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While living in Central America I contributed reporting on the following in-depth investigations as a freelance reporter for The New York Times.
On the first anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, in a sleepy corner of northeast Haiti far from the disaster zone, the Haitian government began the process of evicting 366 farmers from a large, fertile tract of land to clear the way for a new industrial park.
The farmers did not understand why the authorities wanted to replace productive agricultural land with factories in a rural country that had trouble feeding itself. But, promised compensation, they did not protest a strange twist of fate that left them displaced by an earthquake that had not affected them.
Otto Pérez Molina, a former general during this country’s bloody civil war, was elected president on Sunday after promising to tackle rising crime with an “iron fist” and an expanded military. Mr. Pérez Molina defeated Manuel Baldizón, a young, populist businessman, by nine percentage points, with nearly 90 percent of the vote counted, ushering Guatemala into new and old territory. Fifteen years after peace accords ended a 36-year civil war here that was often dominated by military atrocities, voters have pushed a military man into office. Their hope is that he can defeat the forces now tearing this country apart — the interwoven threats of random crime, gangs, Mexican drug cartels and complicit government officials and companies.
More than a half-century after Guatemala’s elected president Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was overthrown in a coup planned by the C.I.A. and forced into a wandering exile, President Alvaro Colom apologized on Thursday for what he called a “great crime.” In a muted ceremony at the National Palace in Guatemala City, Mr. Colom turned to Mr. Arbenz’s son Juan Jacobo and asked for forgiveness on behalf of the state. “That day changed Guatemala and we have not recuperated from it yet,” he said. “It was a crime to Guatemalan society and it was an act of aggression to a government starting its democratic spring.”
The towering Volcano of Fire came roaring to life recently, rattling the ground in this pastel-washed tourist mecca as if a subway train were passing underneath and astonishing visitors with its thundercloud of ash. They could be forgiven for missing the other, more subtle upheaval transpiring here that same day last month: At City Hall, the police were marching away the mayor and rounding up nine other people in a corruption case that many view as a major step toward attacking the kind of political malfeasance long taken for granted in Guatemala.
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