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Guatemala Pitches Mayan Tourism, Mining & Evictions Left to Next B'ak'tun?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 14 -- Monday's first UN press conference had an apocalyptic sound: "Launch of B'aktun, the beginning of a new era in the Mayan Culture."

  But in fact it was mostly tourism, with posters hastily set up and a pitch by the head of the Guatemalan Tourist Commission, Pedro Duchez.

  When the time for questions came there was a lull, despite at least a half dozen reporters in the room. Outside brightly colored swag bags were being handed out. Was this for travel writers?

  As the second question, Inner City Press asked about the treatment of the indigenous in Guatemala, specifically under the Mining Law, and mass evictions including of the "Nueva Esperanza" community, ostensibly for drug ties, rendering over 100 children homeless.

  Carlos Batzín, the Minister of Culture of Guatemala, is the one who took this question, saying that the country is trying to do better, signing three pacts including on finance, justice and transparency.

  He referred to "entidades financieras" and it was unclear if this meant, for example, the International Monetary Fund or high-cost lenders like Grupo Elektra / Banco Azteca. Is there predatory lending in Guatemala and Central America? It is something into which we are looking.

   The press conference took place as the second week of the annual meeting of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the UN - click here for last week's round up by Inner City Press.

   Guatemala's record on the indigenous was reviewed at the UN in March by the Human Rights Committee, in a largely empty conference room in the Temporary North Lawn Building. (Click here for Inner City Press' story on the session.)

   At that time, one expert spoke of the Guatemalan "Government's systematic violation of indigenous peoples' rights to land."

   Will this improve in the new B'ak'tun? We hope so. Surprisingly, the most recent reports on Guatemala on the web site of Human Rights Watch is from 2007. But even the Guatemalan minister, to his credit, admits that there are issues. Watch this site.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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