Archive for May, 2013

Rios Montt continued

Friday, May 24th, 2013

These two letters to the editor of the New York Times express two different points of view regarding the Rios Montt trial. I personally agree, strongly, with the sentiments expressed by the second writer, John T. Bennett of Alexandria, Virginia, a Foreign Service officer posted in Guatemala in 1979. But please read both letters and form your own opinion! Bennett’s letter is below. To read the first letter, you will need to click on the link.

To the Editor:

Your article about the reversal of the conviction of Guatemala’s former dictator, Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, finally begins to provide a more nuanced look at the case (“Trial of Ex-Dictator of Guatemala May Have to Restart,” news article, May 22). Missing, however, is the role of race, as Guatemala has long been dominated socially, politically and economically by Europeans and their offspring.

The Mayan majority remains unchanged but is exploited through the intermediary of a partly modernized class of Mayans detached from their racial roots. The army, run by the dominant Europeans, reflects the same class and racial mix.

Much of the character of the country reflects the evolution of its dominant economic interests — mining, sugar and coffee. Those interests reinforce European dominance, so many were surprised by General Ríos Montt’s conviction, but not by its reversal.

Alexandria, Va., May 22, 2013

The writer, a Foreign Service officer, was chargé d’affaires in the United States Embassy in Guatemala in 1979.


Guatemalan court annuls Rios Montt conviction

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
The latest twist in the Rios Montt trial: Guatemala’s top court annuls his genocide conviction. Oddly enough, I’m not surprised. Read the full article by Mike McDonald of Reuters here, and below, an excerpt:
Ana Caba, an ethnic Ixil who survived the civil war after fleeing her home, was stunned by the Constitutional Court’s decision. “I’m distressed,’ she told Reuters. ‘I don’t know what’s happening. That’s how this country is. The powerful people do what they want and we poor and indigenous are devalued. We don’t get justice. Justice means nothing for us.”
A statement both sad and true.
You might also find interesting this series of editorials in the New York Times, What Guilt Does the U.S. Bear in Guatemala?, in which four essayists debate this ongoing question.


In Australia

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

I’m in Australia with Tim, where it’s now tomorrow. My internal clock has been off since we arrived, sometime last week, although I’m not exactly sure when because somewhere in there we lost a full day, which we should recover on our return journey. Tim was invited to lecture by an association of Australian-Asian physicians, and lucky me, I get to tag along.

We spent the first few days in the North, in the seaside town of Port Douglas, near Cairns, and because we’re in the Southern Hemisphere, north means the tropics. Think palm trees hot, and this is their winter. The highlight of that experience was snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef: an entire universe under water, thousands of colorful fish, and coral reefs as tall and broad as a high rise. I didn’t even try to take pictures because I knew I just couldn’t capture it.

Now we’re in Sydney, not Australia’s capital, by the way (that’s Canberra), and not nearly as hot as Port Douglas, but also beautiful, with wide boulevards, architecturally distinguished buildings, and many open green spaces and public parks. Today while Tim attended meetings, I took a backstage tour of the Sydney Opera House, saw a Jeff Wall exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, heard an organ recital at St. Mary’s Cathedral, and walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens. Yesterday we looked at the collections of Australian and aboriginal art at the Gallery of New South Wales and explored sections of town named The Rocks and The Circular Quay. Next on my list is a ferry ride to Manly, for optimal Opera House viewing.

Now it’s time to get myself ready for our evening activity, a lovely gathering with Tim’s colleagues.

But before I sign off, I want to express my gratitude to my sisters, Deanna and Patrice, who are taking great care of our kids, the only reason this trip is possible. Thank you, thank you. xoxo




Rios Montt

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

At 86, Rios Montt may be too old and too ill to spend a day in prison. But that doesn’t change the fact that a Guatemala judge found him guilty of genocide committed against the Ixil Maya.

A report by Sonia Diaz Perez of the Associated Press.



PBS NewsHour on Rios Montt trial

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

The PBS News Hour has produced a very powerful news clip about the Rios Montt trial. In case you, like me, don’t ever watch TV, or missed the broadcast for some other reason, here’s the link:

Guatemala: Why We Cannot Turn Away.

That title says it all, don’t you think?




Claudia Paz y Paz to speak at UC Berkeley

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Claudia Paz y Paz, Guatemala’s Attorney General who brought Rios Montt to trial, will speak at UC Berkeley on Wednesday, May 15 at 10:30 AM in Barrows Hall. Admission is free.

From the UC Berkeley website:

Claudia Paz y Paz Justice and Rule of Law: Keys for Democracy in Guatemala

As Guatemala’s first female attorney general, Claudia Paz Y Paz has made unprecedented strides in the prosecution of organized crime, political corruption, and human rights. In addition to securing convictions against the four Guatemalan soldiers found responsible for the 1982 Dos Erres massacre, she successfully brought Ríos Montt, the former president who presided over Guatemala’s scorched earth campaign, to trial. Paz y Paz was recently honored by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and will receive the 2013 Judith Lee Stronach Human Rights Award from The Center for Justice and Accountability on May 14, 2013 in San Francisco.

Commentator: Richard M. Buxbaum is the Jackson H. Ralston Professor of International Law (Emeritus) at UC Berkeley.

Wednesday, May 15, 10:30 am 554 Barrows Hall


“The Child Catchers” by Kathryn Joyce

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

I recently read Kathryn Joyce’s The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption. The book’s premise can be summarized by this excerpt from the description on Kathryn Joyce’s website:

To tens of millions of evangelicals, adoption has become a new front in the culture wars: a test of “pro-life” bonafides, a way to reinvent compassionate conservatism on the global stage, and a means to fulfill the “Great Commission” mandate that Christians evangelize the nations. Influential leaders fervently promote a new “orphan theology,” urging followers to adopt en masse, with little thought for the families these “orphans” may actually have. Christian adoption activists have added moral weight to a multi-billion dollar adoption industry intent on increasing the “supply” of adoptable children, both at home and overseas.

The Child Catchers is a shocking exposé of what the adoption industry has become and how it got there, told through deep investigative reporting and the heartbreaking stories of individuals who found that their own, and their children’s, well-being was ultimately irrelevant in a market driven by profit and now, pulpit command.

There’s a lot to say about The Child Catchers, but my overriding reaction is intense frustration that so little has been learned and implemented following Guatemala’s shutdown. Many of the cases cited by Kathryn Joyce take place in Ethiopia and involve corrupt facilitators in-country, who coerce and trick before the final faked paperwork ever makes it as far as the US Embassy. As you probably know if you’re reading this, Ethiopia replaced Guatemala as the adoption “hot spot,” and adoption numbers there sky rocketed after Guatemala closed.

Will nothing ever change?

My second reaction is more of a question: Why should anyone’s religious beliefs enter into the debate over corruption in international adoption? Adoption practices either are corrupt, or they’re not. If they are, shut them down. Or better, don’t allow them to start, which is the intention of the Hague Treaty.

If adoption practices are not corrupt, then it really shouldn’t be anyone’s business why someone chooses to adopt, or what religion they embrace. Religious freedom is one of the hallmarks of the US. Honestly, I’m curious to know what Kathryn Joyce hopes to accomplish by criticizing evangelical Christians for their beliefs and practices. Because my guess is that such criticism in fact may produce the opposite effect of what she intended. Instead of reform, it may (understandably) cause (some) evangelical Christians to feel attacked, leading to a posture of defense.

As I noted above, the book’s description states “[t]o tens of millions of evangelicals, adoption has become the new front in the culture wars,” implying that tens of millions of evangelicals are adopting children internationally through nefarious means. This simply isn’t true. The number of intercountry adoptions to the United States in 2012 in total was fewer than 9,000. If the “tens of millions” refers to evangelicals who are concerned about children in need, then wonderful. Otherwise, the figure seems exaggerated and misleading.

Overall, Joyce’s book is thoroughly researched and well-written, albeit to me as an adoptive mother, unfairly one-sided. Adoption for my husband and me, and every other adoptive parent I know (and that’s a lot of people), is about creating a family. That said, I respect Joyce’s point of view and her right to tell the story she feels compelled to report.

One quibble, though, with The Child Catchers, in general:  Joyce devotes much ink to the case of “self-declared missionary” Laura Silsby, who illegally removed children from Haiti after the earthquake, even while admitting Silsby was an outlier who chose not to follow the rules. This was true of several “players” Joyce profiled, who seem extreme in every way, not only regarding adoption.

Also: I was sorry and confused to read that some US birth mothers affected by the 50s “Baby Scoop,” now feel that parents who opt for open adoption are doing so only as a way to ingratiate themselves to birth mothers, and perhaps convince them to relinquish their babies. As many of you reading this know, our family chose open adoption with our kids because we believe it’s healthiest—mentally, psychologically, spiritually, and just the right thing to do—for everyone involved. I’m very sad to learn that some birth mothers may feel we have an ulterior motive or immoral agenda.

Here are links to interviews and articles for more information. The first is a cogent rebuttal by adoptive parent and Senior Counsel at the Center for American Law and Justice, David French. The remainder feature Kathryn Joyce and The Child Catchers:

From the National Review Online: Is the Left Launching an Attack on Evangelical Adoption? by David French.

An interview with Kathryn Joyce on NPR’s Fresh Air: How Evangelical Christians Are Preaching the New Gospel of Adoption.

Kathryn Joyce’s 2011 article in The Nation: The Evangelical Adoption Crusade.

Kathryn Joyce’s 2011 article in The Atlantic: How Ethiopia’s Adoption Industry Dupes Families and Bullies Activists.

An book excerpt in the May 2013 Mother Jones: Orphan Fever.

Finally, a link to an MSNBC interview conducted by Melissa Harris-Perry with Tarikuwa Lemma, a young woman featured in the book who was adopted from Ethiopia at 13 and is now an adult. Scroll around the site to find the interview with Kathryn Joyce and Karen Moline, board member from PEAR (People for Ethical Adoption Reform). I especially liked what PEAR board member Karen Moline said, as an adoptive mother to a son from Vietnam, circa 2001 I believe. Something like “American parents are so trusting that they never, ever believe that bad people motivated by greed could be involved in adoption.” Yes, that would be my husband and me, in the beginning of our process, before we knew anything.

On that note. Still praying for the families of the Guatemala 900, waiting, at a minimum, for more than five years. ~