Things That Matter

Guatemalans Are Fleeing Drug Violence Flourishing Because Of This Dangerous Flower

The global drug trade is a complex network of producers, distributors and consumers. Consumers are generally stable and located mostly in affluent countries like the United States and affluent Western European nations like Great Britain, France and Spain. Producers and distributors, however, often change according to geopolitical events such as the Cold War or the War on Terror, or local shifts in government.

For years, the main producers of opium poppy in the world were located in South America and the Middle East. But as armed conflict affected big producers such as Colombia and Afghanistan, criminal organizations, including the Mexican drug cartels, looked elsewhere for growing fields.

Guatemala, just South of Mexico and home to a warm climate ideal for the crop, became one of the regional epicenters for opium poppy production. 

Credit: Digital Military Magazine

Violence in localities such as the  Ixchiguan and Tajumulco municipalities in the department of San Marcos have experienced unparalleled levels of violence in recent years, mainly because of fights between rival Mexican cartels. “There are signs Mexican citizens are participating. Poppy is produced, harvested and cultivated here … it is [then] transported to Mexico where it is processed and then sent to the United States,” said Guatemala’s Interior Minister Francisco Rivas to VOA News in 2017. This has led to an increased presence of the Guatemalan military in the Mexican border. 

Guatemalan farmers were struggling, so they turned to poppy flowers to survive.

Credit: PlantID

The Mexican cartels pressured farmers to produce poppy flowers. Farmers who used to survive by harvesting potatoes, oats and other products didn’t ask many questions, and some were told that the plant was to make “medicine”. This has happened elsewhere in Latin America: in the Mexican state of Guerrero, for example, the lack of government support has led farmers to raise poppies. President Lopez Obrador has even called for an amnesty for farmers who have been pressured by the cartels. 

But then the government, under pressure from the United States, destroyed their poppy fields: extreme poverty ensued.

When the government destroyed the poppy crops during the last decade, Guatemalan farmers, most of them of indigenous heritage, had no other crop to replace poppy. They basically were left without their main means of income. Violence has ensued (gang activity is, in most cases, product of economic strife and social alienation). Citizens see no other way out other than crossing the Mexican border in the hope of getting to Los Estates. 

“Amapola”, of course, is the red flower used to produce heroin.

Heroin is made from the milky fluid that seeps from cuts in the poppy seed pod. This liquid turns into a dark, brownish gum that is then processed into heroin. 

With a bleak future ahead of them and no crops, Guatemalans are fleeing the country in record numbers.

Credit: USA Today

As USA Today reports, the situation for Guatemalans is beyond challenging and leaving the country is now a matter of survival: “People are fleeing widespread government corruption, poverty and violence. Six in 10 Guatemalans live in poverty, and more than 50% of the country’s poor are indigenous people, according to the World Bank. Twenty percent of Guatemala’s population lives in extreme poverty.

Indigenous communities are most affected by poverty, with 79% living in poverty, on less than $5.50 a day, and 40% living in extreme poverty, on less than $1.90 a day”. Just think about it: your Starbucks coffee costs about double the daily income of thousands of people. 

Over 250,000 Guatemalans have been apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol since 2016.

Credit: Unsplash

According to the United States Customs and Border Protection, unaccompanied minors, family members and single adults from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have tried to cross the Mexico-US border in record numbers since 2016. They are fleeing corruption, State abuse and gang violence product of the drug trade. The situation in Central America has been chaotic since the 1980s, when the two opposing sides in the Cold War, the US and the then Soviet Union, used the region as an ideological and sometimes military battleground. 

Guatemala has attempted to legalize marijuana and opium poppy, but efforts have fallen short.

Credit: StopTheDrugWay.com

Guatemalan authorities have attempted to legalize the drug. In 2015 then president Otto Perez broke ranks with the United States and presented a plan to legalize poppy production. In 2014 he told Reuters: “we’re exploring … is the legalization of the poppy plantations on the border with Mexico, so they’re controlled and sold for medicinal ends. These two things could be steps taken on a legal basis”.

These efforts, as we now know, went nowhere. However, the debate  over the legalization of certain substances is ongoing and could perhaps offer an alternative solution for curbing violence. But would legalization work? The eternal and perhaps unsolvable dilemma. 

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Award-Winning Guatemalan Actor, Enrique Salanic, Couldn’t Attend His Film Premiere In NYC

Entertainment

Award-Winning Guatemalan Actor, Enrique Salanic, Couldn’t Attend His Film Premiere In NYC

José / YQstudioLLC

Award-winning Guatemalan film ‘José’ is about to make its US theatrical premiere in L.A. and New York. But thanks to US travel restrictions, its leading actor Enrique Salenic won’t be allowed to enter the country for the film’s release.

The Guatemalan actor is the star of the award-winning film “José”

“José,” directed by Chinese-born American filmmaker Li Cheng, won multiple awards internationally during the international film festival season in 2018-2019, including the prestigious Queer Lion award at the 75th Venice Film Festival.

Guatemalan actor Enrique Salanic has been blocked from entering the United States ahead of the U.S. premiere of the film in which he is the star.

The fast-rising, U.S.-educated actor earned strong reviews for his lead performance in the Venice 2018 premiere as an impoverished 19-year-old gay man who lives with his mother and falls in love for the first time. 

Made in a neorealist cinematic tradition, the film is described in a press release as “a nuanced and vivid look at being gay in Central America.” 

‘José’ follows the eponymous character of the film, a closeted 19-year-old who lives an impoverished life with his mother, a street vendor, in Guatemala City. Guatemala, and most of Latin America for that matter, is a place dominated by conservative Catholic and Evangelical Christian religious values. When he meets an attractive migrant from the Caribbean coast, he finds himself falling in love for the first time; the relationship pushes him to rethink his repressed life, and before long he is contemplating a drastic change that will require a leap of faith he is still reluctant to take.

The film premiered in New York on Jan. 31.

And it’s premiered in Los Angeles one week later. Salanic has traveled widely in support of “José,” attending the Lido and festivals in Spain and Panama but the U.S. appears to be a step too far.

The U.S. embassy rejected his visa application twice. 

Efforts to bring Salanic to the U.S. have proved fruitless after the U.S. embassy in the Central American country rejected his non-immigrant visa applications. The embassy argued Salanic, who lives with his parents in Guatemala, could be a flight risk were he to enter the U.S. as he does not have a residence in Guatemala.

The premiere should have been a celebratory occasion for the film’s star.

The young newcomer named Enrique Salanic, should be celebrating the great success of his debut appearance. But instead it has become a senseless bureaucratic nightmare, the latest demonstration on the world stage of the current draconian stance on immigration and travel.

The actor’s first application was denied in November.

Salanic’s first visa application was made in November according to Paul Hudson, head of the film’s U.S. distributor, Los Angeles-based Outsider Pictures; the embassy rejected it, arguing that Salanic could be a flight risk if he were to enter the US. 

Hudson then sought the aid of Congressman Ted Lieu.

Congressman Lieu, wrote a personal letter on behalf of the young actor which was submitted with a second application. That request was also denied, with no apparent consideration of the congressman’s letter. According to Screen Daily, a copy of the embassy’s original rejection letter states that a requirement of a successful visa application is a residence in a foreign country which the applicant “has no intention of abandoning,” before going on to write, “You have not demonstrated that you have the ties that will compel you to return to your home country after your travel to the United States.”

Hudson, head of the film’s U.S. distributor, had something to say.

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#Repost @jose_movie • • • • • • OCTOBER premieres > PHILIPPINES > MEXICO > DENMARK > GERMANY > (SINGAPORE cancelled: gov’t censorship) + USA festivals > Tampa FL > Seattle WA > Rochester NY > Duke University / UNC Chapel Hill NC ver/see trailer: https://youtu.be/BosKW_Zspgs Venice film festival Queer Lion award + best film in Boston, Mumbai, Honolulu – "festival favorite" premieres: 35+ countries Guatemalteco cast + crew – CDMX post-production sigue a Jose y comparte con tus amigos: detalles completos que se publicarán pronto: peli en español ‘José’, una historia épica de amor en Guatemala: https://tinyurl.com/y6rr4gub confident visual sense.. tender, transfixing – The Hollywood Reporter magical.. deceptively simple, sexually frank, honest – Screen Daily raw and authentic – Remezcla brilliantly restrained.. powerful performances.. unsentimental yet deeply affecting: "best film"+ "best script" (160 films from 43 countries) – Jury, Mumbai visual storytelling and honest performances connect us to the human vulnerability of love – Jury, Boston Enrique Salanic: Jose, Herrera LK: Luis, Ana Cecilia Mota Chavarria: Jose’s Mom among the most violent countries, yet ‘José’ is a tender look at love in Guatemala: https://tinyurl.com/yxdhmdme gay, indigenous, resistant: https://tinyurl.com/yxw28dmo BANNED: Singapore, 3rd richest country, while "Jose" is modest man’s struggle for love and dignity, in Guatemala poverty rates exceed 50% – https://tinyurl.com/yy4ycq2n Outsider Pictures North American distribution + world sales @outsiderpictures Rediance int'l festivals Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival @tiglff Portland Queer Film Festival @pdxqueerfilm Lesbisch Schwule Filmtage Hamburg | International Queer Film Festival ImageOut Seattle Queer Film Festival @imageoutfilmfest QCinema Cuorum Morelia Reel Pride AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center Cine+Mas SF / San Francisco Latino Film Festival Cinema Queer @diasdecine #josethemovie #moviejose #peliculajose #filmjose #queerlion #queerlionaward #latinomovies #guatemalamovie #gaymovies #lgbtmovies #queercinema #vivejose #vivajose #gaylatinomovie

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“Denying Enrique Salanic his entry visa to promote his work in a film produced, financed and distributed by American citizens and companies represents just one way in which the current administration’s immigration rules impact U.S. businesses, and it perpetuates the negative impression the world has of America. Denying entry to a man who has already successfully studied in the U.S. just because he is from Guatemala is unjust and cruel,” Outsider Pictures’ Paul Hudson told The Wrap.

Robert Rosenberg of Outsider Pictures also had an issue with the rejection of Salanic’s entry visa. 

“It broke my heart that such a talented young actor like Enrique, who is the star of our movie, is being thwarted in pursuing his career by our own government in the U.S.,” Rosenberg told The Wrap. “Our policies should encourage this kind of ambition and success, not trap Central Americans in their countries, as if they were less than human.”

In a statement on the creation of the film, director Li Cheng discussed the movie’s cultural relevance.

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Busy week! Come see the movie JOSE now in Seattle USA, Hamburg Germany, Quezon City, Manila, Philippines, Rochester NY, Morelia, MEXICO! JOSE is the Queer Lion winner in Venice film festival. Find out why it's called "brutally authentic," "a form of resistance", See information below: FOLLOW & SHARE! Jose is the non-industry film that beat Oscar-winner THE FAVOURITE and SUSPIRIA and other films to win Queer Lion, It is an art-film from Guatemala: reflecting realities, it features a lower-class non-white protagonist HAMBURG GERMANY @lsfhamburg_iqff Thu 17-Oct 8pm – Metropolis Kino tickets: https://www.lsf-hamburg.de/pages/timetable-2019?locale=en SEATTLE, USA: – first showing sold out this is the last showing tickets still available now @threedollarbillcinema Thur 17-Oct 7pm – Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ+ Center tickets: https://tinyurl.com/y5sxk9of QUEZON CITY, MANILA, PHILLIPPINES Sat 19-Oct 9pm – Galleria 3 Mon 21-Oct 9pm – Gateway 6 @qcinemaph tickets: https://qcinema.ph/venues ROCHESTER NY, USA @imageoutfilmfest Sat 19-Oct 1:15pm – Dryden Theatre, Eastman Museum tix https://festival.imageout.org/2019/tickets/how-to-buy/ MORELIA, Mexico @cuorummorelia función gratis con invitación – preguntas: comunicacion@moreliaprograma.com Jueves 24-OCT 15H / 3pm – Centro Cultural Clavijero trailer: https://youtu.be/BosKW_Zspgs confident visual sense tender, transfixing – The Hollywood Reporter magical.. deceptively simple, sexually frank, honest – Screen Daily raw and authentic – Remezcla brilliantly restrained, powerful performances, unsentimental yet deeply affecting: winner of TOP AWARD – Jury, Mumbai visual storytelling, honest performances connect us to the human vulnerability of love – Jury, Boston BANNED: Singapore, 3rd richest country, while JOSE is modest man’s struggle for love and dignity, in Guatemala poverty rates exceed 50% Outsider Pictures N America distribution + world sales Rediance int'l festivals Photo @marcoviscastudio #josethemovie #josemovie #josefilm #josepelicula #moviejose #peliculajose #filmjose #queerlion #queerlionaward #latinomovies #guatemalamovie #gaymovies #lgbtmovies #queercinema #vivejose #vivajose #gaylatinomovies #qcinema2019

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“‘José’ is really a page ripped from today’s news headlines,” he said. “The crises of young people, single mothers and dark-skinned peoples in Guatemala frames the film’s story. Guatemala has become an increasingly violent and dangerous place, where more than half the people live in poverty. Indeed most of the children separated from their parents and locked in dog-like cages in Texas (shocking people around the world) are Guatemalan, not Mexican, as is often claimed.”

READ: Go Guatemala! You’re Finally on Your Way to the Oscars

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Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

Things That Matter

Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

dr.giammattei / Instagram

Tuesday marked a new era of leadership in Guatemala as the Latin country swore in Alejandro Giammattei, a conservative doctor and former prison system director from the right-wing Vamos party. The 63-year-old won the presidency on his fourth attempt back in August with bold promises of changing a corrupt government and restoring the rule-of-law in city streets. 

“Today, we are putting a full stop on corrupt practices so they disappear from the face of this country,” Giammattei said at his swearing-in ceremony that had a five-hour delay.

His ceremony somewhat overshadowed by delays and protests against ex-President Jimmy Morales, who for four years dodged accusations of corruption. The scene of protestors throwing eggs and voicing anger at the outgoing administration was a reminder of the displeasure against the country’s deep-seated political corruption. It’s also a key reason why many are looking to Giammattei to bring change to the struggling country. 

As Giammattei takes office, there are questions on what his presidency will mean to Guatemala in the short and long term as issues over the future of an asylum deal with the United States comes into focus. 

One of the biggest issues confronting Guatemala and one that Giammattei will have to address early is the Asylum Cooperation Agreement (ACA) that was signed by Morales last July with the U.S. government. The agreement, which was highly opposed in Guatemala, lets U.S. immigration officials send Honduran and Salvadoran migrants that are requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexican border to apply for protection here instead. There is now increasing skepticism as reports say that the U.S. wants to expand the deal to include Mexican asylum seekers as well.

Last year, there were many Guatemalans that were part of a 3,000 migrant caravan that made its way up from Latin America to the U.S. The caravan consisted of people that were looking to claim asylum and became a symbol of the growing migration crisis at the southern border. President Trump frequently attacked the caravan and eventually threatened to impose tariffs on Guatemala if it didn’t agree to the asylum deal.

According to the Guatemalan Migration Institute, “as of Friday, 128 Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers had been sent as part of the agreement,” with only a limited number actually applying for asylum there and others returning home. Giammattei has previously said that he’s willing to make changes to the agreement but on Tuesday said he would revisit details later. 

The country, one of Latin America’s poorest nations, is a key part of President Trump’s plan to curb illegal immigration and asylum claims. mostly from those coming to the U.S. Southern border. The issue for many living in Guatemala is how to let those seeking asylum when itself has become a major source of U.S. bound migrants. 

Poverty levels have only grown in the last 20 years and income inequality levels continue to be a big problem in the country. 

One of the big platform issues that Giammattei ran his campaign on was helping the shorten income inequality gap and poverty levels that have only grown in the last 20 years. Fifty-nine percent of Guatemalan citizens live below the poverty line and almost 1 million children under the age of 5 are believed to live with chronic malnutrition, according to the AP. 

There is also the rampant problem of street violence and cartel gangs that have had a major effect on the daily lives of many in the country. Giammattei plans to address this with reforms that include designating “street gangs as terrorist groups.”

“This is the moment to rescue Guatemala from the absurd. It is the moment to combat corruption and malnutrition,” Giammattei said on Tuesday in his first address to the country as president. “There is no peace without security, I will present a law that aims to declare street gangs for what they are – terrorist groups.”

There is hope that Giammattei will turn a new page in Guatemala that will see change come to all in the country that has faced uncertainty for years. But only time will tell if this is indeed new leadership or business as usual.

“We will bring back the peace this country so dearly needs,” Giammattei said. “We will govern with decency, with honourability, and with ethical values.”

READ: In Efforts To Double Latino Representation In Hollywood, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti Unveils New Historic Initiative

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