Amnesty International Group 30 in San Francisco and Group 144 in Oakland are holding their own Get on the Bus action in solidarity with us! They will be holding a demonstration at the Guatemalan consulate in San Francisco on April 21.
Here's an article from the June 2005 issue of Amnesty International's newsletter The Wire that gives more background on the situation.
Guatemala fails to protect women
‘She had been raped, her hands and feet had been tied with barbed wire, she had been stabbed and strangled and put in a bag. Her face was disfigured from being punched, her body was punctured with small holes, there was a rope around her neck and her nails were bent back.’Mother of 15-year-old María Isabel Veliz Franco who was abducted and murdered in December 2001
The brutal sexual violence inflicted on María Isabel Veliz Franco (pictured) following her abduction and before her murder in 2001 is a characteristic common to many of the hundreds of killings of women and girls that have been reported in Guatemala in recent years. The suffering of many of the relatives of murdered women is compounded by the government’s failure to properly investigate the murders and by the knowledge that they will almost certainly never have access to truth and justice.
The Guatemalan government’s failure to prevent an escalation in the number of killings or to ensure effective prosecutions means that those responsible continue to commit these crimes knowing that they will not be held to account.
The bodies of many women, sometimes naked or semi-naked, are often abandoned in public places, on wasteland, down gullies or in city centres. Some of the murders are exceptionally brutal. Seventeen-year-old Sandra Janet Palma Godoy’s body was discovered next to a football pitch on 5 July 2004. Her right arm, breasts, left hand, eyes and heart had reportedly been mutilated. It is thought that she had been a witness to a murder a few weeks earlier.
The precise number of women who have been murdered is unknown and disputed but the Guatemalan authorities have confirmed that between 2001 and August 2004 they had registered the deaths of 1,188 women. Most of the killings have occurred in urban areas which have also witnessed a dramatic rise in violent crime in recent years often linked to organized crime, or to the activities of street youth gangs known as maras. Students, housewives and professional women are among those who have been killed in the wave of murders. Many were from poor sectors of society or particularly marginalized groups including members or former members of street gangs.
The extent of the violence perpetrated against women in Guatemala is extremely difficult to determine because of the lack of reliable official information. Official records of killings conceal the gender-based nature of the crimes so that rape and other sexually violent crimes are often almost invisible.
Many of the murders are categorized by the police as “crimes of passion” or “due to personal problems” and so are not investigated or are de-prioritized. Relatives of victims have complained to AI that they have to prove that their relative was “respectable” before the authorities will investigate a murder seriously.
Impunity has been the hallmark of investigations into the cases of women who have been murdered. The absence of physical or scientific evidence, lack of resources dedicated to investigating these crimes, lack of training in investigative techniques, and lack of coordination between police investigation units and the offices of the Public Ministry, have meant that many cases have not gone beyond the initial investigation stage.
Despite some positive steps to prevent violence against women, including ratification of international human rights treaties and the introduction of laws and state institutions to protect women, these are often not effectively implemented and fall far short of addressing the magnitude of the problem.
Amnesty International resources on Guatemala
Getting Away with Murder: Guatemala's Failure to Protect Women and Rodi Alvarado's Quest for Safety
Briefing Calls Awareness to Rampant Feminicides in Guatemala
Washington Office on Latin America Report