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Posted by on Saturday, February 20, 2016 in News, Uncategorized.





My name is Gautam Jagannath and I'm a staff attorney at a non-profit legal services organization in Oakland, CA. I'm looking for an expert for two of my cases involving indigenous Mam speaking Mayas. Here are summaries of the claim:
GPG – Ms. GPG is a 41 year old monolingual Mam speaker from Tres Cruces, Todos Santos, Huehuetenango, Guatemala.  She has early memories of the war and patrols, and dropped out of school after 2 years because of mistreatment.  In 1990, she met her abusive, alcoholic husband, called A.  She asked him to get married in church since GPG is a devout Catholic but he did not want to.  She had three kids between 1992-1996, and the major problems began in 1998 when her husband began seeing several mistresses.  One of whom, S, was particular vindictive and made significant efforts to oust GPG so she could live with A.  A was constantly abusive, drunk, threatened to kill GPG.  A would continue to see S all the time, daily, and prevent GPG from understanding why he was not content with her.  As a result of S’s threats and other factors, A and GPG left to USA in 2003, leaving their 3 children to A’s parents who took care of them while GPG and A were in the USA until 2008, when A’s mother passed away.  GPG returned to Guatemala.  Now, the village people had dubbed her a “village whore” as it were, and serious efforts mounted to prevent GPG from attending church.  She was told that only “married people” could enter the church building.  She was also told that A was sleeping around with everyone and including S.  The situation got dire and GPG left for the USA in early 2015.  GPG’s abuser, A, lives in the Bay Area where GPG lives but they are not together.  She is afraid of him after everything he did, and is scared that if she returns to Guatemala she would be bereft of police protection and would be tortured and/or killed.  I believe the need for an expert is to show that Ms. GPG is part of a disfavored group, exacerbated by the persecution due to what happened in Guatemala during the war, she has suffered severe and atrocious past persecution and that she has a well founded fear of return because she would be persecuted for her religious beliefs which she cannot freely exercise.
GVD – Ms. GVD is a 20 year old monolingual Mam speaker from Aldea Checoche, San Juan Atitan, Huehuetenango, Guatemala.  Her early memory includes witnessing her paternal grandfather’s persecution because he was dubbed a guerrilla during the war.  The family had to move every so often to avoid the threats he would receive. In November of 2007, her grandfather was killed by unknown assailants, but the common belief was that it was due to the imputed associations with guerrillas.  Since that time, the family has received threats, and GVD’s husband was severely beaten.  Medical evidence exists because he was taken to Huehue for hospitalization.  The husband left for the USA soon after.  In Jan 2015, GVD was assaulted on the way to church by people with covered faces, and she was kicked in the stomach.  A month after, in Feb 2015, she was raped by unknown people.  She believes that the second incident was related to the first and that this is all connected to her family relation to the grandfather.  Ms. GVD has a child who is also in removal proceedings.  I would anticipate the need for an expert in this case would be particularly for the connection between what happened with GVD’s grandfather and her own close family’s beating/abuse and GVD’s rape.
I am happy to provide other information as needed. My email is and I would appreciate any assistance.

Seasons greetings and a Happy New Year, Thomas!
I hope it has been an enjoyable and resting time for you.  I want to let you know that I will be re-starting my ABRAZOS outreach campaign and will be in Atlanta and Miami this February.  Please help to spread the word if you can and if you know anyone who might be interested in hosting me on this tour, please let me know.
Take care!
Luis Argueta
"There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than 
the way in which it treats its children."    Nelson Mandela
Worth Seeing
A note in regards to your December 7th and 14th mailer notices about Abrazos, a film by Luis Argueta.
The Maya Educational Foundation (MEF)
underwrote a showing of Luis Argueta's
Abrazos movie during its English
Language Program (ELP) in Antigua, Guatemala,
last week. The feedback was very positive.
ELP Program leader Laurie Levinger
reports that Luis Argueta and producer
Bea Gallardo came to the screening
and that the Maya students loved it and 
that she highly recommends seeing this film.
GSN'ers taking an active role in the ELP 2015 in
MEF President and GSN member 
Carol Hendrickson, participated in this year's
English Language Program where
volunteers from the U.S. travel to
Antigua and teach MEF scholarship
students English for two weeks.
The all-day, two-week stretch
of intensive English immersion 
benefits the students and
motivates them for further English
The volunteers tell us that
it's an exhausting but very rewarding
experience, and many have come back
multiple times already.
GSN'er Chris Lutz kindly arranged
for cultural activities for the Maya ELP
students and he and wife Sally
spent time with them during 
the weekend when the volunteer teachers 
were away on a trip to the Lake where they visited
MEF partners.
MEF's Facebook page has photos and
more on this year's ELP, a project
made possible entirely by dedicated 
and generous volunteers.

Articulo recién traducido del periódico de Nueva York sobre las concesiones forestales…
Original English
Comunidades en Guatemala protegen los bosques, y así su propia subsistencia
Patrullando la Reserva de la Biósfera Maya en la región norte del Petén, Guatemala. Ganaderos, leñadores clandestinos y narcotraficantes devastan la zona boscosa. Meridith Kohut para The New York Times
UAXACTÚN, Guatemala — En lo profundo de la jungla, donde las hojas refractan la luz solar y forman un entramado de tonos verdes, donde los jaguares acechan y los monos aulladores resuenan por encima del canto de las aves, se vislumbra un aserradero donde se rebanan troncos gigantes de caoba.
Aunque la escena parezca ominosa, el aserradero es parte de una estrategia de conservación. La supervivencia del bosque, y la permanencia de otros a lo largo de los trópicos, ya sea en Brasil, la Cuenca del Congo o Indonesia, ofrece beneficios que van mucho más allá de las fronteras nacionales. Al absorber el dióxido de carbono y atrapar el carbón, los bosques desempeñan un papel vital en la reducción de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero.
Sin embargo, ha sido muy difícil lograr un consenso sobre cómo eludir las amenazas que los rodean. Los ganaderos, granjeros, leñadores clandestinos y narcotraficantes devastan la zona boscosa, virtualmente inmunes a los esfuerzos del gobierno para protegerla.
Un terreno dentro de la reserva maya que ha sido talado ilegalmente. Meridith Kohut para The New York Times
El experimento realizado aquí, en la Reserva de la Biósfera Maya en la región norte de Petén, Guatemala, sugiere una solución: la manera más efectiva para proteger los bosques es darle el control a las comunidades que ya viven ahí.
Quienes logran su sustento del bosque, a menudo cosechando valiosos árboles de madera, tienen un incentivo para protegerlo, y eso puede crear una línea de defensa mucho más fuerte que la de los gobiernos.
“Nadie va a cuidar la casa de alguien más o el jardín de alguien más”, dijo Marcedonio Cortave, quien dirige la alianza de las comunidades que trabajan en la reserva. “Cuidarán y defenderán su propia subsistencia”.
Algunas comunidades y dos compañías locales administran casi un cuarto del territorio que atraviesa la reserva de 5,2 millones de acres en once concesiones gubernamentales que permiten la silvicultura estrictamente monitoreada. Y según un estudio realizado en marzo por la Alianza para Bosques, después de quince años desde que las concesiones fueron establecidas, el índice de deforestación en las áreas controladas es cercano a cero.
“Si las concesiones no existieran, la zona sería una gigantesca tierra de pastoreo de ganado”, dijo Wilson Martínez, el administrador del bosque para Yaloch, un área concesionada cerca a la frontera con Belice.
Con mapa en mano, caminó a través de un terreno de la jungla donde se había cosechado el año pasado. Cada árbol había sido marcado para determinar cuáles se cortarían y cuáles se dejarían como árboles semilleros. Lo único que reveló trazos de la tala fue el tocón de un solo árbol de caoba, un espacio abierto donde se plantaron vástagos de caoba y unos caminos desvanecidos. La zona podrá regenerarse naturalmente.
Además de prevenir la deforestación, las comunidades han tenido éxito al proteger las especies más amenazadas, la caoba de Honduras y el cedro americano, según un estudio realizado el mes pasado.
“Estas prácticas representan lo último en esfuerzos para la conservación”, dijo Bryan Finegan, un ecologista en Catie, un instituto de investigaciones internacional en Costa Rica, que dirigió el estudio. “Es un modelo para el mundo”.
A pesar de las dudas sobre si las comunidades son capaces de mantener sus bosques, los grupos de conservación internacionales se han sumado a la estrategia. Al trabajar con los grupos indígenas y comunitarios, mantuvieron la presión para incluir a los bosques en las negociaciones de los derechos de los pueblos en la conferencia sobre cambio climático en París.
“Los silvicultores y tecnócratas dicen que ellos pueden administrar sus bosques”, dijo David Kaimowitz, el director de recursos naturales en la Fundación Ford. “Pero, a pesar de que se les ha dado la oportunidad de hacerlo, no ha sido cierto”.
Empacando xate, una hoja de palma exportada a Estados Unidos para arreglos florales, en un taller de Uaxactún. Los esfuerzos de sostenibilidad en las comunidades incluyen fomentar la cosecha responsable de plantas del bosque, y no sólo los grandes árboles. Meridith Kohut para The New York Times
Eso es evidente en Uaxactún. Muchas de las 180 familias que viven aquí se asentaron en la zona hace más de un siglo para aprovechar la goma natural de los árboles nativos. Entre las casas de madera y los techos de paja de la aldea, hay indicios de una nueva prosperidad. Hay motocicletas en frente de muchas de las casas, utilizadas para entrar al bosque a reunir xate, una hoja de palma exportada a Estados Unidos para arreglos florales.
Las ventas de madera de la concesión de la comunidad se usaron para construir una escuela, y hay dinero destinado a becas para los estudiantes que quieren estudiar en el extranjero. “Te apoyan para que puedas regresar y ayudar a tu comunidad”, dijo Carolina Alvarado, quien estudió tecnología ambiental en Wisconsin y ahora ayuda a manejar el proyecto de xate.
Desde lo alto de la atalaya cerca a Uaxactún, donde los vigías están atentos a posibles incendios en el bosque durante el verano, la conservación parece estar asegurada. El bosque se extiende hasta el horizonte por encima de las tierras que alguna vez fueron el corazón del imperio maya.
Pero a nivel del suelo, la batalla es constante, y no toda la reserva ha resistido al asalto.
Según Eliseo Gálvez, el secretario ejecutivo adjunto del Consejo Nacional de Áreas Protegidas, reafirmar el control gubernamental significa desafiar muchos intereses poderosos que se oponen a la conservación.
“Ahora es aun más complejo por la influencia de los actores ilegales que están usando el parque para traficar migrantes y drogas hacia el norte”, agregó.
Durante muchos años, diferentes instancias gubernamentales como los jueces y la policía forestal han fracasado en la coordinación, dijo, aunque eso ha empezado a cambiar con la ofensiva nacional contra la corrupción.
Alrededor del 30 por ciento de todos los bosques tropicales en el mundo pertenecen o son manejados por los grupos y comunidades indígenas, dijo Andy White, director de la Rights and Resources Initiative (Iniciativa por los Derechos y Recursos), quienes presionan para que la cifra sea cada vez mayor.
“Los gobiernos y las organizaciones ambientales todavía tienen la falsa noción de que la forma de conservar los bosques es crear un parque y expulsar a todos”, criticó White. La mayor parte de la Reserva de la Biósfera Maya se ha delimitado como área verde donde el gobierno presumiblemente está a cargo de su protección, pero ese territorio ha sufrido la mayor deforestación según la Alianza para Bosques.
“Cuando la tierra le pertenece al estado, la gente cree que tiene derecho a llevarse todo; es ingobernable”, dijo Cortave.
Baudelio Chi Quixchan en un terreno de la reserva que ha sido talado ilegalmente. Quixchan cree que la manera más efectiva de proteger los bosques es darle el control a las comunidades que ya viven ahí. Meridith Kohut para The New York Times
En las áreas de concesión, la situación es a la inversa. Las comunidades patrullan las zonas bajo su protección para detener la tala ilegal, la caza y el saqueo de los sitios arqueológicos mayas.
Los costos de vigilancia constante se pagan con las ventas a un mayor número de mercados. En vez de comerciar con intermediarios, las comunidades han preferido vender madera directamente a los fabricantes estadounidenses de guitarras y a otros negocios europeos.
La Wildlife Conservation Society (Sociedad para la Conservación de la Vida Salvaje) está comprando madera de Uaxactún para el zoológico del Bronx y el Aquario de New York. La organización también es parte de una coalición que busca que Nueva York reemplace la madera del paso peatonal del puente de Brooklyn con una madera sólida llamada manchiche, proveniente de Uaxactún.
El mantenimiento y el éxito de las áreas de concesión requieren grandes cantidades de dinero. La United States Agency for International Development (USAID) ha contribuido con un estimado de $50 millones de dólares desde que la reserva de la biósfera se estableció hace veinticinco años. Pero un estudio del mes pasado por el World Resources Institute (Instituto de los Recursos Mundiales) argumenta que el precio representa apenas una pequeña fracción del beneficio que los bosques brindan al disminuir los efectos de las emisiones de carbono.
Pero no todos los lugares han tenido el mismo éxito que Uaxactún. En tres áreas, las comunidades han perdido sus concesiones; las laderas depejadas evidencian la incapacidad de resistirse a la presión externa.
Por el este, leñadores clandestinos de Belice cruzan los límites del bosque en la noche durante la época de lluvias, cuando los aguaceros cubren el ruido de las motosierras. “Si el gobierno hubiese sido más inteligente en el pasado, habría más bosques en el Petén”, comentó Manuel Burgos, de 51 años, guardia y bombero en Yaloch.
Aquí ven al gobierno de Guatemala como enemigo y protector. Pero ahora existe la preocupación de que los grupos interesados en los depósitos de petróleo o en las plantaciones de palma de aceite de la región puedan persuadir al nuevo gobierno que tomará posesión en enero.
Sin embargo, los técnicos forestales del gobierno trabajan muy de cerca con las comunidades y la seguridad está mejorando. Ahora, los soldados y la policía tienen una base en un campamento en la única carretera con acceso al bosque oriente de la reserva.
El mes pasado, justo después del amanecer, dos jóvenes cargaban motosierras mientras se dirigían hacia los árboles de la ladera, a pocos metros de los límites de Yaloch, aparentemente sin saber qué tan lejos llegaría el ruido.
Uno de ellos dijo que estaba despejando el terreno para pastoreo, pero admitió que no tenía ni ganado ni dinero para comprar vacas.
Mientras hablaba, un árbol cayó vencido por los cortes que habían hecho. Entonces, la policía pidió a los hombres que se subieran a una camioneta y se los llevaron.
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Has Guatemala's Long-Awaited Spring Finally Arrived?
By Michael Deibert
When former comedian Jimmy Morales was elected as Guatemala’s president as the candidate for the Frente de Convergencia Nacional (FCN) this past October, his victory came at the conclusion of perhaps the most tumultuous few weeks the country has seen since the end of its 30-year civil war in 1996.
Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy, Guatemala has often been the called the Land of Eternal Spring due to its temperate highland climate. By the 1980s, in the middle of a three decade long civil war, some added “Land of Eternal Tyranny” to the description in reference to its long list of sanguinary military governments.
In the 20 years since then, Guatemalans have enjoyed democracy, of a sort. Elections were held on schedule and with regularity, and an alternating series of civilian presidents from political parties of various ideological stripes have all taken their turn in steering the ship of state. Violence and corruption, often with official complicity, however, have continued to darken the country’s political landscape, often coupled with a pervasive and corrosive impunity benefiting those perpetuating it.
Following the 1996 peace accords, Presidents Álvaro Arzú of the Partido de Avanzada Nacional and his successor, Alfonso Portillo of the Frente Republicano Guatemalteco (of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, who presided over some of the civil war’s worst human rights abuses), implemented many key provisions of the peace accords half-heartedly, if at all. By then, Guatemala's clandestine criminal networks had spent a decade successfully inserting themselves into virtually every manifestation of the state.
By 2005, the government of then-president Oscar Berger warned that Los Zetas, then enforcers for the Mexico’s Gulf Cartel and since 2010 an independent drug trafficking organization in their own right, were recruiting into their ranks members of Los Kabiles, a special-operations unit of the Guatemalan army trained in jungle warfare and counterinsurgency tactics, and which boasted a horrific human rights record in Guatemala itself. Los Zetas expanded their control of the country roughly at the same time as the beginning of the mandate of Álvaro Colom, who had become president the previous January as the candidate of the of the left-centre Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE), and his tenure would forever be marked for their violence.
The July 2010 killing of Obdulio Solórzano, a former Escuintla deputy and member of UNE’s executive committee as he drove through Guatemala City’s Zona 13 district, helped to reveal just how deep the links between crime and politics were.
After his stint in Guatemala’s congress, Solórzano had gone on to head the Fondo Nacional para la Paz (National Foundation for Peace or Fonapaz), a government organization set up in 1991 with the stated aim of funding programs to eliminate poverty. During his tenure it was discovered that some 1.4 billion quetzales (as the Guatemalan currency is known) could not be accounted for, and that some 32 NGO projects had been overvalued to the tune of Q93.7 million. He was dismissed in June 2009.
According to a Guatemala official I spoke with, Solórzano had long been the link between the San Marcos drug lord Juan “Chamalé” Ortíz – credited with first bringing Los Zetas to Guatemala – and several other drug traffickers and certain elements of the UNE. It was speculated that some of the inconsistencies in accounting during his time at Fonapaz may have been attempts to launder illicit drug profits. Jose Rubén Zamora, the crusading editor of Guatemala’s El Periódico, would later say that Guatemalan army general Mauro “Gerónimo” Jacinto (who was himself later murdered) described to him how Solórzano had funneled millions of dollars from drug traffickers such as Juancho León and from Los Zetas themselves into UNE campaign coffers to help Colom triumph in the second round of the contest over former general Otto Pérez Molina.
After Guatemala’s November 2011 presidential elections – which in the final round saw Otto Pérez Molina defeat a congressmen from El Petén of equally dubious reputation named Manuel Baldizón, Pérez Molina  announced that his government would have “a strategic plan to combat drug trafficking…in coordination with authorities in the United States and Mexico.”
But things were murkier than they appeared, as was demonstrated when Pérez Molina’s personal pilot, Haward Gilbert Suhr, the founder of the Aeroservicios Centroamericanos, S.A. group (which Pérez Molina was a shareholder in) was arrested along with a dozen other in San Pedro Sula, Honduras and charged with trafficking drug shipments on behalf of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel.
Finally, this past October, Otto Pérez Molina, resigned amid a corruption scandal that had reached the very pinnacle of the country’s political establishment, and was jailed the following day. The country’s former Vice President (she resigned in May), Roxana Baldetti, had been arrested and imprisoned in 21 August. Both are charged with running a criminal network known as La línea (The Line) while in office.
The arrests of the country’s two most powerful politicians took place following massive street demonstrations throughout Guatemala, and represented perhaps the apex thus far of the Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala (CICIG), a United Nations-mandated body that has operated since 2007, charged with investigating criminal organizations and exposing their relation to the state. Led by the Colombia judge Iván Velásquez Gómez, the swiftness with which CICIG, along with Guatemala’s Ministerio Público, brought about the downfall of the government was startling, especially given that Pérez Molina had only weeks left in office after this year’s presidential election,.
And what now in Guatemala? President-elect Jimmy Morales’ FCN was founded by former military officers leaning to the extreme right of the country’s military spectrum, including José Luis Quilo Ayuso, an associate of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, who currently has a possible genocide trial looming before him.
Will events of recent months mark a definitive break from Guatemala’s corrupt past? Despite the valiant efforts of Guatemala’s civil society. Guatemalan criminal organizations continue to make use of street-level gangsters as foot soldiers, as is evidence by an event several years ago that took place in Guatemala’s lethal and dysfunctional prison system, specifically the Varones in Guatemala City’s Zone 18 district, as was described to me by someone with direct knowledge of the case.
The impetus for the crisis was apparently precipitated by the presence in the prison of two well- known kidnappers, Rigoberto Morales Barrientos, alias Rigo Rico, and Jorge Mario Moreira alias El Marino. A senior government official allegedly received a sum of around 2 million quetzales (about USD 250,000) from the families of those victimized by the kidnappers to facilitate their execution inside the prison. Deciding to kill two birds with one stone, the individual then moved Morales Barrientos and Mario Moreira into two adjoining cells along with two other high-profile prisoners. These prisoners were Axel Danilo Ramirez Espinoza, aka El Smiley, a confessed member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang accused of participating in a wave of slayings of bus drivers that occurred in 2009 and Daniel Pérez Rojas alias El Cachetes, a Mexican citizen convicted this year of involvement in the March 2008 slaying of drug lord Juancho León, Shortly after the prisoners were moved, the CICIG received credible information that the men were to be murdered within hours and sent a delegation to the prison under the pretext that the prison would be receiving donation of closed circuit cameras and that it needed to be determined exactly how many would be needed. Once in the prison, they found the prisoners in two cells adjoining a cell of several gang members who were found to be in possession of several firearms and other weapons. The targeted prisoners were moved, and the incident was never made public.
The Morales presidency, which, despite often being erroneously portrayed as an outsider in the English-language press, is a creation of some of the most recalcitrant members of Guatemalan society, makes it hard for one to believe that Guatemala is not entering a key moment in its battle against impunity and corruption and that, in a year or two, Guatemala’s citizens will be on the streets in protest once again.
(This text was adapted from an address given by the author at an October 2015 conference on Gangs & Drug Trafficking in Central America coordinated by the Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies and the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) at the University of Pittsburgh, with sponsorship from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the University Center for International Studies.)