Saturday, September 13, 2014

Immigration in NEPA

I am quoted in this Scranton business article on the likely impact of immigration on northeast Pennsylvania. I'm in Germany until tomorrow night. At some point this week, I'll be back to regular blogging.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

CICIG: another game-changing arrest in Guatemala?

Mirte Postema has an article up at Americas Quarterly on CICIG Investigation Could be a Game-Changer for Guatemala. I don't know about a game-changer. Whenever I've thought that Guatemala might have turned the corner, it's all come crashing down in disappointment.

There are many things of interest to the recent Lima arrest however. The clear connections between organized crime and elected officials is all over this scandal, particularly with regards to Otto Perez Molina and the Patriotic Party. But given that Lima built him empire over the Portillo, Berger, Colom, and Perez administrations, the scandal will reach many people across all administrations.

CICIG had announced that they were going to focus on organized crime and the political system, primarily campaign financing, during the last two years of its mandate. The recent arrests clearly fit this focus even though the arrests so far have fallen mostly in the organized crime camp rather than the public officials camp. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Now back to the conference.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Guatemalan immigrant poised to win seat in US Congress

Norma Torres
Norma Torres sees herself in some of the Central American children who have flooded into the United States in recent months.
More than four decades ago in Guatemala, Torres' parents told her she was going to the United States on a vacation. They declined to tell her she would not be coming back. Now 49, Torres is the favorite in a race between two Democratic candidates to represent a Los Angeles-area district in the House.
"In many ways, I see the decision these children have made ... like the decision my parents made for me," Torres said in a recent telephone interview. "They wanted an opportunity for me to grow up and be a successful person."
Torres' candidacy takes place as Hispanics gain increasing political influence in the United States and as Congress struggles over how to proceed on immigration policy. Hispanics make up nearly 70 percent of the district that she seeks to represent, and nationally, Latinos overwhelmingly support Democrats. But in the House, Democrats are expected to remain in the minority after the November midterm elections.
Go here to read more about Norma Torres, a woman who might become the first person of Guatemalan descent to be elected to the US Congress.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Central American Revolutionary Ties: The Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit (URNG)

Alberto Martin Alvarez and I are presenting a paper on the relationship among the Central American revolutionary groups between the 1960s and 2000 at next week's XVII Congreso Internacional de AHILA in Berlin Germany. The paper is tentatively titled "Central American Revolutionary Ties: The Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit (URNG)."

There are a lot of interesting stories involving cooperation between the Guatemalan FAR and the Salvadoran ERP. Joint bank robberies and kidnappings. We still have some more research to conduct as we've mostly interviewed Guatemalans about the topic.

We hope to have it published at some point in English but since the conference is in Spanish, the paper is not as fully developed in either language as we would have hoped. 

Drop me a line if you are heading to AHILA or are in Berlin next week.
In the end, there is still much that we can learn about the relationship among the Central American revolutionary groups. Salvadorans and Nicaraguans traveled to Guatemala to participate in guerrilla training during the 1960s. The Salvadorans and Guatemalans engaged in joint activities in both El Salvador and Guatemala during the 1970s. Like many others from throughout Latin America, Guatemalan and Salvadoran guerrillas traveled to Nicaragua to participate in the downfall of the Somoza regime in 1978 and 1979. In the 1980s, weapons traveled from Cuba and elsewhere through Nicaragua and into the hands of the FMLN and the URNG. It seems that more weapons were smuggled into El Salvador for a variety of reasons, including the belief that the Salvadoran rebels were closer to victory than were the Guatemalans.
Along with the Cubans, the Sandinistas were a key factor in the consolidation of the Guatemalan guerrillas into the URNG in 1982. Cooperation between the Guatemalan guerrillas and those from Nicaragua and from El Salvador does not appear to have been as strong as the cooperation that developed between the FSLN and FMLN. While one factor is obviously distance (the URNG used Mexico as its rearguard, while the FMLN used Nicaragua), there were other factors that help explain the weaker ties between the Guatemalan guerrillas and those from neighboring countries.
Finally, in the 1990s, the URNG saw the peace processes and the transitions to political parties of their neighbors as significantly different from their own, so much so that they had nothing to learn from them. In particular, the FMLN’s political settlement was very vague and the organization was quite fractured in the postwar period. Those were mistakes that the URNG wanted to avoid. 
There’s a great deal about the relations among the three groups that we still do not know but we hope that this paper and, hopefully article when we are done, we help uncover some of the story that is not yet widely known. 

Mary Jo McConahay on Sainthood isn't enough for Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero

Mary Jo McConahay has a new op-ed in the Los Angeles Times arguing that Sainthood isn't enough for Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero.
Are the bishops ignoring Romero's prophetic voice, harking back to times when the church and the Salvadoran oligarchy presented a united front, determined not to the rock the boat? There is still time for them to stand up for human rights and justice, lest they look like hypocrites when Pope Francis arrives one day at Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport (it was renamed this year) to canonize their brother.
For those who already regard the slain archbishop as San Romero de America, legal pursuit of his killers would strengthen faith in the rule of law on Earth, honoring Monseñor as deeply as sainthood.
The Catholic hierarchy in El Salvador wasn't behind Romero during his tenure as Archbishop or in his death. And it is not clear that today they are behind his cause for sainthood.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

They are looking for revenge because I did not let them put an inmate in this place...whom they wanted to assassinate

Prensa Libre
Guatemalan authorities, with the help of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) arrested, Byron Lima Oliva, an army captain serving time for the murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi, and Edgar Camargo, director of the Guatemalan Penitentiary System. Camargo was arrested on charges of conspiracy, bribery and conspiracy to launder money. Twelve other individuals were also implicated in the organized crime racket, although it is not clear if they were all arrested.

Lima, on the other hand, is the big catch.
Prosecutors said Wednesday that Byron Lima Oliva took money from other inmates in return for favors such as prohibited cellphones and appliances, as well as special food and conjugal visits.
"Lima represents for many of the inmates the true authority, and so they turn to him to seek transfers, favors and rights. Lima Oliva exerts undoubtable influence in the penitentiary system," Ivan Velasquez, head of the U.N. International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala told reporters.
CICIG's Ivan Velasquez, Attorney General Thelma Aldana and Interior Secretary Mauricio Lopez Bonilla announced that the investigation was launched last year. If you remember, Lima was apprehended last February while going to the dentist. He seemed to have been able to come and go from the prison whenever he desired. Perhaps, he was traveling in his Porsche, Jaguar or armored Land Rover to one of the many properties he acquired while in prison? Maybe even his beach property which Lima says that Lopez Bonilla has visited.

How did Lima respond to the charges?
Reached by phone, Lima denied the allegations and said he is the target of a vendetta by government officials because he prevented extortion and other crimes in the prison.
"They are looking for revenge because I did not let them put an inmate in this place ... whom they wanted to assassinate," Lima told The Associated Press.
The possible fallout?
Lima, 44, has boasted in the past of having a friendship with current President Otto Perez Molina, also a former soldier, and says he had campaign T-shirts printed for the 2011 election. On Wednesday, he said he also provided the campaign with money from businessmen, delivered through Lopez Bonilla.
The president's office declined to comment Wednesday.
When Lima was taken into custody last February, he and his entourage were traveling in vehicles used by the Patriotic Party during their 2011 campaign.

If Byron Lima built this empire over the last fifteen years, as has been alleged, there are hundreds of people, perhaps more, complicit in this single case.

(Yahoo, Fox News Latino, ABC News, The Globe and Mail / AP)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Nearly 40k Guatemalans deported from US so far in 2014

As of the end of August, the United States had deported 39,029 Guatemalans. That is 5,246 more people than were deported during the same period last year.

Of that total, 34,022 were men (87%), 4,858 women (12%), and 149 minors (less than 1%). The US deported 50,221 in 2013

One woman who will avoid deportation is Ms. Aminta Cifuentes who fled from Guatemala in 2005.
The nation’s highest immigration court has found for the first time that women who are victims of severe domestic violence in their home countries can be eligible for asylum in the United States.
The decision on Tuesday by the Board of Immigration Appeals in the case of a battered wife from Guatemala resolved nearly two decades of hard-fought legal battles over whether such women could be considered victims of persecution. The ruling could slow the pace of deportations from the Southwest border, because it creates new legal grounds for women from Central America caught entering the country illegally in the surge this summer in their fight to remain here.
The board reached its decision after the Obama administration changed a longstanding position by the federal government and agreed that the woman, Aminta Cifuentes, could qualify for asylum.
Since 1995, when federal officials first tried to set guidelines for the immigration courts on whether domestic abuse victims could be considered for asylum, the issue has been reviewed by four attorneys general, vigorously debated by advocates and repeatedly examined by the courts. With its published decision, unusual in the immigration courts, the appeals board set a clear precedent for judges.
I can't say that I agree with legal changes to our asylum laws that will allow Ms. Cifuentes to remain in the United States, but I am glad that she will get the protection that she deserves after her horrible ordeal.