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Opening a blind eye to femicide | Photojournalist: Jorge Dan Lopez

Opening a blind eye to femicide | Photojournalist: Jorge Dan Lopez | PHOTOGRAPHERS | Scoop.it

Violence and death are always present and tangible in Guatemala. The population seems to accept it as normal, even more so when women are the victims. In many cases, society simply ignores it, sits in silence or turns a blind eye.

 

Many men treat women as if they have no rights, thinking it unusual that someone should be punished or fined for beating, raping or killing them.

In Guatemala, violence against women generally starts behind the walls of their own homes. The aggressors in most cases are the men closest to them: fathers, brothers, cousins and partners.

 

There are now laws to protect women but there is little education, information or willingness to report crimes. The male perpetrators themselves often don’t seem to understand why they are being arrested. Prosecutors told me that they often hear from men accused of such crimes: “Why am I being arrested? I only hit my wife.” - Jorge Dan Lopez 



Photo report's insight:

"I was born in Guerrero State, in southern Mexico, a depressed region with large indigenous population. I began to take photos when I moved to Mexico City in the year 2000. After several courses in the capital I traveled to Italy in 2002 to live and photograph for diverse media until 2006. That year, one of great political and social change in Mexico, I returned to work for a financial newspaper and began with Reuters in 2008. I've been in Guatemala for Reuters since June of 2011." - Jorge Dan Lopez

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La vida no vale nada | Photojournalist: Lianne Milton

La vida no vale nada | Photojournalist: Lianne Milton | PHOTOGRAPHERS | Scoop.it

There's a common phrase Guatemalans say about violence in their country: En Guatemala, la vida no vale nada. In Guatemala, life is worth nothing.

This work examines the social impact of daily, postwar violence. I began this project last November when I returned to cover the Presidential elections. Violence was at an all-time high and Guatemalans were ready for change.

Fifteen years after the end of its bloody and genocidal civil war, Guatemala elected its first peacetime military leader; a former army general who emerged from retirement shrouded with human rights abuses.

 

Guatemala is the only country in the western hemisphere that experienced genocide in the 20th century. During the country’s 36-year civil war, (1960-1996), about 200,000 people were killed and another 50,000  “disappeared” and buried in mass graves throughout the country. It left a brutal legacy of violence on the social fabric of this highly indigenous country.

As Guatemalans continue to recover from decades of political violence, the growth of cartel, gang and street violence increase. A hired assassin can earn about $20 per murder. Mexican drug cartels are new players in a complex mix of paramilitary and vigilante groups in the shadowlands between state and organized crime in Guatemala. While today there is no official war, Guatemalans live with 98% impunity, and a homicide rate of 40 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, some critics say Guatemala is on the verge of becoming a failed state.

 

I’ve met many Guatemalans, from taxi drivers to business owners who expressed a desperate hope for change in their country. They were exhausted by the daily violence, and blamed the former president for his passivity. Hotel owner Lorena Artola, said to me recently, “We live in constant fear, drive shitty cars with tinted windows, and get killed for the most simplest things, like a cell phone. We can’t buy anything nice because we become a target.

In January 2012, former military dictator from 1982-83, during the worst of wartime violence, Rios Montt, was ordered to stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, a symbolic victory for victims of the war. With the help of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a UN-Guatemala initiative that pursues high profile criminal cases and provides new investigative tools, there was progress in the advancement of human rights in Guatemala for the first time since the 1996 Peace Accords.

 

For years I have heard about the violence in Guatemala ripping apart families, much like the civil war did. I was compelled to work on this project because so much media attention has been focused on Mexico. How were countries in Central America, like Guatemala, affected by Mexico’s balloon effect from fighting drug cartels? There is no one answer. For Guatemala, violence stems from the complexities of civil war and on-going drug trafficking, coupled with a corrupt government and weak social infrastructure. Guatemala is a country rich in indigenous culture, steeped in tradition and nourished by a beautiful resiliency. This project explores the impact on how families and communities live with daily violence, and the aftermath of civil war.

Photo report's insight:

Lianne Milton is an editorial and documentary photographer based Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and often works in SE Asia and Central America.

 

 

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