Headed to Guatamala

We are Apoyo Guatemala, a group of 20 students from the social science program at Cegep Lévis-Lauzon. With the help of the social science department we have built a humanitarian aid project that will take place from May 31 until June 23.

The first purpose of this trip is to organize social, cultural and sports activities for the children of Antigua and the near villages (children of the street, orphans, children of day nurseries and hospitals) as well as manual jobs (painting, repairs, etc.) for local institutions.

Here is brief overvew of what has happened in Guatemala that has made it as it is today.

In 1945 Juan José Arévalo, the new president of Guatemala, instituted many social programs, working laws and the right to strike. In 1954 his successor, Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, brought in taxes on exports and agricultural reform that obliged the United Fruit Company that belonged to the United States to give up a large part of unused lands. In response, a coup d’état was organized by the US. They overturned Arbenz Guzman’s government and replaced it with a military party headed by Carlos Castillo Armas.

During the following years, many peasants tried to organize a resistance.

In the 1960s, a guerrilla movement surfaced and another coup d’état was organized in 1982, this time by General Efrain Rios Montt. His rule represents the darkest days in the history of Guatemala.

Shortly after his entrance to power, militiamen were recruited by force into the army. Their obejective: eradicate the guerrillas. Four-hundred and forty villages were burned and about 200,000 Mayans were slaughtered (45,000 of them are still missing), most of them with no link with the guerrillas, and 40,000 refugees found their way to Mexico.

Guatemala was politically unstable until 1996. A historic agreement was signed with the guerrillas and the conflict came to an end. Alvaro Arzu became president in 1996.

Democratic elections were organized in 1999. The presidential mandate of Alfonso Antonio Portillo Cabreras started on January 14, 2000. Oscar Rafael Berger Perdomo, the current president came to power in 2004.

And today? The population of Guatemala continues to live surrounded by violence, 6,000 people are slaughtered every year, 97 per cent of these homicides remain unpunished. Between 2000 and 2006, the number of attacks against activists and peasants increased every year.

Each student involved needs to raise $2,000, so if you would be interested in helping make this important project a reality or if you have any questions, please contact André Léveillé co-ordinator of the social science department at Cegep Lévis-Lauzon at 833-5110 ext. 3749 or by e-mail at <[email protected]>. Donations can also be sent to: André Léveillé, Cégep de Lévis-Lauzon, 205 Mgr. Bourget, Lévis, QC, G6V 6Z9.