Update for August – a school celebration and political intrigue in Guatemala

August 22, 2015

Dear friends,

First, I’d like to remind you of the annual bash for Guatemala taking place this Thursday in the heart of Greektown in Toronto featuring a silent auction (Blue Jays + TFC tickets plus much more), free nibbles and socializing until the wee hours or until the street lights come on for you early-to-rise types. Details are here. If you can’t attend, please consider making a donation.

It’s been a remarkable past few months in Guatemala. For decades the country has been plagued by corruption and the influence and control of the country by illegal and clandestine organizations. In many cases these groups have successfully infiltrated the political, governmental and judicial systems. But led by the United Nations International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which was established in 2006 to investigate illegal security forces and clandestine organizations, change may be coming. Yesterday, the former vice-president of the country was arrested and the current sitting president was implicated for leading a customs bribery scheme which earned the group millions of dollars while depriving the country’s treasury of millions as well. This is a good background article on the president and vice-president from 2013. Earlier in the year, a CICIG investigation led to the arrest of the board of directors of the country’s social services agency for accepting bribes related to the contract to supply patients in the main public hospital with kidney dialysis treatment. Numerous patients, at least 17, have died as a result of the insufficient treatment they received and those arrested included the country’s central banker. Today CICIG continues its various inquiries with the likely winner of next month’s presidential elections calling for an end to its mandate as various members of his party are also under investigation. Sigh.

But the recent revelations about money being diverted from the public purse, along with the historically low rate of taxation in Guatemala, nicely explain the shortage of resources for schools, hospitals, along with road building (projects announced but never started) and the police (shortage of gas for vehicles.)

Last month away from the intrigue of the capital, I visit the school in the community of El Triunfo for the anniversary of the establishment of the school. While the celebrations extended across four afternoon this year, I was able to attend for two of them.

DSC_0177

our grade seven class performs a traditional dance

The two afternoons saw the election of the senoritas of the school,

Las Senoritas

the return of the “torito” after a multi-year absence,

yes - under the sparks there is a person!

yes – under the sparks there is a person!

the appearance of a “toro” for the first time,

El Toro!

El Toro!

the creativity of the grade 11 and 12 classes,

Los Mariachis!

Los Mariachis!

and the enthusiasm of our large grade seven class with 32 students.

It’s always great being at the school for these events as I get to see many familiar faces and talk to people I’ve worked with on the school in past years as well as many of the women with Asociacion Maya (the weaving cooperative) I’ve known for many years. But sometimes I have mixed feelings about the events due to the expense which is sometimes passed down to the students in the form of additional fees. However this year the anniversary celebrations was sponsored by a long list of local businesses, political parties (election year!) and the local municipality.

Towards the end of my trip, I returned to the school to visit the classes once again and to bring a special present to each of the students in grade seven. Students in the Guatemala Project at Ursula Franklin Academy in Toronto put together gift bags containing a note book, pencils, pens, a friendship bracelet, stickers, and English/Spanish language flash cards along with a note in Spanish and English from the student. The gift bags were eagerly received by the students. Special thanks to the students at Ursula Franklin along with Oriana who is already planning for next year!

The grade seven class with their gift bags from Ursula Franklin Academy

The grade seven class with their gift bags from Ursula Franklin Academy

Your support for the project is always appreciated. As you can tell from my message, I’m not expecting additional funding for the school from the government in the short-term, so it is up to us.

Snack Time at the Anniversary

Snack Time

We are a bit behind in the fundraising for the year as our donations also took a lengthy summer vacation and the continuing decrease in the Canadian dollar has caused our expenses to increase. (The Guatemalan currency has not moved in either direction this year.)

You can donate online here.

(Important:  under “You can select to apply your donation to a specific fund set up by this charity,” please select “El Triunfo School Project.”)

You can also mail a cheque payable to Casa Pueblito (please note this is a new address):

Casa Pueblito

107A 2238 Dundas St. W

Toronto, ON M6R 3A9

ATTN: El Triunfo School Project

Please note Casa Pueblito is also in a position to accept donations of securities.

Hope to see you at the bash this week.

Ken

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