Ladies activists in Guatemala are preventing towards the corruption and sexism entrenched of their authorities.
Touring to Guatemala final month, the juxtaposition of conditions was hanging. The depth to which corruption has change into entrenched within the authorities, pushed by the perniciousness of wealth inequality, is despairing; the shortage of viable options practically hopeless.
But, the energy of the advocacy and authorized neighborhood, led by the heroism of scores of ladies who’re in lots of instances placing their very own lives and livelihoods on the road to relentlessly beat ahead a path to justice is deeply motivating. It impels us to do all we will to help their trigger.
In #Guatemala, prosecutors & attorneys who battle corruption are arbitrarily detained. Ladies are particularly focused. As we speak, we visited Leidy Santizo, Siomara Sosa, Paola Escobar, Aliss Morán & Virginia Laparra, who’re being illegally held with out due course of. pic.twitter.com/3Dl5jcpbjP
— Kerry Kennedy (@KerryKennedyRFK) March 5, 2022
As mom and daughter, this was one of many first delegation journeys we’ve taken collectively since Cara joined the board of administrators at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights—in doing so turning into the third era of Kennedy ladies preventing for a extra simply and peaceable world on the group based by our mom and grandmother, Ethel.
“Right here’s to robust ladies. Could we all know them, might we be them, might we increase them,” is one in every of our household mantras. Such energy was totally personified within the dedication, brilliance and fearlessness of the feminine activists, attorneys, prosecutors and judges we met in Guatemala. They battle as champions of democratic beliefs, as defenders of the rule of legislation and of human rights, because the frontline towards those that try and weaponize wealth inequality to control the political and financial system to their favor. They’re true patriots.
There have been many who had been so instantly inspiring that you possibly can nearly envision their profiles emblazoned on a Shepherd Fairey-style poster. Their management has introduced key victories in difficult elite pursuits and preventing gender norms in a patriarchal society, in addition to persecution for his or her work.
Our journey coincided with a whole bunch of ladies taking to the streets within the capital and different cities throughout the nation for Worldwide Ladies’s Day. We joined these ladies in demanding an finish to sexism, violence and corruption, all forces which have been on the rise in Guatemala lately.
The nation’s backslide started when former President Jimmy Morales terminated the Worldwide Fee towards Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG by Spanish acronym), the U.N.-backed physique established in 2006 to prosecute corruption, fight impunity, and rework the establishments undermining the democratic beneficial properties made because the finish of the interior armed battle within the Nineteen Nineties.
Whereas CICIG was in place in 2010, Claudia Paz y Paz was elected the nation’s first feminine legal professional common, making unprecedented strides in prosecuting organized crime, members of the navy who had dedicated genocide towards the indigenous inhabitants, and the previous head of state Efrain Rios Montt. Underneath her successor, Thelma Aldana, among the most perverse corruption schemes had been uncovered and landed President Otto Pérez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti in jail.
However quickly, the forces of criminality fought again.
Decide Ericka Aifán is a hero. She is being persecuted in retaliation for her work combating corruption in #Guatemala . 7 of the 13 Supreme Court docket judges deciding her case have been implicated in corruption instances she judged. I’m proud to face along with her. #YoApoyoALaJuezaAifan pic.twitter.com/lir1SzUnwA
— Kerry Kennedy (@KerryKennedyRFK) March 4, 2022
Highly effective forces that had been threatened or uncovered by the efficient collaboration between CICIG, the legal professional common’s workplace, and impartial and sincere judges fashioned a coordinated alliance to coopt the justice system. They began with the very best courts, and at the moment are going after each single one who performed a task in preventing their corruption.
A minimum of 131 investigators, attorneys, judges and prosecutors concerned with CICIG had been instantly focused. A majority had been ladies.
UDEFEGUA, a corporation established to guard human rights attorneys in Guatemala, has reported that there at the moment are greater than 17 Guatemalan prosecutors and justice operators in exile—amongst them Paz y Paz and Aldana.
For individuals who keep, the state of affairs continues to quickly devolve.
Throughout our journey, we met with Decide Erika Aifan, one of many lead judges attempting instances of corruption, abuse of energy, organized crime and impunity, simply earlier than she was scheduled to look in a listening to to have her immunity as a decide eliminated. Seven of the 13 members of the Supreme Court docket selected her immunity elimination had been underneath investigation in instances earlier than her—a transparent, unchecked battle of curiosity. Aifan in current days has introduced her retirement and fled the country.
We joined protection legal professional Claudia Gonzalez on the detention middle the place her purchasers had been being held in retaliation for his or her work. All 5 ladies who had been former prosecutors or employees at CICIG.
Claudia is likely one of the band of patriots bravely defending democratic establishments, trapped by the cyclical tradition of impunity and corruption.
We requested Claudia why she does this work, understanding she’s greater than more likely to discover herself in that exact same jail cell. “I’ve to do it, for my nation, for my colleagues,” she mentioned.
A lady prosecuted corruption. She was falsely imprisoned. Her lawyer was then falsely imprisoned. Claudia Gonzalez is now that lawyer’s lawyer, fiercely preventing for rule the of legislation. “I’ve to do that, for my nation, for my colleagues.” #Courage #SOSGuatemala pic.twitter.com/FgtmYYmPSS
— Kerry Kennedy (@KerryKennedyRFK) March 5, 2022
As mom and daughter, each dedicated to human rights, we’re proud to witness such energy, and prouder nonetheless to assist disseminate the reality about their story.
Final month was Women’s History Month. A part of how we renew our dedication to celebrating the function of ladies in our society is recognizing these ladies who’re champions of their fields and supporting them with our time, sources and willpower. In Guatemala, these ladies aren’t simply champions of their chosen fields in advocacy and the authorized arts, they’re champions of democracy and devoted to preserving the rule of legislation: the very bedrock of sustainable growth and a greater, extra simply and peaceable world.
But, to actually have a good time the braveness of those ladies is to do extra to help their trigger. The window for upholding civil society is closing. We can’t let acts by brave Guatemalan human rights defenders and investments from the United Nations, United States and European international locations to fight Guatemala’s corruption and impunity go in useless and be destroyed. We should, collectively, push for the Guatemalan authorities to cease the persecution of human rights activists and justice operators and assure their independence.