Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Digging Guatemala: Anthropologists Look for Clues to Past Political Killings

One day last spring, Fredy Peccerelli found himself conducting an unusual exercise: correlating the dates of major massacres during Guatemala's civil war to the play schedule of the New York Yankees in the 1980s. It was an attempt, the director of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation says, to compare what happened in his native country with his own life after he and his family fled in the fall of 1980 when he was nine years old.

The violence in Guatemala's 36-year insurgency peaked between 1980 and 1983, under the military governments of General Fernando Romeo Lucas García and General José Efraín Ríos Montt. Both regimes led scorched-earth campaigns in the Guatemalan countryside and "disappeared" urban intellectuals who opposed the government. By the time peace accords between the government and an armed resistance movement called Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity) were signed in 1996, 200,000 people had perished, many in massacres that targeted entire villages, according to the country's Historical Clarification Commission, a United Nations–led investigation into human rights violations there.

As a kid, Peccerelli knew that his family had fled to New York City because his father, then a law student, had received threats from government death squads in the capital, Guatemala City. "At that time, they were killing a lot of people at the law school," says Peccerelli. "[My father] had a lot of people around him disappear." So when the threats came, the family l quickly fled.

Read the rest at Scientific American.

Guatemalan war orphans were sold, records show

Several children listed as missing during Guatemala's 1960-1996 civil war were sold in illegal adoptions, the country's social welfare agency records revealed.

The director of the government's Peace Archive, Marco Tulio Alvarez, told a press conference in Guatemala City on Monday that during the analysis the archive, officials found a series of irregularities that prove the disappearance of children between 1986 and 1987.

"In the analysis carried out, patterns of activity can be established that show the ease with which the adoption procedures were handled to hide the violation of rights of Guatemalan children through forced disappearance," he said.

Alvarez did not rule out that members of Guatemala's police and armed forces could be implicated in the selling of the children.

Read the rest of the story here.

Guatemala scans police archive for civil war clues

Information long hidden in police archives covered with mold and bat droppings could implicate hundreds of former officers accused of killing students and leftists during Guatemala's 36-year civil war, according to human rights activists.

Sergio Morales, the Guatemalan government human rights ombudsman, on Tuesday is set to release the first report on the contents of 80 million documents unearthed four years ago that dated from the 1960-96 conflict.

Human rights activists have expressed hope that information from the archives will lead authorities to arrest hundreds of former police officers who may be implicated in crimes committed during a civil war in which around 250,000 people were killed or disappeared.

Two former members of a police unit linked to death squads that operated during the civil war were detained this month based on evidence from the archive.

Human rights workers discovered the dusty floor-to-ceiling stacks of papers in 2005 when they went into a rat-infested munitions depot in Guatemala City to investigate complaints by nearby residents about old explosives stored there.

The government gave the human rights ombudsman permission to investigate the archives from a civil war-era police force so linked to repression and disappearances that it was dissolved in 1997 after leftist guerrillas and security forces signed a peace agreement.

Archivists have cleaned, scanned and filed some 11 million documents, scouring them for information from the conflict.

Read the rest of the Reuters story here.

Hard to Treat Diseases (HTDS) enters Guatemala market

Hard to Treat Diseases (HTDS) is pleased to announce that Mellow Hope a subsidiary of HTDS was granted import licensing from Guatemala's Ministry of Health to import their Oral Poliomyelitis Vaccine (Brand Name: Mevac-OPV). Application has now been made to the Chinese State Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for an export license. Anticipated delivery date for the vaccine is 2nd quarter of 2009.

Terry Yuan HTDS CEO said, "Guatemala's Expanded Vaccination Program (EPI) requires for all newborns to be vaccinated. The OPV is included in this vaccination program. In 2008, the country realized a new birth rate of 380,000. Given these statistics, demand for the Mevac-OPV is expected to be extremely high".
See the rest of the story on Yahoo Finance.