Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sobrevivientes de Guatemala

If you’re under 17, don’t read this post! More murder, following rape and torture, of women, the primary victims of violence in Guatemala. As I posted here, organized crime, drugs, and other excuses for turf wars make Guatemala a place of daily terror, particularly for women. 565 killed in 2006; 2007 registers 322 assassinations already. According to Norma Cruz (at right), director of La Fundación Sobrevivientes (female survivors of Guatemala), organized crime is responsible for 30% of these murders. Hiding out in a safe house where the only open space is a terrace fenced in with aluminum siding and covered with barbed wire that’s electrified at night, typical victims include a 14-year-old who witnessed the murder of her brother and boyfriend and a 43-year-old grandmother of 4 who organized her neighbors in a poor village to buy pipes and a pump rather than buy water from a quasi-racketeer. After housing members of the Spanish NGO that’s helping with the project, Paula received a call threatening the murder of her family members, one by one, if she didn’t pay up, thinking her Spanish visitors had given her money. The caller told her not to bother notifying the police, of which there are only 6 per 90,000 inhabitants, because they’d already been bought. So her entire extended family fled, and she’s holed up at Sobrevivientes. Similar extortion attempts and death threats have people fleeing the country in numbers equivalent to those during the civil war (1960-1996), which killed 200,000 people. Meanwhile, in this country of ethnic and socio-economic inequality, 1992-Nobel-Peace-Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú is still campaigning in Maya country (elections are today), despite the murder of 7 supporters during the campaign and being credited with only 5% of intended votes.

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