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Long-time blogger focusing on Guatemala news, trends and current events for Americas Quarterly. Americas Quarterly is a policy journal and magazine dedicated to policy analysis and debate of economics, finance, social development, and politics in the Western Hemisphere.
Magdalena Pacheco lives in Chajul in the remote Ixil region of Guatemala. She is expecting a child and was recently hopeful about the direction of justice in Guatemala after former dictator Efraín Rios Montt’s genocide sentence. But her optimism has shifted after the guilty verdict was overturned. “I am very bothered by this, it is very sad,” Pacheco, 30, says. “If we can’t make justice happen with one person, what can we expect?”
Dozens of artists, students, and creative types recently poured into the gray, windowless concrete building that houses Guatemala City’s Attorney General’s Office. Once inside, the scarf-wearing, tennis-shoe clad newcomers crowded the two small elevators where attorneys in suits hopped in and out of each floor, curiously touching shoulders with the visitors. On the fourth floor the doors opened onto an empty space where four rows of plastic chairs surrounded a stage with two overturned desks. The rows were soon filled by attorneys, many of them women, holding case files and pens in their hands while the visitors scampered over—many never having set foot in the building.
Guatemala has its own magical realism when it comes to law and justice. In the past two months the fight against impunity in the Guatemalan courts took three notable hits. This put into question the rule of law in a country a Prensa Libre editorial recently called: “the paradise of impunity and the hell of law enforcement, subject to unforeseen and inexplicable changes.” On May 11, Alejandro Giammattei, accused of executing five convicts when security forces stormed El Pavón prison outside Guatemala City in 2006, was acquitted due to a lack of evidence. This was the first major case launched in August 2010 by the UN-appointed agency International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Giammattei was accused by CICIG, led at the time by its then newly appointed head Francisco Dall’Anese Ruiz, of forming part of a criminal organization based in the interior ministry and the civil police. This unit was called on as being responsible for the executions of people detained in prisons. Alleged crimes included murder, drug trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping, extortion, and the theft of drugs.
While the rest of the world stared down the bottomless hole in Guatemala City’s Zone 2, the small town of San Antonio Palopó around Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan, was digging its way out of the aftermath of Tropical Storm Agatha using sticks, brooms, shovels, and their bare hands. The mostly indigenous town of 14,000 suffered the destruction of 43 houses, 19 deaths, 2 still missing, 4 hospitalized, and more than 500 people evacuated to six shelters around the town’s municipal building. Like many small rural towns in Guatemala, San Antonio’s water system was destroyed during the storm so potable water was scarce and in this case came from run-off or contaminated water.
Earlier this month three Android phones—LG’s GW620, Samsung’s i5700 Galaxy Spica and Motorola’s Milestone Smartphone Android 2.0—were introduced by the rapidly growing Tigo telephone company in Guatemala. Android, an open operating system that allows access to Google’s features such as email, text messages, calendar, maps and its browser, allows devices to be built faster and at a lower cost. It also increases the technology’s accessibility. The fact that Android is free and open source and now available in places like Guatemala is important because many people in developing countries use mobile as their primary or only source for Web access. According to the World Bank, more than two-thirds of the world’s population lives within range of a wireless network. Half the global population has access to the Internet through a mobile device. This represents about 2.5 billion mobile users worldwide, which means many more people have access to a cell phone than to a personal computer.
En 2007, cuando me gradué de mi Maestría en Periodismo en la Universidad de Berkeley, podía contar en una mano el número de latinos en mi clase. También había notado un patrón similar en las salas moribundas de redacción donde trabajaba, y también más tarde, cuando inicie mis estudios de los medios de comunicación latinos en Estados Unidos como parte de mi trabajo en América Central para conectar los inmigrantes a las historias de sus países de origen.
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