ISHR Guatemala Report 2009/2010

March 2010

By Alexandra Marin
ISHR Guatemala Working Group
International Society for Human Rights



Introduction: Background Information

Alexandra Marin, Chaiwoman of the ISHR Guatemala Working Group
Guatemala, April 30, 2009: Murdered Bus Drivers Remembered.
Guatemala Mayan children.

Guatemala is a poor country with the majority of the population unskiied and lacking in education.

Guatemala's population in the year 2000 was estimated at 11.385 million. Of these, 60.6 percent lived in rural areas, with the remaining 39.4 percent in urban areas. The average figure for rural populations across Latin America is 23 percent. (Source: Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Guatemala has the hemisphere's second most unequal distribution of income: the richest fifth of the population receives 63 percent of the country’s total income, while the poorest fifth receives only 2.1 percent. In addition, 39.8 percent of the population earn less than one U.S. dollar a day. It is estimated that 57 percent of the country’s inhabitants live below the poverty line. (Source: ECLAC).

Guatemala has Latin America’s second highest illiteracy rate, surpassed only by Haiti.  Access to education in Guatemala is still characterized by restrictions and exclusion: Only 55 percent of children attend primary school, 19.5 percent attend secondary school, and only 4.8 percent go on to higher education.

The civilian population in Guatemala is now living in one of the most violent and most difficult periods of the country’s democratic history.   Evidently, the government is unable to confront organized crime leaving the civilian people unprotected and at the mercy of drug trafficking groups and of the street gangs known as "Maras".

The Ministry of Government of Guatemala has admitted that the criminal gangs are more powerful than the security forces of the country.

The "Maras" and the drug cartels own weapons far superior to those carried by the police forces.

Violence against women is reported to have increased in the year 2009. Many of the bodies of the victims that were found in the wastelands showed signs of torture. Since the year 2004 more than 280 murders of women remain unpunished. 

More than 167 bus drivers were murdered in the streets of Guatemala in 2009.

Crime is increasing and the authorities are unable to control the situation. There is so much corruption and impunity, that the people feel that they are being ruled by organized crime and that the government is unable to protect them.

ISHR Guatemala Working Group Activities

Members of our organization have visited the most dangerous and violent prisons of Guatemala. They found that the inmates belonging to criminal gangs control the prisons and that they murder their rivals and get away with these assassinations.  This type of fights between gangs is very common. A teacher, who used to visit the jails regularly, was brutally killed during one of these fights.

The main activity of our organization is to support the education of the Maya community in Guatemala, especially among the women as 80% of them are monolingual and illiterate. We do the same for the Mayan children in the rural areas.  Education is all human beings' undeniable right. Without an education, the people do not have access to political or social rights. It is very important to integrate the women to the mainstream.

During the year 2009, many ABC and Mathematics books were distributed to the schools in the rural areas of Guatemala.

Many Mayan settlements have been visited with the purpose of talking about the human rights situation of women and children.

Studies to solve the problem of discrimination against Mayans in Guatemala have been conducted.