Where I am right now, the coffee and wifi flow freely, wisps of smoke puff out of the volcan de fuego nearby, and all is well.
A number of particularly violent attacks have taken place on public transportation in the nation's capital, Guatemala City, in recent weeks. People are asking if some of the attacks may have been orchestrated with political motives, because a climate of destabilization could help certain political parties running on a law and order platform. Billboards everywhere for one party promise "a strong hand" against crime. Some folks I've spoken with fear that this could presage an abandonment of human rights protections hard-won in peace accords after Guatemala's 36-year civil war. Link.
Editorials in Guatemalan papers and conversations with people who work on this issue generally come down to this idea: the femicide epidemic is the direct, logical result of decades of impunity for human rights violations committed during the civil war. "The highest officials in our country got away with torture, disappearances, and murder for nearly four decades, and still walk among us as free men" one human rights worker told me, "of course impunity leads to more violence."
I haven't seen the Canadian documentary film "Killer's Paradise" yet, but it sounds like a truly worthy project. The director, Giselle Portenier, has been following the story closely for years. Here's the film's official website, and here's the trailer.
Sandra Guamux, 21, sits with her 5 month old son, Alfredo, at an abandoned gas station in Zona 4 of Guatemala City. About 20 otherwise homeless people live inside the station and most are addicted to huffing paint thinner to numb the cold and their hunger pains. Guamux said another baby was stolen from her five days after it was born last year, and she is convinced the baby went into an illegal adoption system. She said that the police told her they would not investigate the situation since she had no photographs of the child.
Guatemalan law currently allows notaries to act as baby brokers who recruit birth mothers, handle paperwork and complete foreign adoptions in less than half the time it takes in other countries.Link. In some of the Mayan communities I've visited here -- extremely poor places where this is a big problem -- the phenomenon is known as "el robo de los ninos," the "theft of the children."
But U.S. officials have urged Guatemala to tighten up the procedure amid concern brokers were paying or threatening mothers to give up their babies.