What You Need to Know About the U.S.-Mexico Border Crisis

Salvadorian immigrant Stefany Marjorie, 8, holds her doll Rodrigo while going home on July 24, 2014 in Mission, Texas. Tens of thousands of immigrant families and unaccompanied minors from Central America have crossed illegally into the United States this year, causing a humanitarian crisis. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Salvadorian immigrant Stefany Marjorie, 8, holds her doll Rodrigo in Mission, Texas. Tens of thousands of immigrant families and unaccompanied minors from Central America have crossed illegally into the United States this year, causing a humanitarian crisis (Photo Credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

Amnesty International welcomes the positive step of President Obama’s recent meeting with his counterparts from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala regarding the increasing number of children fleeing violence in those countries – with or without their parents.

It is extremely troubling, however, that President Obama continues to assert that his government will return the overwhelming majority of these children to the extreme violence that has driven them to make the dangerous journey to the United States. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Why are Children Dying While Migrating to the United States?

A boys shows a U.S. flag as President Barack Obama speaks about immigration at the Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso, Texas, in 2011. (Photo credit: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

A boys shows a U.S. flag as President Barack Obama speaks about immigration in 2011 at the Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso, Texas (Photo credit: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images).

President Obama has responded to the recent surge in unaccompanied minors crossing the Mexican border with a $1 million ad campaign aimed at Central Americans.

The U.S. government wants to send two main messages – the journey to the U.S. is extremely dangerous, and those caught, including children, will be deported.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Hudbay Minerals Loses Ruling Over Subsidiary’s Human Rights Violations

Angelica Choc during a press conference announcing a legal suit against Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals for the murder of her husband Adolfo Ich (pictured) in Guatemala City (Photo Credit: James Rodriguez, mimundo.org).

Angelica Choc during a press conference announcing a legal suit against Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals for the murder of her husband Adolfo Ich (pictured) in Guatemala City (Photo Credit: James Rodriguez, mimundo.org).

A legal ruling in Canada this week that featured Amnesty International Canada as an official intervenor offered a new path for victims of human rights abuses to seek redress against corporations where they are headquartered, even if the acts in question were both committed by a subsidiary of a corporation and took place in another country.

The Globe and Mail article, “After HudBay ruling, Canadian firms on notice over human rights,” points to the potential impact the ruling could have on corporate earnings and responsibilities of directors and investors.

Despite the Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals claiming no responsibility for their subsidiary, Ontario Superior Court ruled on July 22nd that claims against the company’s security personnel for gang rapes and murder of an indigenous leader critical of mining practices in Guatemala can proceed to trial.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Success without Victory: Taking the Long View on Justice in Guatemala

Former military leader Efrain Rios Montt's conviction for genocide and crimes against humanity has been overturned, but there is reason to hope (Photo Credit: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images).

Former military leader Efrain Rios Montt’s conviction for genocide and crimes against humanity has been overturned, but there is reason to hope (Photo Credit: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images).

Update: This post was updated on May 23, 2013 to provide more context for the significance of the overturned conviction of Rios Montt.

Amnesty International joined human rights organizations from Guatemala and all around the world in applauding former Guatemalan Dictator Rios Montt’s historic conviction on charges of genocide on May 10. The trial established his responsibility as intellectual author for the murder of 1,771 Ixil indigenous people and the forced displacement of tens of thousands from the Ixil triangle region of southern Quiché Department.

It took over thirty years to bring Rios Montt to justice. The trial faced numerous delays and obstacles, including many procedural appeals and challenges by the defense and a ten day suspension of the trial in April during which an annulment of the proceedings by a lower court was resolved.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Guatemala’s Trial of the Decade in Ten Facts

Former Guatemalan leader General José Efraín Rios Montt is currently facing trial for genocide during his time in office (Photo Credit: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images).

Former Guatemalan leader General José Efraín Rios Montt is currently facing trial for genocide during his time in office (Photo Credit: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images).

The trial against former Guatemalan leader General José Efraín Rios Montt for genocide during his time in office has restarted. Here are 10 reasons that show why the Central American country’s dark past is still relevant today.

1. Guatemala is located in Central America, bordering Mexico. Around half of its population is indigenous, including many Maya peoples. The country is one of the most unequal in the region - with high rates of illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition, particularly in the countryside. Organized crime and violence are also widespread.

2. Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala was immersed in a bloody internal armed conflict that pitted the army against guerrilla groups. More than 200,000 men, women and children were murdered or disappeared during this 36-year-long war, most of them were indigenous.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Thank You For Participating in the 2012 Letter Writing Marathon!

final reportAmnesty International has issued its report on the results of the 2012 Letter Writing Marathon, and the Central America CoGroup would like to thank everyone who helped make it a success! 500,000 people across 77 countries took almost 2 million actions on 12 cases. Three of the cases featured groups and individuals in Guatemala and Honduras.

Back in January, I wrote a blog entry asking you to write letters to Guatemalan authorities urging them to protect Rosa Franco, a mother who has faced numerous death threats during her 11-year struggle for justice in the murder of her daughter, Maria Isabel. In response to all of the letters she received from activists around the world, Guatemalan Vice President Roxana Baldetti made a public commitment to support the investigation of this case. She also pledged to take further action on the broader issue of the widespread violence against women in her nation.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Rios Montt Trial is Reason to Celebrate at AGM!

Relatives of victims of Guatemala's civil war attend the trial against former Guatemalan de facto President and retired General Jose Efrain Rios Montt  for genocide during his de facto 1982-83 regime. Rios Montt is accused of ordering the execution of 1,771 members of the indigenous Ixil Maya people in the Quiche region. The trial marks the first time genocide proceedings have been brought in relation to the 36-year civil war in Guatemala that ended in 1996, leaving an estimated 200,000 people dead, according to United Nations estimates (Photo Credit: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images).

Relatives of victims of Guatemala’s civil war attend the trial against Rios Montt for genocide during his de facto 1982-83 regime (Photo Credit: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images).

Tuesday, March 19 marks the beginning of the trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Rios Montt for the deaths of 1,771 individuals and the forced displacement of tens of thousands more from the Ixil triangle region of southern Quiché department.

It is important to remember that the crimes covered in this trial are only a fraction of the widespread, systematic human rights abuses that the Guatemalan military committed under Rios Montt’s brief reign in 1982 and 1983. The military massacred or disappeared tens of thousands of Guatemalan civilians in the months following the coup that brought Rios Montt to power. Furthermore, the Commission on Historical Clarification (CEH) blamed the Guatemalan government for acts of genocide because:

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Another Guatemalan Union Leader is Dead—Will Two Campesino Activists Be Next?

Workers Rights = Human Rights

On March 8, two men on motorcycles cut off Carlos Hernández’s pickup truck fired eight 9mm bullets at him, killing him. Hernández was a member of several community organizations and labor groups, including:

  • The Camotán Peasant Farmers Association
  • The New Day Peasant Farmer Coordination
  • The Coordination of Popular, Indigenous, Church, Trade Union and Peasant Organizations of the East (COPISCO)
  • The National Front for the Struggle (FNL)
  • The Executive Committee of the Guatemalan National Trade Union of Health Workers (SNTSG)

You may recall the SNTSG from a blog I wrote in December, about four Central American cases in Amnesty’s Transforming Pain into Hope report about Human Rights Defenders in the Americas. One of the cases featured in that report was that of Luis Ovidio Ortíz Cajas, the Public Relations Secretary of the Executive Committee of the SNTSG. An unknown assailant killed Ortíz Cajas and three other men on March 24, 2012—a little less than one year before this latest killing.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Why Do We Need to Keep Up the Pressure to Prosecute Rios Montt for Genocide?

Brigadier General José Efraín Rios Montt, flanked by General Horacio Egberto Maldonado Schaad and Colonel Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez, at first press conference on 23 March 1982, National Palace, Guatemala City.

Brigadier General José Efraín Rios Montt, flanked by General Horacio Egberto Maldonado Schaad and Colonel Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez, at first press conference on 23 March 1982, National Palace, Guatemala City. Photo courtesy of Jean-Marie Simon.

Monday’s ruling that General Efraín Ríos Montt and his former head of military intelligence, General José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, should stand trial for the massacre of almost 2,000 people in the 1980s is an encouraging sign in the quest for justice and accountability in Guatemala. But we must keep up our vigilance to make sure justice moves forward!

A little over a month after I wrote a post on this blog about the need to bring Rios Montt to justice, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina—a former general who served under Rios Montt—issued a decree that said the State of Guatemala would no longer recognize the competence of the Inter American Court of Human Right’s rulings regarding crimes that took place before 1987.  The decree was published on December 28, 2012 – over the holidays when most people are out of their offices.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Why Does Guatemala Have One of the Highest Rates of Femicide in the World?

March to protest violence against women in Guatemala

March to protest violence against women in Guatemala.

The good news is that we know one of the main causes of gender based violence in Guatemala. Under normal circumstances, identifying such a cause would be a great step forward, as it would enable the police, courts, and other authorities to make substantial progress in protecting women from violence.

The bad news is that the main cause of femicide that Amnesty International has identified is government inaction and the resulting impunity—human rights abusers can literally get away with murder in Guatemala, especially when their victims are women.  Amnesty found that less than 4 percent of homicide cases result in the conviction of those responsible. This low rate, in turn, is largely the result of insufficient and ineffective investigations.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST