- Hide menu


Freelance Writer and Blogger, The Christian Science Monitor (2011- Present)



I am a contributing writer, freelance reporter and blogger for The Christian Science Monitor. I reported during Guatemala’s election, volcano eruptions and Efraín Rios Montt’s trial, which was the first time any domestic court tried someone on genocide in the world.



Guatemala’s former dictator Ríos Montt makes his statements during the verdict in his genocide trial in Guatemala City. Photo: Ben Parker/ Contributor to HablaGuate

What does genocide conviction of Ríos Montt mean to Guatemalans abroad?

From Texas last week, I tuned in to the trial of Guatemala’s former-dictator Efraín Ríos Montt as he was sentenced to 80 years in prison and heaved a tearful sigh of relief. His sentence – the maximum in Guatemala – came 12 years after the case was initially filed with the Inter-American Court in Spain. And it was long-awaited: Mr. Ríos Montt’s 18 months as Guatemala’s dictator, is considered the bloodiest of the country’s entire civil war. His trial was the first time any domestic court has tried someone on genocide in the world. When I called my mother in Florida to share the news she didn’t miss a beat: “Por fin ese viejo se va a la carcel, donde se merece estar.” At last, that old man is in jail, where he deserves to be.

Read the PDF pdf_logo



Screen Shot 2013-08-17 at 2.58.54 PM

Guatemala’s Patriot Party presidential candidate Otto Perez Molina has his thumb inked as proof of having voted in Guatemala City on Sept. 11. Photo: Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Retired military general leads in Guatemala presidential election – CSMonitor.com

A right-wing retired military general in Guatemala promising to use an “iron fist” to wrest control of the country from criminals has taken the lead in the country’s presidential race. With 90 percent of ballots counted, Otto Perez Molina of the Patriot Party captured 36 percent of votes. His margin of victory shows a wearied public seeking stability, but he did not garner enough support to avoid a run-off. He will face businessman Manuel Baldizon, who won 23 percent of the vote, in a run-off in an early November, according to preliminary results. Eduardo Suger finished third place, ahead of seven additional candidates, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu on the left. She captured just 3 percent of votes.

Read the PDF pdf_logo




Volcan de Fuego or Volcano of Fire blows outs a thick cloud of ash as seen from Antigua Guatemala, Friday. Photo: Moises Castillo/AP

Guatemala volcano eruption cools as Independence Day celebrations heat up

Guatemalans received a scare on the eve of their Independence Day celebrations. The Volcano of Fire, Fuego, had its strongest eruption since 1974 on Thursday leading to the evacuation of around 6,500 people, according to CONRED, the Guatemalan disaster agency. Close to 900 people are in shelters after the eruption created massive plumes of smoke and ash that could be seen from Guatemala City and neighboring UNESCO heritage city La Antigua, both less than 46 miles away.

Read the PDF pdf_logo


Blogger, Americas Quarterly and Huffington Post (2009-Present)



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.

Hope Amid Disappointment After Postponement of Ríos Montt Trial

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?”

Protecting the Rights of Guatemalan Women

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.

The Rule of Law in Guatemala

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.

A Guatemalan Town’s Recovery from Tropical Storm Agatha

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.

Androids Land in Guatemala

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.

To

El estudio de los latinos y los medios no es un callejón sin salida

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.


Freelance Video Producer, GlobalPost (2011)

I covered Guatemala’s 2011 presidential elections during which Otto Perez Molina, the right-wing retired military general with alleged ties to genocide, won. Many supported him because of his promise to use an “iron fist” to wrest control of the country from criminals.

opm“Iron Fist” poised for victory
By: Kara Andrade and Nadia Sussman

Amid drug violence, Guatemalans want security. Otto Perez Molina, a retired army general, says he can deliver. But will he sacrifice human rights to do it?



Fellow, News21: Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism (2007)


News 21 is a national initiative led by five of America’s leading research universities to help advance the U.S. news business. I was a fellow in the first News 21 experiment. I reported several stories on cults in Mexico, faith communities and this brave new virtual world. I was also responsible for the design, coordination and implementation of a ground breaking experiment that showcased investigative reporting focused on “God, Sex & Family” into the virtual world of Second Life. I coordinated a panel both within Second Life and simulcast it into Real Life.

To view the recording:


Writing and Photo Freelancer, Agence France-Presse (2005-Present)


Reported, photographed and wrote stories, which included features on the launch of Twitter, the Olympic Torch relay, technology and music trends, Avian Flu, bio-terrorism, virtual worlds and international interest stories.


Clarence Jones, who was among the homeless people turned into roving Wi-Fi hotspots (AFP, Kara Andrade)

US homeless turned into Wi-Fi hotspots at tech event

A global advertising firm used homeless people as roving Wi-Fi hotspots, sparking controversy among technology trendsetters at an interactive festival in the United States.

Debate over whether the stunt by Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) was helping or misusing the homeless spread from the streets of Austin onto the Internet by the time the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference ended on Tuesday.

Read PDF




The “She’s Geeky” conference held in Mountain View, California. Photo credit: Kara Andrade/AFP/Getty Images

Geek chic’ gatherings for technology-loving women

Leather-clad, spike-heeled women with boldly colored hair and beefed-up laptop computers are getting their geek on at supportive gatherings in Silicon Valley. A recent “She’s Geeky 3” conference in the city of Mountain View in northern California was just such an oasis for technology-loving women in a profession blatantly dominated by men. “There are only so many women you can convince not to drop out of science,” said Kaliya Hamlin, who runs the conferences she launched in 2007.

Read the PDF





Photo credit: Kara Andrade/AFP/Getty Images

‘Tweet-tweet’ latest fad in Internet sharing

Internet and mobile phone message boards are atwitter with Twitter, the raging online trend to share one’s every move with friends Haiku-style every moment of the day. Twitter users get a maximum of 140 characters a shot to answer the question “What are you doing?” A relentless flood of “tweets” as seemingly mundane as “I’m boiling water” or “Walking the dog” relentlessly flood members’ emails, instant message boards and a public timeline on the twitter.com website. “The first reaction is to hate it because it’s seen as the most useless thing in the world and no one would ever want to know about boiling water,” Twitter founder and chief executive Jack Dorsey told AFP.    Read PDF


Chips Quinn Freedom Forum Fellow, Oakland Tribune (2005)


Full-time bilingual English and Spanish general assignment reporter. Completed more than 30 stories, eight of which were A-1 stories, which included crime spot news, features and photography. Noteworthy stories included a multimedia sideshow of a homicide, the shooting of a 16-year-old by a 49-year-old lawyer, a Buddhist legal feud, local tsunami relief efforts and the lift on Oakland’s police hiring freeze.

Online Community Organizer, Spot.Us (2009)


Full-time position as an online community organizer where I managed and grew the network of individuals who used www.spot.us to support investigative journalism through small donations. Spot Us was a nonprofit that made it possible for individuals or groups to decide on news in their community by sharing the cost (crowdfunding) to commission freelance journalists. Spot.us pioneered “community funded reporting” using an open-source model inspired by Kiva.org and DonorsChoose. I created and oversaw fundraising strategies, online and offline community organizing, and some project management. During my time as a community organizer we were able to fundraise close to $20,000 for independent community-funded journalism including the “Toxic Tours” stories which won a Society for Professional Journalists award and was replicated in various cities in California. We were also able to use this model successfully in Guatemala to raise funds for a youth journalism training institute which continues today as a Vozz, a youth reporting project in various languages, including indigenous languages.



Freelance Reporter, The New York Times (2010 to present)

While living in Central America I contributed reporting on the following in-depth investigations as a freelance reporter for The New York Times.

Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 1.44.57 PM

Credit: Richard Perry/The New York Times. The town of Caracol, Haiti, where a new industrial park is being built by a Korean clothing manufacturer.

Earthquake Relief Where Haiti Wasn’t Broken

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.

Read PDF


Photo Credit:  Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press Voters in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala, chose Sunday between a former general or an entrepreneur in a presidential runoff.

Voters in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala, chose Sunday between a former general or an entrepreneur in a presidential runoff.

Former General Elected President of Guatemala

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.

Read PDF



Photo Credit: Kara Andrade

An Apology for a Guatemalan Coup, 57 Years Later

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.”

Read PDF


Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 2.19.18 PM

Photo: Victor Ruiz Caballero for The New York Times

In Guatemalan Tourist Haven, Corruption Case Is Talk of the Town

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.

Read PDF

TechTrainer, Office of Innovation of the U.S. State Department (2012 – 2013)

TechCamp Guatmala

I organized and founded TechCamp Guatemala (without embassy support but with the full blessing of the State Department), and served as a TechTrainer at four TechCamps (Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Tegucigalpa, Donetsk, Mexico City and New York City), and assisted in organizing TechCamp Honduras. TechCamp is a program under the U.S. State Department’s Civil Society (CS) 2.0 initiative – an effort to galvanize the technology community to assist civil society organizations (CSOs) across the globe by providing capabilities, resources and assistance to harness the latest information and communications technology (ICT) advances to build their digital capacity.

Here is a video in Spanish about HablaHonduras presented during TechCamp Mexico City.


Film producer & Director, Nobel Women’s Initiative Delegation Against Femicide (2012)

“Women Crossing the Line” is a three part mini-documentary series – developed in collaboration with JASS (Just Associates) – that spotlights the work of women activists in Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala. I filmed and helped to direct the video testimonials and storytelling for the Nobel Women’s Initiative delegation to report on violence against women in Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala. The group’s delegation traveled for ten days documenting homicides, disappearances, and attacks of sexual violence. Worked alongside veteran filmmaker Pamela Yates to tell the delegation’s findings.

“The road to San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala is a descent into a valley along an asphalt road riddled with potholes that could easily swallow your tire. In the chilly pre-dawn of a February day, six of us — a videographer, human rights activists, a photographer, an interpreter and a driver — make our way in the dark. We share the road with large and old slatted trucks carrying cattle, rickety brightly-painted school buses packed with sleeping passengers, women in traje, their indigenous dress, walking to town carrying babies across their chests. It’s cold and the stars outline the silhouette of the mountains that separate Guatemala from Mexico just an hour and a half to the west. On our right we start to see the first rays of the sun as we climb into the Sierra of the Cuchumatanes mountains, high above the clouds.

We’re moving into a conflict-torn area where communities, like San Miguel Ixtahuacán and neighbouring Sipacapa, have been drastically changed by the arrival of mining companies like Montana Exploradora, a Guatemalan subsidiary of the Canadian-owned mining company Goldcorp, which began the exploitation of the Marlin Mine in 2004. We’re not sure what to expect, but our role is clear: Record first-hand testimonies from women who say their lives have been changed dramatically by the mining in the area. We’re here as part of a larger fact-finding mission sent to Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala in January by the Nobel Women’s Initiative (NWI). Based in Ottawa, the organization was founded by six female recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, and is led by Laureate Jody Williams, winner of the 1997 prize for her anti-land mine work. The organization sends delegations of prominent citizens — lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders, artists — into high-conflict areas around the world to investigate the plight of women and human rights defenders, defensoras, including those who are targeted as women — raped, assaulted, denied the power to protect their land, livelihood, health and families. We’ve heard some terrible stories during the past 10 days travelling through these countries.

This is an excerpt from “Guatemala women defenders defy Canadian mines and plead for help” written for Rabble.Ca.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers