Intensive Training opportunity through Let Girls Lead – Honduras


We are pleased to share a new opportunity in Honduras through Let Girls Lead. Let Girls Lead is requesting applications from leaders ages 16-60 to participate in an intensive training program that will strengthen capacity to implement strategies to improve health policy advocacy, human rights, and the social and economic well-being of adolescents. Let Girls Lead is looking for leaders who work in the following areas: human rights, sustainable development, sexual and reproductive health, youth development, micro-credit, public policy advocacy, lobbying, media, education, leadership, gender and other related areas.

The deadline to apply is June 5, 2015. For more information and to download an information sheet and the selection criteria, visit the website of Let Girls Lead:, or contact the Let Girls Lead Country Representative in Honduras, Vanessa Siliezar at

CAMY Fund Visit to ALAS/WINGS in Guatemala

Written by Emily Barcklow D’Amica, CAMY Fund Program Officer

On my recent trip to Guatemala I had the opportunity to see first-hand the work of ALAS/WINGS, one of the CAMY Fund’s grantees. Early in the morning on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 Michele Frix, SIF’s Director of Programs, and I headed off to Cobán in the northern state of Alta Verapaz.

Panoramic view of Cobán, Alta Verapaz.

We reached the city (population: 144,461) in the afternoon and headed to the WINGS office to meet their team. We knew Fidelia Chub, the project leader for the CAMY Fund, but had not yet met her colleagues: Kimberly Morales, Director of Programs, Dominga Torres Morales, who is a Peer Educator along with Fidelia, and Ana Iczep, who is a Health Promoter with the organization. The next day, Michele and I joined Kimberly and Fidelia on a visit to the nearby community of Tanchi in order to meet with some potential youth leaders and their mothers. Cobán’s streets quickly gave way as we bounced along a lush-green gravel road. The meeting was held inside the home of a WINGS health promoter, Doña Olga Chocoj, in a large room where she can meet privately with women and men from the community seeking out family planning methods. Four young women between the ages of 16 and 20 had been recruited by Doña Olga to participate in WINGS’ youth network. They were accompanied by two of their mothers who were there to learn more and give permission for them to participate in the network’s first training the following week. Fidelia spoke to the mothers and young women in their native Q’eqchi’, though the young women also spoke Spanish. She shared with them about WINGS’ mission, the upcoming training for peer educators, as well as the expectations for these youth leaders in their communities. The young women had been selected because they are all role models in their communities and are interested in working with their peers to increase their access to reproductive health services and reduce teen pregnancy.

Young women in Tanchi, Alta Verapaz selected to participate in WINGS’ youth network.

The young women timidly, but enthusiastically, shared about their interest in joining the network and participating in the upcoming training in Coban. They all had previous experience as peer educators with another local NGO that works to improve maternal health and promote girls’ empowerment.
While the rest of us ate sweet tamales and café prepared by our hostess, Fidelia carried out her standard supervisory visit in Q’eqchi’ with Doña Olga in order to review the monthly clinical records of community members who had sought out family planning services and refill her stock of contraceptive methods.

Fidelia and Doña Olga Chocoj review the patient records and contraceptive methods disseminated during the last month.

At the end of the visit we said goodbye to Doña Olga and the young women and their mothers, wishing them well at the upcoming training. Both Michele and I were deeply impressed by the level of organization and professionalism that Fidelia demonstrated. She seemed equally comfortable speaking with the young women who are only a couple of years younger than her, as with their mothers and Doña Olga. It was clear to us that Fidelia is not only a valuable member of the WINGS team, but also a recognized leader within her community.

Fidelia Chub, CAMY Fund project leader.

On Friday, March 13, Michele and I met with the WINGS team in their Antigua office. We spoke with the organization’s Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator, Bernarda Jimenez, also a former iLeap Fellow, as well as Shilpa Kothari, the organization’s Development Director. We appreciated learning about the past several years of WINGS’ work, how their organization has grown and developed, and their plans for the future.

The post-script to this entry is that a week later, back in Mexico City, Fidelia asked me to participate by Skype in the inauguration at the youth leaders training. The training was a great success, with 134 young people present from 61 communities in the municipalities of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Carcha, Cobán and Chisec.

Inauguration of youth training.

Congratulations to Fidelia and the WINGS team for their commitment to empowering young people through education, in Alta Verapaz and throughout Guatemala!


The Humanitarian “Cold War” Crisis at Our Doorstep


Written by Mauricio Vivero, CEO of the Seattle International Foundation. Originally published on the Huffington Post Impact blog.

Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea has some U.S. policymakers dusting off the Cold War playbook. Looking at Russia’s occupation of parts of Ukraine and the slew of speeches flung back-and-forth between the White House and the Kremlin, they recall a not-so-distant history when the problems of countries and regions were understood not on their own terms, but rather through the narrow lens of superpower rivalry. Some of the rhetoric we hear today has echoes of that perspective.

For some observers, our neighbors in Central America in particular, this comes as no surprise. Seeing Central America through a narrow lens has been a longstanding problem that continues to this day. At one time, the U.S. government saw every issue in the region as part of a proxy battle with the Soviets. U.S. involvement in Central America’s internal affairs — including covert operations, CIA-engineered coups, and cozy relations with repressive governments — was justified by the need to prevent the spread of communism in our hemisphere.

But the end of the Cold War didn’t stop U.S. policymakers from seeing Central America through a narrow lens; the focus merely shifted away from communism and toward the drug war.

Today’s U.S. policy in the region has one focus: to stop drug-trafficking organizations that State Department and Pentagon officials alike consider a matter of national security because they stimulate drug abuse and violence in the United States, undermine democracies in the region, and can potentially finance terrorists. During the past decade, the United States has militarized the war on drugs, not only training law enforcement agents in Latin American nations, but also involving their militaries and pouring money into radars, planes and ships. At $20 billion dollars, it is the most expensive initiative in Latin America since the Cold War.

Read the rest of the article on the Huffington Post here.

Central American countries rank highest in world’s homicide rate

A new report released by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime brings light to the rampant violence and inequality in Central American countries. The global average homicide rate stands at 6.2 per 100,000 population, but Central America has rates over four times that, making it one of the sub-regions with the highest homicide rates on record. Of the top five countries with the highest murder rates, four of them are in Central America; Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize and Honduras.

UNODC defines homicide as “an unlawful death purposefully inflicted on a person by another person”, not directly related to an armed conflict.

Central America’s rise in homicide levels is mainly caused by the resulting violence related to drug trafficking, organized crime, and the relationship between organized criminal groups and the state. Honduras’ homicide rates ranks highest in the world with a 90.4 per 100,000 population, followed by Belize with a murder rate of 44.7 per 100,000, El Salvador with 41.2 per 100,000, and Guatemala with 39.9 murders per 100,000.

Women are more at risk than men. Intimate partner and family-related homicides disproportionately affect women. As of 2012, 6,900 women are killed by intimate partners and family members in the Americas. Read the rest of this entry »

Indigenous women fall through the cracks in Latin America


According to a new report release by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac), indigenous women in Latin America continue to face great institutional discrimination and difficult access to employment as compared to indigenous women in other parts of the world.

The report was presented to a group of over 180 women representing indigenous groups in Asia, Africa, and Australasia. The study breaks up indigenous women in Latin America into two groups, those living in urban centers and those living in rural areas.

When combined with endemic poverty rates, women in rural areas were twice as likely to die from childbirth. In Puno, Guatemala, an area populated by indigenous Quechua and Aymara the rate rose by an additional 45 percent in 2011.

Access to education improved dramatically as compared to the year 2000 where about 50 percent of indigenous youth, both girls and boys, were not in the education system at all.

Read the rest of this entry »

UN names new head to anti-impunity commission in Guatemala amid challenges


The UN named Ivan Velasquez to take the helm of the International Commission against impunity in Guatemala.  Created in 2006 with a treaty-level agreement between then President Oscar Berger (2004-2008) and the United Nations, the goal of the committee is to support offices like the public ministry, to strengthen the judicial sector and combat corrupt parallel structures working within the government apparatus.  One of its key cases was investigating the death of lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg, which nearly brought down the government of the former President Alvaro Colom (2008-2012)

Ivan Velasquez is a Colombian prosecutor with decades of experience investigating human rights violations and crimes committed by the paramilitaries.  According to analysts from Insight Crime, Velasquez is a recognized anti-impunity crusader who continued his plight amid intimidation from elites and as colleagues were murdered; “a proven track record in taking on not only criminal elements, but also their allies in the state — which will be critical to success in Guatemala, where corruption is one of the main elements fuelling impunity.”

His naming comes at a volatile time in Guatemala where legislators and officials have been maneuvering to get the unpopular commission expelled before the end of its mandate in 2015.

Prior to the creation of CICIG, Guatemala had a 98 percent impunity rate. The commission and purging of the public ministry under Attorney General Claudia Paz has reduced that figure dramatically by over 23 percent.

Velasquez is expected to take the helm in October.

Gang truce in El Salvador translates peace model to Honduras


With an estimated 64,000 identified gang members, El Salvador’s street gangs – Mara Salvatrucha and their rival Barrio 18 – operate like armies. At its peak, in 2009, the gangs were responsible for a homicide rate that reached 14 deaths per day. In March 2012, however, the country’s two most violent gangs suddenly declared a truce. The truce is backed by the Catholic Church and the Organization of American States (OAS). A year later, the truce in El Salvador, one of the most violent countries in the Americas, is crumbling. A recent report shows a spike in homicide rate. The unprecedented truce helped bring murders down to an average of five per day from twelve before the agreement. However, killings have been on the rise since late May, with 103 murders in the first week of July alone. The level of dispersion of violence has stayed the same, and the decrease in homicides did not occur in all municipalities. In fact, in some areas the rates have increased.

Several Salvadoran municipalities have taken social reinsertion measures in order to promote a culture of peace. The Program of Temporary Support and Income (PATI) give at-risk youth, men and women financial incentive of $100 per month in exchange for a six-hour day of labor in their communities. The mayor of Ilopango and Quezaltepeque – the two municipalities most recently declared free of violence – affirmed that this program will benefit 67,400 people – including ex-gang members – in 36 municipalities around the country. Another municipality, Apopa, has declared zero homicides since the truce began.  In addition, President Mauricio Funes said $18 million would be spent creating cooperatives in the country’s peace zones; another $4.3 million will be invested in giving gang members access to education and $9.3 million to provide health care, and a final $798,000 will be spent on violence prevention measures.

The gang truce model has been adapted to other regions in the Northern Triangle. Honduras, with the highest murder rate in the world, is home to tens of thousands of transnational gang members, and nearly 40 percent of the cocaine consumed globally passes through its borders. Recently, the MS13 and Barrio 18 gangs declared a cease fire as a part of a ‘peace process’. MS13 and Barrio 18 leaders claim that these efforts are in attempt to “halt the spiraling drug violence and criminality they [gangs] have brought to the region” in exchange for rehabilitation programs and jobs provided by the government.

The Seattle International Foundation supports organizations in the region such as Organization for Youth Empowerment in Honduras, and Fundacion de la Comunicacion para el Desarrollo  in El Salvador providing leadership development opportunities for at-risk youth in response to high levels of organized crime and lack of educational and economic opportunities.

The Seattle International Foundation (SIF) is working with corporations, foundations, governments, and individuals to alleviate poverty in Central America. Since 2008, SIF has invested more than $7 million in organizations working for positive social change throughout the region. For more information about SIF, visit

El Salvador woman’s plight highlights lack of reproductive health in region


A 22-year-old woman in El Salvador only known as “Beatriz” recently became the flashpoint in the country’s debate about reproductive health across Central America.

Beatriz suffers from lupus and kidney problems. During pregnancy, lupus can put the unborn child at risk in the last trimesters. In Beatriz’s case, her unborn child had developed without parts of its brain or skull. Physicians urged the medical need to perform an abortion but El Salvador’s supreme court struck down the motion saying that it could not guarantee the doctors would not be prosecuted for murder.

Abortion is illegal in El Salvador with no exceptions, even when a woman’s health is at risk.

Read the rest of this entry »

U.S. Immigration reform and its effects on Central American migration

By: Oriel María Siu,  Professor of latin Studies at the University of Puget Sound

The recent visit of Father Alejandro Solalinde Guerra to Washington State opened the limited debate on immigration reform in the U.S. While the U.S. Congress, the mainstream media, and pro-immigration reform organizations co-opted by the Democratic Party that promotes an excessively conditioned reform to policies of immigration, Father Solalinde reminds us of a stark and grim reality: migration from south to north in the Americas will continue. Thousands of people, as is the case of an Occupied America –as historian Rudy Acuña would call it–, continue waging daily route elevations despite more walls, more militarization of the Mexico-US border, and implementing more laws to punish the immigrant once in American soil. The reform will not solve the underlying problem, and as Father Solalinde metaphrases: this reform is like putting a band aid on the Titanic before it sank. Other than helping a few (after years of waiting, many expenses, more criminalization and deportations of undocumented people, and diverse conditions), the ship will eventually sink. This, if we do not fix the problem that created that hole, will happen. This problem is systemic.

The social conditions in Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico will continue to cause massive emigration. More than a century of economic plunder by the United States, war policies, and now the intrusion of neoliberal economic policies in these southern regions, have left these countries in deplorable conditions, forcing people to seek survival in the north. We are not coming to the US as tourists. People do not risk their lives in the Mexican death trains, risking kidnapping, rape and extortion because they want to. Nor do they cross the genocidal Mexico-US border, its deserts, and other death traps because it is amusing. The migrant exposes his/her life because everything has been denied in their home country, thus removing the possibility for a dignified life. This sentence is historic, although we have seen it flare up at alarming scale in the last two decades.

Poor migrants, as Father Solalinde reminds us, are evidence that the neoliberal economic system is in crisis. A US immigration reform will only help a few illegal immigrants (estimated to be between 3.5 and 6 million), while the flow expelled from the southern countries will continue to emigrate. We will still come to the United States and our rights will not be on the agenda. We need to raise our voices and work on proposals that go beyond the crumbs offered by the American political system.

Why the Nobel Women’s Initiative supports Guatemala genocide trial


Why the Nobel Women’s Initiative supports Guatemala genocide trial and what this has to do with women’s rights today


Members of the Nobel Women’s Initiative (NWI) held a media call to reiterate their support for the genocide trial in Guatemala. Last week, two days before the court was set to hear closing arguments, the trial came to a screeching halt. A pre-trial judge decided to annul the proceedings and set everything back to square one before Gen. Efrain Rios Montt was charged for genocide and crimes against humanity.

The ruling sent international shockwaves. Unbeknown to many, the overwhelming majority of genocide crimes and torture during the 36-year-civil war were directed at women.

Pamela Yates, filmmaker that documented the atrocities committed by the Guatemalan army in the 1980s in her film “Granito: How to Nail a Dictator,” explained it on today’s call.

Guatemala is also one of the countries with the largest rates of femicide and violence against women. Experts say this cultural practice of violence expanded during the war.

Read the rest of this entry »

About the blog:
This blog was created to support the Central America Network and encourage dialogue around relevant research, news and poverty alleviation efforts in the region.
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