Posts Tagged ‘Sandra Torres de Colom divorce’

New Yorker article on the death of Rodrigo Rosenberg

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

This week’s issue of The New Yorker (April 4, 2011) contains a riveting article about the death of Guatemalan attorney Rodrigo Rosenberg that should be read by anyone interested in the country or adoption. A Murder Foretold: Unravelling the Ultimate Political Conspiracy by David Grann begins this way:

Rodrigo Rosenberg knew that he was about to die. It wasn’t because he was approaching old age—he was only forty-eight. Nor had he been diagnosed with a fatal illness; an avid bike rider, he was in perfect health. Rather, Rosenberg, a highly respected corporate attorney in Guatemala, was certain that he was going to be assassinated.

Not only is Rosenberg’s death a tragedy, it occurred under circumstances so tangled and unbelievable, you must must read the entire article to appreciate its impact. The more people understand why a man would be driven to do what Rosenberg did, perhaps the more they will care about Guatemala, and the less Rosenberg’s death will have been in vain. For purposes of this blog, which deals with adoption, I will focus on a few early paragraphs, because they lay out the context in which adoption to the United States occurred:

Rosenberg had frequently expressed despair over the violence that consumed Guatemala. In 2007, a joint study by the United Nations and the World Bank ranked it as the third most murderous country. Between 2000 and 2009, the number of killings rose steadily, ultimately reaching sixty-four hundred. The murder rate was nearly four times higher than Mexico’s. In 2009, fewer civilians were reported killed in the war zone of Iraq than were shot, stabbed, or beaten to death in Guatemala.

The violence can be traced to a civil war between the state and leftist rebels, a three-decade struggle that, from 1960 to 1996, was the dirtiest of Latin America’s dirty wars. More than two hundred thousand people were killed or “disappeared.” According to a U.N.-sponsored commission, at least ninety per cent of the killings were carried out by the state’s military forces or by paramilitary death squads with names like Eye for an Eye.


In 1996, the government reached a peace accord with the rebels, and it was supposed to mark a new era of democracy and rule of law. But amnesty was granted for even the worst crimes, leaving no one accountable. 


After the peace accord, the state’s security apparatus—death squads, intelligence units, police officers, military counter-insurgency forces—did not disappear but, rather, mutated into criminal organizations. Amounting to a parallel state, these illicit networks engage in arms trafficking, money laundering, extortion, human smuggling, black-market adoptions, and kidnapping for ransom. The networks also control an exploding drug trade. Latin America’s cartels, squeezed by the governments of Colombia and Mexico, have found an ideal sanctuary in Guatemala, and most of the cocaine entering America now passes through the country. Criminal networks have infiltrated virtually every government and law-enforcement agency, and more than half the country is no longer believed to be under the control of any government at all. Citizens, deprived of justice, often form lynch mobs, or they resolve disputes, even trivial ones, by hiring assassins.

I personally would like to know what author David Grann means by “black-market adoptions.” Use of an alias on paperwork? Change of a birth date? The omission of the name of a husband when one existed? None of those things are “right,” but they are a far cry from baby-snatching, which is what “black-market adoptions” implies, at least to me.  Perhaps Grann simply is saying that adoption was handled in a manner he observed often in Guatemala. As my lawyer once told me during my daughter’s adoption, “Things are different here.”

Read more



Politics, rural tourism, micro-loans in Guatemala

Friday, March 25th, 2011

This article in The EconomistGuatemala’s First Couple: Divide and Rule, gives the best general overview written in English about the divorce of Guatemala’s presidential couple, Alvaro Colom and Sandra Torres, that I’ve read so far. In reads in part:

Ms Torres is not the only candidate running on dubious constitutional grounds. Álvaro Arzú, a former president, is campaigning despite a ban on re-election. Zury Ríos, a congresswoman, may be blocked by a prohibition on the relatives of the organisers of coups, since her father, Efraín Ríos Montt, toppled a government in 1982 and installed himself as dictator.


One of the few candidates free of constitutional entanglements is Otto Pérez Molina, a former general who narrowly lost a run-off vote to Mr Colom in 2007. Mr Pérez Molina is the strong favourite: a recent poll put his support at 43%, with Ms Torres next on only 11%. In 2007 he promised an “iron fist” against crime. Since then Guatemala has become far more dangerous, as Mexican cocaine smugglers have put down roots in the wild jungle areas near the northern border. After four years of the soft-spoken Mr Colom, some Guatemalans might fancy an ex-army man to drive the gunmen back across the frontier.

Guatemala has been challenged with political and social instability throughout its history, including during  the years since the 36-year civil war ended in 1996. That instability has far-reaching implications. Tourism, for example. Danilo Valladares reports in Alternative Tourism Seeks to Overcome Major Obstacles.

GUATEMALA CITY, Mar 24, 2011 (IPS) – Most of the countries of Central America are lagging behind the rest of the tourist destinations in Latin America, despite their impressive natural and archaeological treasures. To turn this situation around, the area is increasingly focusing on alternatives like rural tourism.

“Tourism has become the main livelihood of families here,” Olga Cholotío of the Rupalaj K’istalin community association of eco-tourism guides in San Juan La Laguna in the northwestern Guatemalan province of Sololá, told IPS.

The association, run by the Mayan Tzutuhil indigenous people, works in the area around Lake Atitlán, one of the region’s main tourist attractions, offering tours of rural areas and villages where visitors see traditional weavers making colourful textiles, watch small-scale fishers plying their trade, take in traditional music and dance performances, and go on nature walks.


The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, produced every year since 2007 except 2010, seeks to measure the factors and policies making countries attractive for developing the travel and tourism industry. The index includes three main subcategories: regulatory framework; business environment and infrastructure; and human, cultural, and natural resources.

Cholotío is not familiar with the report. But she has no doubt that Guatemala’s high crime rates have a negative impact on tourism and keep it from fully becoming an engine of development for communities like hers.

In 2010, revenues from tourism, the country’s third-largest source of foreign exchange, fell 14.5 percent from 2009, to just under 986 million dollars, according to Guatemala’s central bank.

The first question I’m asked when I talk about our travels to Guatemala is “Is it safe?” My answer is that it is, as long as you’re careful. My personal preference is to avoid Guatemala City, but I may be more cautious than most. We plan our trips thoughtfully and make arrangements in advance. Our family loves the villages around Lake Atitlán. Like many other adoptive families, we try to visit as much as we can. I hope that the region’s plans to boost rural tourism succeeds.

Finally, a friend posted this link to a video on the Kiva website made by a Bay Area family who made a micro-loan to three women in Guatemala to help fund their clothing enterprise. You’ll enjoy watching a recap of the family’s trip to Guatemala, where they met the three women whose business they helped finance.

Happy Friday!


Guatemala’s First Lady files for divorce

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Guatemala’s First Lady Sandra Torres de Colom is seeking a divorce so she can run for president in the country’s September election, it was reported in the March 22 English edition of Aljazeera.  Torres is supported by the governing National Unity for Hope (UNE) party and the right-wing Grand National Alliance (GANA). Incumbent president Colom, who assumed office in 2008, cannot run for re-election.

In a statement released to the newspaper Prensa Libre, Otto Perez Molina, the main right-wing opposition candidate, called the divorce a “fraud”. “We will not allow them to mock the law with this move,” Molina said.

According to the constitution, close blood relatives of the president and those of “second level of affinity” are banned from running for office.

The divorce papers, which indicated a mutual desire for separation, came despite previous comments from the president that divorce was not an option and that his wife was eligible to run.

If both parties agree, the divorce could be final in about a month.

In her announcement of her candidacy, Torres said she decided to run “for the people, for my country, for the elderly, children, disabled, abandoned, orphaned, for all the needy in Guatemala.”

I don’t know a tremendous amount about history, but I know enough to hear echoes of Eva Peron in Torres’s platform statement. When Colom was elected President in 2008,  several people in Guatemala told me they viewed his election as a stepping-stone for his wife’s political aspirations.  Her willingness to divorce in order to be eligible reveals a strong desire to win.

For further background on Torres, read this March 10 article by Renata Avila in Global Voices.