denounced the slaying as a “cowardly murder that adds to the many cases of attacks on leaders who work for the common good.” The network counts 16 social leaders assassinated in Guatemala last year—compared to three in 2017. (Photo via InfoLibre)

New York City

NYC: outrage over automotive terror —at last

Hundreds of bicyclists staged a “die-in” in New York’s Washington Square Park, expressing outrage over the spate of killings of cyclists on the city’s streets. Three deaths came in a one-week period, finally prompting demands for public action: Robyn Hightman, a 20-year-old bicycle messenger and track racer, was killed by a truck driver in Manhattan. Ernest Askew, 57, riding an e-bike in Brooklyn, was hit and killed by a teen driver. And Devra Freelander, 28, an artist, was killed by a cement truck driver, also in Brooklyn. Hightman was the 12th cyclist killed on New York City streets in 2019; 10 were killed in all of 2018. (Photo: Streetsblog)

Central America

Central America climate crisis fuels migration

Commentators have noted the roots of the current massive migration from Central America in the political economy of the free trade order. The US-led repression and counter-insurgency in the isthmus in the 1980s allowed the imposition of “free trade” or “neoliberal” regimes in the generation since then—culminating in the passage of CAFTA. This, in turn, has exacerbated the expropriation from the peasantry of their traditional lands by agribusiness and agro-export oligarchies. But this dynamic is now being augmented by factors related to political ecology—the degradation of the land itself due to climate destabilization. (Photo: IOM)

Mexico

Mexico: new security force to Guatemalan border

The first mission of the new security force created by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will be blocking migrants on the Guatemalan border, evidently part of a deal struck with the Trump administration. Mexico has pledged to deploy up to 6,000 National Guard troops to its southern border in an effort to avoid Trump’s threatened tariff on all exports to the United States. The deal was announced as Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard is leading a Mexican delegation in talks with White House officials in Washington. Mexican officials said that 10 National Guard contingents of 450 to 600 troops each will be assigned to the border with Guatemala by September. The deployment would represent a fourfold increase on the 1,500 federal troops currently patrolling the border. A further three units will be deployed to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico, to set up roadblocks and checkpoints to stop the movement of migrants. (Photo: Mexico News Daily)

North America

Demand investigation into death of migrant child

UN Special Rapporteur of the human rights of migrants Felipe González Morales called for an independent investigation into the death of Jakelin Ameí Caal, a Guatemalan migrant child who died while in US Customs and Border Protection. Jakelin was in custody, along with her family and other migrants, after crossing the Mexico border. The factual causes leading up to her death are currently disputed. In the report, Morales stresses the importance of finding out what happened to Jakelin, stating that "if any officials are found responsible they should be held accountable." (Photo via Jurist)

Central America

UN welcomes Guatemala court ruling on genocide

UN human rights experts welcomed a recent Guatemalan court ruling that the deaths of 1,771 ethnic Ixil Mayan people between 1983 and 1984 constituted a "genocide," stating: "Impunity for perpetrators is unacceptable." The deaths occurred during the 36-year-long Guatemalan civil war, in which 200,000 civilians were killed. It was determined that under "Operation Sofia," then-dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt had ordered the army to annihilate the entire Ixil population. Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide in 2013, but that verdict was overturned for procedural errors. Trial resumed last year, but Montt died in April 2018, before the case was concluded. (Photo via Jurist)

Central America

Guatemala: ex-VP sentenced in water scandal

Guatemala’s special anti-corruption Court for High Risk Crimes sentenced former vice president Roxana Baldetti to prison for 15 years and six months for her role in the so-called "Magic Water" scandal. The case concerned the awarding of an $18 million dollar contract to decontaminate Lake Amatitlán, an important water source for peasant communities. The contract went to Israeli firm M. Tarcic Engineering Ltd, which claimed it had a "special formula" that could clean the lake within months. An investigation revealed that the "formula" consisted of water, salt and chlorine. The Authority for the Sustainable Management of Lake Amatitlán (AMSA), establsihed to oversee the clean-up, documented illegal dumping of agricultural and municipal waste into the Río Villalobos, which empties into the lake. The UN-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) supported Guatemalan prosecutors in the conspiracy case against Baldetti. (Photo via EmisorasUnidas)

North America

Trump order lays ground for indefinite detention

Trump's executive order officially calling for an end to separating migrant families on the border actually contains provisions laying the groundwork for the indefinite detention of intercepted migrants. Entitled "Temporary Detention Policy for Families Entering this Country Illegally," it instructs the Secretary of Defense to provide "any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families" to Homeland Security—a clear reference to placing detained migrants in military bases. It also charges the Defense Department with responsibility to "construct such facilities if necessary…" (Photo: BBC World Service via Flickr)

Central America

Guatemala: ex-officers convicted in disappearance

Four retired senior members of the Guatemalan military—including two high-ranking officers previously thought to be untouchable, former Army Chief of Staff Benedicto Lucas García and former chief of military intelligence Manuel Callejas y Callejas—were convicted of involvement in crimes against humanity. Three  received a sentence of 58 years in prison, while one was sentenced to 33 years. The former officials faced charges arising from the detention, torture and sexual violation of Emma Molina Theissen, and the enforced disappearance of Emma’s 14-year-old brother Marco Antonio, in 1981. (Photo: Waging Nonviolence)

Central America

Guatemala: general strike to demand prez resign

Independence Day celebrations in Guatemala were disrupted by protests across the country, as thousands took to the streets to demand the resignation of President Jimmy Morales. The protests were sparked after the country's Congress voted down a measure to remove Morales' immunity from prosecution and instead approved legislation that decreases the penalties for campaign finance crimes.

Central America

Guatemala: halt expulsion of anti-corruption chief

With protesters paralyzing the capital, the Guatemalan Supreme Court suspended President Jimmy Morales' order to deport the head of a UN anti-corruption commission from the country. The order came two days after Ivan Velásquez, the Colombian prosecutor who leads Guatemala's International Commission against Impunity, announced he was seeking to lift Morales' immunity from prosecution.

Central America

Taiwan sacrificed to Central America geopolitics

Panama is the latest Central American nation to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Bejing—under pressure of China's fast-growing economic presence on the isthmus.