Things That Matter

People Commemorate The Guatemalan Genocide No One Talks About

In 2013, former Guatemalan dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt was convicted for crimes against humanity and genocide he committed 30 years ago against the indigenous Maya Ixil people.

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The 89-year-old was sentenced to 80 years in prison, but three years after the trial, that verdict is still up in the air.

The Constitutional Court, pressured by the elite and the military who were afraid of their fate after Ríos Montt’s sentence, threw the verdict out and set a retrial. Human rights lawyers and two of the judges criticized the move as an absurd intervention.


Absurd to say the least, because, during the trial, victims described horrific crimes committed during Ríos Montt’s rule.

#Repost @opensocietyfoundations with @repostapp. ・・・ Massacre survivor Sebastian Iboy Osorio, 50, steers a boat on the Chixoy reservoir along with wife Magdalena Alvarax, 48, and daughters Adaly (left), 5 and Paulina, 7. Iboy Osorio, originally from the Achi Mayan community of Rio Negro, survived the massacres carried out by the Guatemalan army and civil patrolmen from neighboring Xococ against residents of Rio Negro in 1981 and 1982. Nearly 400 community members of Rio Negro were killed in four separate massacres due to the community's resistance to give up their lands and make way for the Chixoy hydroelectric project. Rio Negro, Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala. Hello, this is James Rodríguez (@mimundo_org), Mexican-US documentary photographer based in Guatemala since 2006. This week I am honored to share images via the @opensocietyfoundations Instagram feed from my long term project on Life in Post-War Guatemala. After a brutal 36-year civil war (1960-1996) that left over 250,000 victims, the tiny Central American nation, with an Indigenous Mayan population of over 50% and one of the most violent and economically polarized societies in the western hemisphere, still reels from the harrowing conflict. All photographs have been taken with a phone. Iboy Osorio returned to Rio Negro in the early 1990s along with two other survivors and have currently grown into a community of 24 homes. Electric service was finally established in August 2015, but each house was charged 2,150 Quetzales (US $280), something they believed should be waived considering their original town was flooded to make way for a hydroelectric project. Most of the residents of Rio Negro live below poverty levels making less that US $2 per day. #opensociety #humanrights #documentary #photojournalism #postwar #guatemala #everydayguatemala #everydaylatinamerica #everydayeverywhere #genocide #ixil #achi #riosmontt #bn #bw #achi #maya #mayan #chixoy #hydro #hydroelectric #hidroelectrica #embalse #dam #reservoir #electricity #electric #electricidad

A photo posted by James Rodríguez / MiMundo.org (@mimundo_org) on

Credit: @mimundo_orga / Instagram

Men, women and children testified, describing how the women were gang-raped and how their family members were torn to pieces right in front of them. How they were forced to leave their home and escape into the jungle for years seeking safety.


In her essay for the Huffington Post, human rights activist Jo-Marie Burt said, “During Ríos Montt’s rule, the Guatemalan state’s official policy was to exterminate its indigenous population in the name of national security.” For this, Ríos Montt was to go to prison.

Credit: @jomaburt / Twitter

The verdict was a victory for the indigenous people because, as Burt says, it was “the first time a high-ranking military official was being sanctioned for grave violations of human rights in Guatemala. The first time ever a former head of state was held accountable for genocide in a domestic court of law.”


The retrial has been rescheduled many times, sometimes due to Ríos Montt’s dementia. It has also changed from a public trial to one behind doors. This, however, isn’t discouraging Guatemalans. In their eyes, the first verdict still stands, and they will continue to fight impunity.

Credit: @nobelwomen / Instagram

As Juan Francisco Soto, executive director of the Center for Legal Action for Human Rights, says, “What is surprising is that we were able to bring the case to court and see it through. We proved in a court of law that there was a genocide in Guatemala.” Even though the verdict was overturned by dirty legal moves, “For us,” he says, “the sentence is still valid.”

Get more details on this genocide trial here


READ: Real Life Risks Guatemala Immigrants Take to Make It to America

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A Florida School Resource Officer Has Been Fired For Putting Two 6-Year-Old Children In Handcuffs

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A Florida School Resource Officer Has Been Fired For Putting Two 6-Year-Old Children In Handcuffs

An Orlando, Florida police offer was fired after arresting two 6-year-old black children at school. The officer suspected the two 6-year-old committed “misdemeanor battery.” In both incidents, the officer handcuffed the first graders with zip ties. The firing comes after public outcries of support for the 6-year-old girl, who many felt was grotesquely mistreated by the police officer. To anyone who understands institutional racism and the school-to-prison pipeline, this comes as no surprise. 

The school-to-prison pipeline is the path through which unfair treatment of adolescents leads to involvement in the criminal justice system. However, efforts to correct this problem often fail to include black girls, who are six times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than their white counterparts,” writes Mackenzie Chakra for American Progress.

Research shows that black children are perceived as less innocent than white children, and as early as age 5 black girls are viewed as older than white girls of the same age. Black children are 10 times more likely to face discipline for typical childhood behavior like tantrums or class disruptions. 

Fortunately, this is a rare case where the two children were not fully processed and eaten up by the system. 

How does a 6-year-old commit misdemeanor battery? 

WFTV spoke to Meralyn Kirkland the 6-year-old’s grandmother. Kirkland says that her daughter has sleep apnea and is prone to temper tantrums because she is exhausted a lot of the time. Teachers are aware of the girl’s condition. However, one day the girl kicked a staff member which prompted police intervention. I am sure the kick hurt a lot and the full-grown adult is seriously injured (not). 

The 6-year-old was arrested and brought to a Juvenile Assessment Center where Kirkland discovered her granddaughter had been arrested for battery. 

“I asked them for her, and they told me she was currently in process of being fingerprinted. And I think when they said fingerprinted is when it hit home to me. And I’m, like, fingerprinted? And they said yes, and they escorted me into an office and on the desk in that officer were two mugshot pictures of my 6-year-old granddaughter,” Kirkland said.

When Orlando police found out the officer did not get his supervisor’s approval for arresting the girl, they say they stopped the little one from being fully processed. However, Kirkland is less convinced because she has paperwork that requires her granddaughter to appear in court for the battery charge. Reporters are unsure of the events that led to the arrest of the second child on the same day. 

The officer is fired

Initially, the officer was arrested, but he has now been fired. Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said the situation made him “sick to his stomach.” 

“When I first learned about this, we were all appalled and we could not fathom the idea of a 6-year-old being put in the back of a police car,” Rolón said at a news conference. “It’s still shocking to us. To have something like this happen was completely and totally a surprise to all of us.”

Department officials claim that the resource officer has a strict policy that prohibits officers from arresting children under the age of 12 without approval from their manager. 

“It was clear today when I came into work that there was no other remedy than to terminate this officer,” Rolón said.

The resource officer in question does not have a clean record himself, in 1998 he was charged with aggravated child abuse after bruises and welts were discovered on his 7-year-old son. He was also subjected to four internal investigations (two of which were for excessive force as recent as 2016), and in another incident, the resource officer threatened the husband of a woman he had been dating. So it is really cool of this school to have this man around children and for the police force to have employed him for years (not). 

Charges dropped against 6-year-old 

State Attorney for Orange and Osceola counties Aramis Ayala said she had no intention of prosecuting either 6-year-old.  

“I can assure you that there will be no criminal prosecution for a misdemeanor battery for these elementary children in my name or on my watch,” Ayala said. “Unlike some, I will not presume guilt or dangerousness of a child based on any demographic.”

Ayala hopes to stop the school to prison pipeline where it starts by choosing not to prosecute literal children for misbehaving at school. 

“We must explore better options as a state. We must raise the expectations of how we respond in difficult situations,” Ayala said. “This is not a reflection on the children, but more of a reflection of a broken system that is in need of reform. It’s time to address juvenile legislation in ways that better protect the interests of children and their development.”

Deaf Students At A Catholic School In Argentina Are Telling Their Story Of Abuse And Neglect By Priests

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Deaf Students At A Catholic School In Argentina Are Telling Their Story Of Abuse And Neglect By Priests

Jon Tyson / Flickr

Justice may soon be on the horizon for as many as 20 victims who say they were sexually abused, including cases of rape, between 2004 and 2016. Priests Nicola Corradi, 83, Horacio Corbacho, 59 and a former gardener Armando Gomez, 49, are all facing charges of sexually abusing deaf children in their care. The shocking case has sent shock waves through Argentina’s society and the Catholic church. The terrible acts occurred at the Provolo Institute in Mendoza, a Catholic school for deaf children that was founded in 1995 and in which Corradi headed until his arrest in November 2016.

People in Argentina are looking for answers and are asking how this horrendous crime could have happened?

Credit: @revistasemana / Twitter

The two priests and gardener appeared in court Monday to face their long-awaited charges of sexual abuse. The three men face prison sentences of up to 20 years in some cases, up to 50 years in others. The trial, which is expected to last two months, will hear testimony from 13 victims who suffered negligence and abuse between the ages of four and 17, relating to 43 offenses.

News of the abuse at the school broke at the end of 2016 and created a huge scandal. The scandal grew when it became clear that Rev. Corradi was behind the charges. It has been reported that Corradi was accused of similar allegations at the Antonio Próvolo institute in Verona, Italy. Pope Francis, an Argentine, has since been notified that Corradi was behind both allegations but has yet to comment publicly despite on the matter despite his close affiliation. 

There has already been one sentencing in wake of the scandal. Jorge Bordón, an institute employee, was sentenced to 10 years in prison last year on charges of rape, sexual touching, and corrupting minors.

One of the victims has spoken up about his emotions going into the trial and his search for justice. 

Credit: @news1130 / Twitter

Ezequiel Villalonga,18, is one of the victims of the pedophile priests, says that he was preyed upon at the school as a minor. Villalonga is deaf which makes the case even more heartbreaking. Now, he’s getting the chance to tell his story as the trial goes to court.

“I think that everything in the Church is fake. Everything they made us read, recite, the way (they said) people should live,” Villalonga told the AP in sign language right before the start of the priests’ trial on Monday. “I think they lie and that they’re demonic.”

Villalonga was sent to the school when he was 4 years old after his mother found out her son was deaf when he was only seven months old. For many of those years at Provo, he was only allowed to go home on weekends and spent the majority of his days there inside a massive building with little to no contact. Despite the school’s specialized mission in helping deaf children, he didn’t teach him how to speak during his time there. It was until he was an adult he learned sign language. 

“Life there was terrible. We didn’t learn anything, we couldn’t speak to each other because we didn’t know sign language,” he said. “We would write without knowing what it said, and when we asked other classmates, no one understood anything.”

Things haven’t been easier for his mom, Natalia, who says her family has had to pause their lives due to the case and the horrors that have happened to her son. 

“I am super-nervous, anxious and I hope for justice; that this ends soon so my son can move on to a new stage because this is very hard,” said Natalia Villalonga told the Washington Post.

While the trial is just getting started, the trauma and disbelief for many of the young victims have gone on for too long.

Credit: @Crux / Twitter

Paola Gonzalez’s daughter, Milagros, who is now 16 years old, had been one of those 20 abused while attending the Institute. Gonzalez was shocked and angry when she found out what had happened to her daughter at what she considered at one point, a prestigious institution. 

“You should have seen her little body when she went into (the Provolo). She was so small,” Gonzalez told the AP. “I don’t understand, I can’t imagine such evil. How could they do so much harm to such a fragile creature?” 

READ: A Brazilian Gang Leader Thought He Could Use A ‘Scooby-Doo’ Tactic To Escape Prison