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Blog de jimloughran
Yesterday we went to Peronia, one of the new shanty towns that have sprung up around Guatemala City to accomodate the more than 1 million people who travel into the city everyday to work. Slums where a family can pay 30 Euro for one room with limited water and sanitation. The community here in Peronia have been badly affected by a sand quarry which has essentially removed one of the local mountains.
In 2008 Yuri (Melini) received a call from a local priest, Fr. Elias stating that the community were under pressure because of their resistence to the quarry. Children were getting sick because of the constant dust, sore throat complaints were on the rise, the food was always covered in dust and the lorries were up and down the street all the time. In addition, the woods, where people had been able to send their children to play and which were a resource for the whole community, were simply being eliminated.
Yuri helped them with legal and communications advice and moral support.
You will be astonished by the positive effects of jetlag - most unusually for me, I was up at 5am this morning writing this blog which then festered for sometime in my draft email folder due to the dodgy internet connection. I suspect that the jet lag will have its revenge later in the day however.
Yesterday's first call was a visit to the office of the environmental organisation CALAS. A small, pretty house in a nice suburb with wrought iron gates, bougainvillea plants on the walls and an armed guard holding an AK 47 standing in the doorway. This security is provided by the state for the organisation, though Yuri Melini's personal protection detail has in fact been reduced by half in recent times.
We arrived at 21.30 last night after 18 hours on the road. I have a feeling that our intrepid photographer Kieran has a stash of compromising photos of me asleep during the 7 hour stop-over in Atlanta, book in one hand, coffee in the other, sound asleep and drooling... not a pretty sight!
On the way in from the airport, the protagonist of our up-coming documentary Yuri Melini, Director of CALAS, gave us a potted history of Guatemala. While the country became independent in 1821, there was no noble war of independence like in Bolivia but a political deal in which the Spanish Governor simply became the President and the colonial elite, who governed every aspect of the political and economic life of the country remained in situ.
Tomorrow morning Mary Lawlor founder and Executive Director of Front Line Defenders and I are heading off to Guatemala to make a documentary about the situation of human rights defenders told through the eyes of one man - environmentalist Yuri Melini .
Mexico: Adam Shapiro reports on the killing of women in Chihuahua - 56 women have been killed so far in 2012.
I flew into Chihuahua, Mexico after the sun had retreated behind the rolling hills to the west. After dark, this city of almost a million people becomes a different place. Lucha, an extraordinary human rights defender was waiting for me in the arrivals lounge bio Brief Bio of Lucha,
I was surprised she was alone. But then again, she is a veteran of the war here - that is what she called it, "La Guerra".
This evening I am writing from my hotel in Guatemala City, where my mission partner Annalisa Mauro, of the International Land Coalition, and I have just been making our own dinner.
Report from Honduras where human rights defenders face threats from the state, narco-traffickers, land owners
I am just back in Tegus after three days at the International Encuentro in Tocoa, Aguan with participants from Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador.
Amidst the destruction and abuse going on in Syria, Anthony Shadid, a friend, died in an effort to tell the story of what is happening to people under fire. Anthony was in there without approval of the regime, and died tragically from an asthma attack when heading for the border with Turkey (this touches me personally on another level, as I suffer from asthma too).
After the “Arab Spring” the struggle for human rights continues. As Front Line Defenders publishes its 2012 annual report Andrew Anderson analyses some of the main threats facing human rights defenders around the world.
On 30 January 2012, Uzbek dictator Karimov, in power since 1990, celebrated his 74th birthday. As is usual under authoritarian regimes, the president's birthday in Uzbekistan is an occasion for the grateful population to demonstrate its loyalty and gratitude in well orchestrated events reported by the state-owned media.