St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church and The CPR-Sierra's



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NEWS from Guatemala and Comunidades de Poblaciones en Resistencia (CPR) Sierra

Summer 2015

Photographs by Ila Abernathy of a demonstration in Guatemala City, May 30, 2015.

2013 Summer - Ila Abernathy, project coordinator, writes from Guatemala:

June 5, 2013.
Here in Guatemala, the final people from the Delegation arrived last night. We are in good shape. Fr. Smith asked about people sleeping on the streets near the little hospedaje where we have stayed for many years, 5 blocks from the central plaza, national cathedral, etc, as he didn't recall seeing same in past years.  Dona Alma of the hospedaje had already told us that Nicaraguans and Salvadorans planning to go to the U.S. were arriving here with nothing and camping out around the church of the Virgin of Guadalupe, on the corner from us (there's also a food handout up the street).  I'm not sure she has the countries exactly right, and for sure there are homeless Guatemalans and deportees from the U.S. mixed in, as they arrive with nothing. 

Two years ago Alma told us a couple of the "deportados" had found their way up 9th calle, where we are, to the point where it turns into the "periferico" (perimeter road, which is no longer on the perimeter), and hurled themselves off a high bridge into the barranca below, because they couldn't face the hopelessness of their situation here, and the great debts incurred in attempting to cross.  Not all deaths occur in the desert. 

Nine of the people killed in the Oklahoma tornadoes were Guatemalans.

Big news here this week is the OAS summit, with a focus on drugs, and Secretary of State Kerry attending.

We have a mixed schedule today, including in-country updates from an NGO.  Tomorrow it's the Episcopal Bishop, US AID, and others.  Friday we head to two CPR-Sierra resettlements.  At the first, where we spend only a few hours, hearing community members who have been migrants and families of people presently in the U.S. is one of our priorities.

By Sunday we will be in the Ixil Area in northern Quiche, the area among the hardest hit during the conflict and the one for which Rios Montt was being tried for genocide and war crimes .  Monday will find us down the road in Chajul for meetings with health promoters who have walked out of the mountains to meet us.  Tuesday we return early to the Capital, where Co-coordinator Michelle is attempting to arrange a meeting with the U.S. Embassy, to talk about what we have seen.

Stay safe, continue the work, and know that you have the gratitude of many here. Ila

2012 At-a-Glance - PDF newsletter

Project Update November 28, 2012
The Equipo de Salud (lead health team of the CPR-Sierra, communities we serve) plans to do a sweep through northern CPR communities around December 8, and we are working on fund transfers to enable them to make incentive payments to the local health promoters.
Equipo leaders Pedro and Domingo met with ASECSA (community health education training, Chimaltenango) in late November, to discuss broad planning.  Also participating:  the new Health Ministry medical director for Chajul, whom we met last summer.  He's from Chajul and speaks Ixil, so we hope he will stick around.  It's great that everyone is communicating.
Children of the Americas - - the NGO planning a major surgical jornada for January in Retalhuleu, has continued to interact.  We have now connected them directly with the Equipo de Salud for patient referrals, and the Equipo discussed possibilities (almost too enthusiastically) during the meeting with ASECSA.

 Gaspar Guzman, the boy from Tesorito born with a torturously twisted leg and foot, has had his amputation in the national orthopedic hospital.  He is at home and recovering without complications, and receiving followup through the hospital.  Children of the Americas is standing by to assess in January, and provide a prosthesis if he's ready.    I was impressed with all of us -- Pedro and Antonio of the Equipo, who involved me in a preliminary visit to the hospital in August (my primary role  is to say, "Let's go ask the Social Worker"), the hospital workers, the courageous young patient, and the Children of the Americas executive director, who has been receptive to communications.  Social worker contact worked out really well in this instance, because at the beginning parents and patient were understandably frightened and reluctant to proceed, and Pedro said, "Let's go ask the social worker," who reassured everybody and arranged for Gaspar and his mother to spend 2 weeks in the ward prior to the surgery, so he could see other children in his situation.  Incredible.  We need, through Susan Cotton's Denver Promesa, to continue to pay for transportation to appointments.  Stay tuned.


CPR-Sierra perspective on the Totonicapan massacre October 4 is that yes, they are pleased that army assailants have been incarcerated, but they remind us that the government administration, through its intense suppression of dissent, set up the situation.  The Attorney General initiated investigation despite the president's initial denials of responsibility.
CPR-Sierra organization continues to be stressed, and troubled with the expense of maintaining the office in the capital -- really important, not only for communications but to provide a hostel for patients and families needing treatment in the capital.

2012 Summer Team Updates: 
Project coordinator, Ila Abernathy, writes: August 14, 2012: Most of Team 3 left today.  I'm really tired and have a bad cough.  Pedro just called, is in town for our big meeting tomorrow, which was to have been delayed until early afternoon because we didn't expect him in until 1 p.m..   Now he wants to meet early.  It's the Fiesta de la Virgin, patron of the city, tomorrow, and the guys want to do that in the afternoon.

Last night, as we left Sophos Bookstore in Zone 10 (upscale, where the Embassies are) after wine and purchase of Guatemala: Eterna Primavera, Eterna Tirinia, we ran quite by accident into the exuberant welcome parade for the returning Olympic athletes as it wound down La Reforma to Zone 1, honoring particularly 21-year-old Erick Barrondo of San Cristobal, Alta Verapaz, who won silver in the 20K.  He's from a humble family who bought their first television in order to watch him.  His father burned incense and said traditional prayers the entire time he was running.  For Guatemala this is huge, the first-ever Olympic medal in the 60 years they have sent teams.  I can't tell you how moving it was to see and hear the spontaneous joy, and pride, and celebration.  After receiving the medal August 4, Barrondo said (in Spanish, of course), "I  am very grateful with life at this moment.  To ascend to the podium and gain the first medal for my country, which has suffered much, is something special."  For most of us it is special that he is from a rural indigenous area, from a humble family.  And Guatemala, like St. Michael's loves a party -- fireworks, banners, perilous Guatemalan firecrackers that sound like machine gun fire, children's bands, and thousands of ecstatic, truly joyful people.

Diego came down to the city with a patient and family from Pal, the 1-year old who needs surgery to remove a mass from her lower back near the spine; and I'm in communication about 2 other patients, so it looks to be a busy end of trip.

We are giving copies of the Spanish version of Guatemala: Eternal Spring, Eternal Tyranny to Pedro, Domingo, and Diego, saying they are from the 3 teams.  It is smaller than the English version, but with more photos and a different format.

If anyone wants a copy of the book, I can try to get by Sophos Bookstore and pick up more -- but the price has just gone up from Q125 to Q195, approximately $25, paper, and I can't take much extra weight.

Thanks to all. See everyone soon, God willing.

July 2, 2012: Everybody is alive and well, though Team 1 did have its moments -- very compressed trip, some minor illnesses, and one harrowing ride on a very narrow and rough 4WD mountain road with many obstacles, an inexperienced driver, and an overloaded vehicle.  I still have bruises where my upper arm kept banging against a metal pole used to stretch a loma (canvas cover) over the back in case of rain (we got to stay al fresco, no rain -- all umpteen of us standing in the back with the cargo).

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS: Militarization is continuing apace, with soldiers at every demonstration of people seeking social justice -- like the students occupying their school to protest changes in education plans, a block from Casa San Jose, where we stay in the Capital; and oh the road between Nebaj and Chajul, the Ixil Area soldiers carrying galils. They looked so very young and out of place to me.  More evidence of this, and resistance, in the Ixil Area, where we are now.  Note:  under the Peace Accords, the army can be used only for protecting national borders, except in a national emergency, so all this activity is in violation.  Domingo Alvarez, who has driven both teams and all the meds and our personal packs to the points where we will start walking, says that when he sees the soldiers, he is reminded of all that transpired in the past, beginning when soldiers entered his village when he was 6, destroyed the village, and executed some of the leaders.

Domingo, who is also on the Lead Health Team and handles our money when it is turned over for payments to health workers and for other in-country medical needs, has been elected president of the overall 22-community CPR-Sierra organization.  He says he can do both.  It is very, very generous of him to give us his time as he starts to assume his new office.

Hydroelectric installation, massive on some formerly free-running wild rivers, is continuing apace in the Ixil Area, as is local resistance.  There are no local benefits in terms of more or cheaper electricity. Everyone says the electricity is bound for Mexico and beyond.  Ironically, Nebaj, which has outgrown its electrical system, is still subject to daily brown-outs, especially in the evening and when it rains.  One passes slogans painted on rocks and on the highway, "The rivers and the holy earth are for the Ixil people," and "No to mining," and "No to hydroelectric."  Team 1 drove right by one of the installations, on the Finca San Francisco, where the finca guard told us the finca and hydroelectric were private property and we could not take photos or stop.  Once we passed him, we got some good ones of the hydroelectric, before the aforesaid harrowing trip over the mountain and down into Zona Reina, Uspantan, the second-largest resettlement community.   

TEAM 1 HIGHLIGHTS - photo team 1

Among the team, incredible raw intelligence and some very useful skills -- Midwife-RN Kerry, and RN-diabetes expert Jordan, and artist Richard, among others.  All of us were a wee bit under-utilized, but the trip was useful and productive for all, including the loal health workers.  We were ably accompanied by Diego Lopez of the Equipo de Salud.

This trip was too compressed to admit much interaction with local groups, but we did get women's leader Nazaria Tum Sanic to give us an impressive overview of 30 years of CPR-Sierra history and a glance at current women's organization and activism. In Nebaj, we also met with the Health Ministry Extension de Cobertura (Health extension services, where ther are no regular services) director, who welcomed our presence and gave us letters authorizing us to use Health MInistry limited medicines if ours gave out.  They also said their budget has been so constrained that they can no longer buy trimetroprin sulfa or local anesthesia for wound-suturing.  They begged us to try to find them 20 vials of lidocaine.  (hope my spelling is ok).

Team 1 then headed out for on-foot giras to Chaxa, Santa Rosa, and Pal, Area Xeputul, to work with the local health promoters.  In Chaxa and Pal, we found somewhat-discouraged local workers.  In contrast, Chico in Santa Rosa had his little two-room clinic well organized, and had meds.

Because of Kerry's presence, we saw many pregnant women and their midwives, to good effect.  We were able to reinforce advice that one woman should leave in advance of her due date, as her baby was very, very small. In addition, we did more hemoglobin testing than in the past.  Preliminary results would suggest that there is less anemia in these communities than the astonishingly high figures passed around internationally; but we may need to factor in altitude and a few other variables.

Two points of interest, with more infor to follow when I get a break in late July:  A young coule in Pal who had a baby born with a growth that needs correction now that she is one year old waitied patiently for us and agreed to walk out with ust to the little hospital in Nebaj.  Because of the presence of all the giranos-as, the family received royal treatment.  They were advised to go to Santa Cruz de Quiche for special x-rays, to rule out spinal nerve involvement, and we were able to pay for the private x-ray (not the right term) with funds donated by Project friend [Sherley S. in Phoenix.  The very conscientious young father has delivered these to the social worker in Nebaj, and the Nebaj doctors decided that the surgery should take place in Guatemala City.  Plans are in the works.

Additionally, on the trail we heard Mateo's story about his early life.  He had met us between Chaxa and Santa Rosa.

More later -- especially re Team 2.  They are waiting, to begin the long drive and then the uphill walk into Mirador Chajul.

Abrazos a todos. Ila

2011 At-a-Glance
2008 New Year Greetings from Nazaria Tum Sanic, international spokesperson for the CPR-Sierra.
2007 October, CPR-Sierra visit to Arizona and Colorado:
Three CPR-Sierra leaders, Nazaria Tum Sanic, Baltazar Solano Canay and Pedro Bernal Raymundo,visited the U.S. in October. With assistance from The University of Arizona, J-visaswere arranged forthose leaders whose visitor visa applicationshad beendeniedin April.
TheCPR leadersmet with the Guatemala Consul General and Arizona Episcopal Church leaders; participated in programs with Denver Justice and Peace Committee, Northern Arizona University, The University of Arizona, Pima Community College, Cholla High School, St. Michael's Day School; and spent three full, difficult days looking directly at conditions along the U.S.-Mexico border.
They thanked supporters, brought us up-to-date on their life in Guatemala and the current election-year political situation, met people interested injoining summer teams; made and renewed friendships.
The last reciprocal visit to the U.S. was in 2001. Such exchanges are important to us as we continue the 14-year partnership.

Summer 2007 team visit in CPR-Sierra communities in Guatemala:
The coordinator was in Guatemala from early June to mid-August and visited all 18 CPR communities with teams of 2 to 4 people.Volunteerspaid travel expenses. CPR-Sierra communitiescontriubuted food, travel and lodging support. View photographs

17th General Assembly From March 20 - 22, 2007, the CPR-Sierra held their 17th General Assembly in Nebaj. The annual Asambleas evolved during the war years, as the scattered groups of refugees that became the CPR-Sierra began to organize in the mountains of the Ixil Area. Asambleas function somewhat like a town hall. Leaders are democratically elected or reaffirmed, all sectors,including health, religion, and education, give annual reports, problems are mentioned and discussed at length (sometimes great length), and plans for the coming year are affirmed. Everyone who chooses to speak is heard. Finally everyone signs, frequently with a thumbprint,the "Libro de Actas" [Book of Acts] of the assembly, usually read in Ixil and Spanish, sometimes in Quiche as well. The newly elected Consejo Politico General, which functions somewhat like a Tribal Council, has the responsibility for implementing the Assembly decisions.
In the past, the Asembleas were a pure democracy, and everyone who could crossed the mountains to attend. Now that the CPR-Sierra communities are widely separatedin eight distinct geographic areas,delegates represent each community, but anyone who chooses can attend as well. The location shifts from year to year, to maximize opportunity for people to be present. When the Asamblea is held in one of the larger resettlement communities, there's a potent and sometimes noisy mix of old and young, men, women and children, babies, bicycles, strolling chickens and dogs, and little ones playing just outside the meeting area.

The CPR's "Declaracion Politica" of the 2007 Asamblea Anual Ordinaria:

Declaracion Politica de la XVII Asamblea Anual Ordinaria de la CPR-Sierra, Santa Maria Nebaj, 22 de marzo 2007 Como resultado de las consultas comunitarias previas y la reflexion misma que los asamblearos de 158 delegadas y delegados de 22 comunidades, reunidos en la Asamblea General, concluimos en las siguientes valoraciones: 1. Situacion Nacional: Nos preocupan grandemente las politicas de los gobiernos despues de la firma de la paz.

A 10 anos de su firma, observamos que la agenda del actual gobierno esta dirigida a implementar las politicas neoliberales; el TLC, las concesiones mineras de cielo abierta, las concesiones a empresas extranjeras, de nuestros recursos naturales como son los rios y las montanas, los megaproyectos y la privatizacion de los bienes del Estado y los servicios sociales. Estas politicas y medidas, no se han alejadas del espíritu de los acuerdos especificos sino que atentan en contra de la paz. El gobierno actual estautilizandolas en discursos, principalmente a la comunidad y gobiernos internacionales, en tanto la situacion que atraviesan los guatemaltecos es sumamente preocupante, con el riesgo de una confrontacion social de grandes proporciones.
La política agraria que el gobierno esta implementando es el arrendamiento"convertido en grandes negocios para los terratenientes, los desalojos violentos de campesinos que claman por la tierra, la persecucion contra los dirigentes campesinos, de derechos humanos y sociales, la represion contra comunidades sin justicia como el caso de Nueva Linda, y comunidades en el Estor Izabal, Alta Verapaz y la Costa Sur son medidas que atentan contra la vida de miles y miles de familias campesinas.
En tanto el gobierno habla de paz, se agudiza la inseguridad ciudadana, los asesinatos diarios de mujeres, ninos y familias enteras, el reciente caso del asesinato de los 3 parlamentarios salvadorenos y posterior asesinatos de los diputados, la penetracion del narcotrafico y el crimen organizado en los niveles mas altos de la estructura, es evidente la institucionalidad de la represion en nuestro pais.
Sumado a lo anterior, el alto costo de la vida, la falta de trabajo y de servicios para las grandes mayorias empobrecidas, los efectos de la explotacion minera de cielo abierta, la amenaza de las transnacionales sobre las montanas. los rios y la riqueza del subsuelo, son lo que caracteriza la administracion de Berger entregando la soberan
s y resultados de las politicas impositivas de las transnacionales, los bancos multilaterales como el Banco Mundial, el BID y otros.
Condenamos estos hechos que ocultan el limitado proceso de paz, cuya sepulta pues nuevamente agranda la brecha entre las grandes mayorias campesinas, indigenas y capas medias, con los grupos economicos tradicionales en nuestro pais.
Los procesos de dialogos y compromisos politicos que las distintas mesas de concertacion gobierno-sectores sociales, quedan unicamente en letras muertas sin resultados concretos y sin voluntad politica real de cumplimiento.
2. Nuestra situacion como CPR:
Ano tras ano hemos evaluado que la situacion en cada uno de nuestras comunidades no presenta avances en el desarrollo sostenible y sustentable, tanto economico, politico y sostenible, como social.
Las razones principales de esta situacion tienen que ver con el incumplimiento por parte de los gobiernos sobre compromisos suscritos, desde la negociacion y otros acuerdos bilaterales, tales como el incumplimiento de asistencia tecnica y crediticia, mercados para la produccion, la implementacion de los servicios sociales comunitarios y la infraestructura ( vivienda y servicios fisicos comunitarias) etc., lo que conlleva al debilitamiento de la organizacion comunitaria
Estos compromisos no cumplidos, trajeron como consecuencia desgaste fisico, politico y economico, dispersion y desplazamiento de familias en otras zonas y fincas, emigracion a los EEUU y ciudades del interior del pais. Endeudamiento con instituciones para creditos agricolas, desgaste y debilitamiento de la organizacion comunitaria, division familiar, etc.
Se agregan tambien fenomenos naturales como la sequia, las tormentas y vientos que acaban con las siembras y no nos permiten trabajar normalmente nuestras actividades para sustentar a nuestras familias.
En otras zonas en donde estan asentadas historicamente comunidades en resistencia, estas estan amenazadas por las empresas nacionales y transnacionales de ser despojadas de sus tierras, rios y montanas.
La penetracion de agentes politicos y economicos en las comunidades tambien debilita la unidad de nuestras comunidades ya que los intereses son contrarios a nuestras demandas sociales y poliÂÂticas, organizativa, economica y culturalmente.
3. Nuestra reflexion para el futuro:
El peligro que atraviesa nuestro pais, es sumamente preocupante, el Estado ha perdido la capacidad y el papel de regulador y los destinos de la nacion.
Ante tal situacion, nos sumamos como CPR-Sierra a las iniciativas y propuestas de la sociedad civil, instituciones e iglesias para encontrar una salida de la crisis a favor de la sociedad y rectificar el rumbo de la paz.
Condenamos, que a 10 anos de la firma de la paz, nuevamente en la estructura de la seguridad publica, escuadrones de la muerte legalmente operan en el pais y son responsables por los hechos de violencia que azotan al pais y que son responsabilidad del gobierno y el Estado en general.
Nos preocupa y rechazamos las amenazas de empresas transnacionales sobre las comunidades de Xeputul, Caba y Zona Reina principalmente por parte de la Empresa ENEL, en tanto que las tierras son propiedades historicas de las comunidades, de nuestros padres, abuelos y bisabuelos y que hoy esta empresa dice ser dueno de tierras en estas zonas.
Queremos patentizar que nuestra organizacion, pensamiento, objetivos y lucha son patrimonio politico e historico de lucha y resistencia a lo largo de siglos y d
cadas, por tanto rechazamos los intentos de personas y agentes que buscan dividir a las comunidades y socavan la organizacion, propia de la CPR.
Reafirmamos la validez y legitimidad de la CPR y sus instrumentos de organizacion comunitaria. Nos comprometemos a realizar una revision exhaustiva de las estructuras y su funcionamiento para mejorar la coordinacion a la luz de los cambios que imponen los procesos de las coyunturas.
Nos comprometemos a seguir luchando y buscar la unidad con sectores locales, regionales y nacionales, sobre los efectos nocivo del Tratado de Libre Comercio, la exploracion minera, represas y la destruccion de las montanas como los efectos de los megaproyectos que seran concesionados en nuestro pais a manos de transnacionales; que no favorecen a nuestras comunidades.
4. La lucha para el proceso de desarrollo local:
Este ano 2007, nos proponemos a avanzar en ordenamiento de procesos pendientes; sobre tierra y su certeza juridica; infraestructuras sociales y de servicios (educacion, salud) principalmente reivindicar la promocion de la medicina local natural; los metodos de la educacion popular; el afianzamiento de los instrumentos para el desarrollo local (cooperativo, asociaciones y ECAS, etc.).
El reto fundamental para las comunidades de la CPR, para un proceso de desarrollo social, es fortalecer las capacidades de los instrumentos de gestion de programas que se encaminen a produccion agricola pecuarios, asi como otros programas que faciliten apoyar la economia familiar. Estos instrumentos a fortalecer son las cooperativas, las ECAS, las Asociaciones y COCODES, asi como la gestion y ejecucion de programas encaminados a los sectores de mujeres y jovenes.
5. Alianzas:
Los compromisos de la XVII Asamblea General, son seguir desarrollando los vinculos, relacionales y coordinacion con aldeas, zonas, vecinas en torno a demandas comunes y en la defensa de la madre tierra, nuestros recursos naturales en busca del bien comun, en la defensa de los derechos humanos y el desarrollo de la cooperacion entre nuestras comunidades y hermanos vecinos.
Fortalecemos la coordinacion con organizaciones sociales que coincide con demandas comunes en torno a objetivos, principalmente en torno a la tierra, infraestructuras, defensa de los patrimonios locales, resarcimiento y programas de desarrollo local.
6. Llamados a organizaciones hermanas y comunidad internacional:
A las organizaciones regionales y nacionales que luchan por la justicia social, a la paz, el bienestar social, el respeto a la soberania, la lucha contra la privatizacion de lo servicios sociales publicos nacionales, les decimos que estamos ¡PRESENTE EN LA LUCHA!, como Comunidades de Poblacion en Resistencia DE LA Sierra.
Solicitamos su acompanamiento en nuestra lucha y por la necesidad de articular y unir los esfuerzos para encontrar caminos a los grandes problemas que aquejan al pais. No estamos dispuestos a que se repita el pasado y desde ya rechazamos cualquier intento de sectores que orillan a la sociedad en una confrontacion, en tanto responsabilizamos al actual gobierno como responsable de agudizar los problemas sin la solucion a las demandas mas urgentes de la sociedad.
A la comunidad internacional su vigilancia sobre las politicas del actual gobierno que cada vez mas se aleja de los compromisos de la paz. Su acompanamiento a los esfuerzos de la sociedad civil en busca de enderezar el rumbo del pais y recuperar su soberania nacional.