Regina Bateson ─ Human Rights and Criminals’ Rights

[MUSIC PLAYING] Hi, I’m Matt Gutmann. I’m the interim director of
the Center for Latin American and Caribbean studies. And that is why I have the
pleasure of introducing our speaker today, who is
Regina Anne Bateson, who is an assistant professor,
and has been since 2013, of political science at MIT. She has her PhD also
from 2013 from Yale and an undergraduate degree
in history from Stanford a few years before that. Her dissertation won a national
award from the Political Science Association and
under publications– this is the way to do it–
her first publication has already won also
a national award from the American Political
Science Association. I think it’s the best
paper in the journal, in your flagship
journal, so that’s not bad starting right off. She has two book projects. One is security– [INAUDIBLE] Aspirationally. There we go. Well, it sounds
like you’ll do it. Security From Below and
From Victims to Activists. Just one other thing of
note, which is something that we appreciate very much
in a policy and academic institution– from 2004
to 2006 Professor Bateson was a foreign service officer
in the State Department stationed in Guatemala, where
she did all sorts of things. And my guess is
she’s able to draw on these experiences in ways
that some of us are less able. So please join me in welcoming
Professor Bateson, who will– as changed the title,
you can see the title right up here. And so we will talk
for 45 or so and then we’ll have lots of
time for discussion. Thank you. All right, thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] So I should apologize
for changing my title due to some
other data problems. The other project
is still ongoing. And there will be
hints and glimmers of why people vote
for human rights abusers throughout
this presentation. But this is a slightly different
paper on a very similar topic. So today I’m going to be
talking about human rights and criminals rights,
drawing primarily on evidence from Guatemala. So today Guatemala
is both a hotbed of international human
rights advocacy and a place where human rights
remain in jeopardy. And we have here a photo
of Efrain Rios Montt, former de facto president, who
has been on trial recently, was actually convicted for
genocide and human rights abuses in 2013. And his conviction was
then basically overturned for technical reasons. And there are now
attempts to re-try him– the trial has been suspended. Basically the recent
saga of Rios Montt sort of summarizes
this duality relation to human rights in Guatemala. On the one hand there’s been
astounding progress lately, progress that back in
2004, 2005 if you told me that Rios Montt would
be on trial in Guatemala I would never have
believed you ever. But on the other hand
we know that many of the traditional foes of
human rights in Guatemala remain quite active. So it is a place where
human rights remain contested and challenged
from ex-military actors in particular. But today I’m going to
be talking about another, and much less known,
threat to human rights, or problem with human
rights in Guatemala, which is the attitudes of the various
citizens whose rights we’re concerned about. And this is relatively
undocumented, relatively unaddressed by
the international community. So it’s something I’d like
to talk to you about today. Human rights, obviously,
is a contested term. It’s been contested throughout
Latin America in particular for decades. So I thought I might
show, just to give us a little bit of regional
context, this one example, which is from
Argentina in the late 1970s. And so what it’s
saying here is the term has gotten reappropriated by
all sorts of different actors over time. And so here the junta
in, I think it was1978, in Argentina was getting
criticized for its human rights violations and so
actually created these buttons and stickers
with this slogan that they distributed around the country. And so its similar to
the Argentine flag. And it basically says,
Argentines, we’re right and we’re human. So they’re flipping
around the term human rights and reappropriating
it for their own ends. And today I’m going to talk
about a slightly different reappropriation of the
term or new critique of the term for human
rights that is really very prevalent in Guatemala. And this is the idea–
this is my rephrasing of the general
argument that I’m going to be discussing– that human
rights are criminals’ rights. I see someone laughing
in the back here. Of course I’m not
the first person to have observed that this
is something people often say in Guatemala. And comments like this do
get made in other countries across Latin America. Teresa Caldeira has written
about very similar sentiments in Brazil, for example. I know, for example,
[INAUDIBLE] Gonzalez, who’s done research
in Uruguay and Brazil recently found nearly identical
sentence being described there in very different settings. And then we have
some other authors, primarily anthropologists
and sociologists, who have written about this
exact phenomena in Guatemala. But their writings basically
then state in passing, a lot of Guatemalans
will say things like human rights are
criminals’ rights. And no one’s really unpacked
what exactly this means or what consequences it
has either theoretically or in a policy sense for human
rights advocacy in Guatemala. So in this presentation,
what I’m going to do is I’m going to use original
qualitative data from Guatemala to be a little
bit more specific. So I’m going to parse this
general sentiment into three more concrete narratives. And then I’m going
to link those, work on trying to
figure out some of the roots of those narratives
and their theoretical and policy consequences. So the data that I’m going
to be presenting here comes primarily from my
dissertation research. And while I was doing the
dissertation research– my research question did
not involve human rights. It was about crime, but it was
not involved with human rights. But I thought this
was really striking that people were
continuously bringing up the question of human rights
unprovoked in the interviews that I was doing. And so as a general matter
in all the interviews I started asking, either
at the very beginning or at the very end an
open-ended question about human rights,
which was basically, what do you think
about human rights? And sometimes I couldn’t
even finish the question because people
would get so angry before the term human rights
even came out entirely. People would just start
yelling and ranting. So that was part
of why I started shifting to doing it at the end,
because if they got angry then we could just end the
interview after that. So the interviews are from
about 220 Guatemalans. This is in three
rural municipalities. One of the municipalities
was heavily affected by the civil war, and
is majority indigenous, and is in the
department of Quiche, for those who are
interested in Guatemala. The other two
municipalities, one of them is majority indigenous but
it’s in the east of the country and was not significantly
affected by the civil war, and the other is
majority non-indigenous and is also in the
east of the country and was not affected
by the civil war. And the interviews in the
capital, which is only about 20 of the total, those
interviews were with what we might call elites–
so civil society leaders, heads of NGOs, and
some people working in the interior ministry, for
example in the justice system. So I wanted to
address a few question that you might have about how
I’m reaching my conclusions or what evidence I have
drawn from these interviews. The first thing we
might wonder about is– reappropriating some
different terms here– but basically internal validity. That is, for the people
who I’ve interviewed, am I accurately
representing their views– some which are pretty
surprising that I’m going to share with you. So here are some reasons–
I’ve thought about this a lot and looked back at
it quite a bit– why I think I can be fairly
confident in my representations of the interviews I’m going
to be sharing with you today. So the first is
that subjects often brought up the issue of crime
and human rights on their own spontaneously. So in many instances
I didn’t even get to asking
about human rights. If you ask someone about their
opinions of crime or policing, bam, you immediately get
to blaming human rights for the country’s crime crisis. So that to me suggested
that this was something that people authentically
felt– I wasn’t putting words in their mouth. The theme recurred
throughout the interviews, often in various places
and various different ways. So even if I explicitly
asked about human rights in one place, this
discourse would get woven into other answers repeatedly. So here I’ve selected
a few, just a few, of some of the most
interesting– or juiciest or most compelling–
quotes to share with you. But this was woven through
in more subtle ways throughout the interviews. Importantly, the views
that people expressed in their interviews
are consistent with their other
conversations and behaviors that I observed while doing
participant observation research also. So I was also living
in the towns where I was doing the interviews and
spent a lot of time with people while they were discussing
issues spontaneously related to crime and security,
or perhaps discussing a particular incident that
had happened in their town. And views that they
expressed in their interviews recurred in those
other settings. I was asking
open-ended questions. And then finally,
we might wonder about the political
leanings of the people that I was interviewing. I didn’t have people
place themselves formally on a left-right scale,
and that might not have even made sense
to people there– a lot of Guatemalan
political parties don’t really have
an ideology even. But I did interview a number
of people who we might think would be among the
least likely to be critical of the
concept of human rights or to be saying things like
human rights only protect criminals. And some of those types of
people including people working in law enforcement or the
judiciary themselves– so people who are in this
case college educated, if they’re working
in the judiciary or who are police
officers– people who run NGOs, who are running
humans rights organizations– for example in Guatemala City. And then in this municipalities
where I was doing the research, I interviewed quite
a few people who were self-identified
actually as leftist and were indigenous rights
organizers and leaders. And all these types of people
either agreed with sentiments that I’m going to
be sharing with you or recognized them as a
problem in their neighbors or in society in general
that was difficult for them to combat. So they basically
recognized the phenomenon we’re going to be describing. So in the future I’m
thinking about ways to expand the project to
address external validity, which is usually a problem with
qualitative interview research– how
generalizable are the views that I’m sharing
with you here today. If it turns into a paper that’s
just about Guatemala– and one idea is to try to bring
in some survey data that would be complimentary
and allow us to look at certain national trends. It’s a little bit
surprising that I’ve yet to find a national survey
in Guatemala that’s been done that includes the
term human rights specifically. If anyone knows of such
a survey let me know, because I would love to have
their questions or their data. But there are some questions
from some other recent surveys that get at views that
would be similar to what I’m going to describe here. So that’s one idea. Another idea is that [INAUDIBLE]
Gonzalez and I have discussed, maybe merging this paper
with some of her research that she’s done in
Uruguay and Brazil where she found [INAUDIBLE]
similar attitudes. And then we would combine all
of the interview and participant observation research
from the three countries and probably have
this be one paper. So I am interested
to know feedback from you guys which direction
we should potentially go in the future. So that’s a little bit of
background about the project and its possible directions. Now I wanted to give a
little bit of introduction to Guatemala. This is and international
studies center, so I’m assuming most
people know Guatemala is in Central America. [INAUDIBLE] civil war
between 1960 and 1996. And since the end
of the civil war has experienced some of the
highest violent crime rates in the world. And Guatemala, along with
El Salvador and Honduras, is in what people call northern
triangle in Central America, or less flatteringly
the Triangle of Death. And there are good
reasons for this. In some areas– Guatemala
City or some rural areas even, homicide
rates in Guatemala can be as high at the local
level as 200 per 100,000 per year, which is
really astounding. So the World Health
Organization, for example, considers anything over 10
homicides per 100,000 per year to be an epidemic. We’re talking about rates that
are 20 times as high as that in some parts of the country. So that’s an important context. A lot of people have
some familiarity with Guatemala in the US. And so I mentioned just
a few of the typical ways that people have
either encountered Guatemala or view Guatemala. So the first one
is usually tourism. Has anyone here been to
Guatemala as a tourist? OK, that’s a pretty
common answer. Yes it is a nice place
to visit potentially– there are nice
volcanoes and things. Unfortunately, that’s not really
what I’m talking about today. Another common frame, a way
[INAUDIBLE] with Guatemala is adoption. So by the year
2007-2008 actually so many Guatemala babies
were being adopted in the US that 1 out of every 100
babies born in Guatemala was adopted in the US. And that rate, the number
of babies leaving Guatemala in those years,
exceeded the number of babies leaving– it’s
either Russia or China. Basically Guatemala vaulted
to be the second highest exporter of babies, if you want
to think of it that way, which raises some real problems and
speaks to some issues of rule of law and things like that
that are tangentially related to this presentation. Poverty– Guatemala is one
of the poorest countries in the Americas. And in some areas, such as child
malnutrition rates for example, Guatemala is
comparable to Haiti. In other areas, Guatemala
does a little bit better. The median income is
actually– excuse me, the mean income– is
actually not that bad. Guatemala comes out looking like
a lower middle income country, but there’s severe inequality. So the idea that Guatemala
is poor is largely right. Indigenous culture and
rights– obviously we go back to Menchu for example. She’s from Guatemala, won
the Nobel Peace Prize. A lot of people are familiar
with indigenous movements and social movements
and things there. And narco trafficking
and organized crime gets a lot of attention
in the media in the US. It would be easy to think
that drug trafficking is the only type of
crime that happens in Guatemala or the main
concern of Guatemalans. That’s actually not
necessarily the case. I’m going to talk about
that on the next slide, the types of crime that I’m
talking about in this talk. And then finally,
of course, genocide during the civil war
and human rights abuses is something else that a
lot of people know about. And that’s actually
not precisely what this talk is about either. And I mention these
things because I actually ran into someone
last week who works in international human rights
and has worked on Guatemala. And I was trying to explain
the subject matter of my talk here this week,
and she could not grasp what I was talking about. She kept saying, oh, so you’re
talking about human rights protecting criminals
like Rios Montt. And then I said, no,
no, no, that’s not what the talk is about at all. So I just wanted to
throw these up here. If you guys have questions of
these other areas of course I’m fine to talk
about that in the Q&A. So what was more specifically
am I talking about? When Guatemalans say that
human rights protect criminals, the type of criminals
that they’re talking about is what in Spanish we would
call delinquentes generally. There are a couple other terms
that Guatemalans use too. And criminals is one of
these funny words in English we really– oh my gosh, sorry,
I did not plug in my computer. I’ll just plug this in
for a second, sorry. You got everything you need? Yeah, I have a cord right here. Sorry, I just did
not [INAUDIBLE]. I should have just
plugged this in. OK, sorry. No problem. So I think that I was about
to say that in English we really only have one
word for criminals. In Spanish that are a lot of
different types of criminals. And in some ways this
proliferation of terms reflects reality
in Guatemala today. So the types of criminals that
I’m talking about in the talk today are people we might think
of as common criminals, or gang members for sure. So by gang members
Guatemalas would be meaning [INAUDIBLE],
members of the Maras or Mara Salvatrucha, 18th Street, other
local spin-offs of those gangs or imitation cliques. And sometimes we’re
talking about groups of small, lightly-organized,
unsophisticated crime syndicates. So for example, a
small-scale kidnapping ring in a town
involving four guys. That could fall
into the category of what people are conceptually
talking about here. They’re not referring
to either war criminals, like Rios Montt, or
international drug trafficking, high-level organized crime. Both of those things are
of significant concern in and of themself, but that’s
not what they’re referring to, or what I’m referring to with
criminals here in this talk. And then also the
term human rights in he excerpts
from the interviews I’m going to be showing you
is a little bit complicated or it’s a little bit confusing. So I’m going to be showing
you excerpts from interviews translated into English. And when people talk
about human rights, this could either mean
[INAUDIBLE] which is probably what you’d think of. Or Guatemalans sometimes
personify human rights and use human rights
to talk about actors who promote human rights. So people will say things
like, human rights showed up. That doesn’t really very
much sense in English, but that’s exactly what
people could say in Spanish. And so what they
would be meaning would be any one of
these possibilities here. And it gets a little
bit confusing, because sometimes
they’re not even clear who they mean exactly. They just mean someone
promoting human rights or working on behalf
of human rights. So the possibilities
of who the could might be who is
showing pretty could be the Guatemalan Human
Rights Prosecutor’s Office, which is a federal prosecutorial
office that works to protect human rights in the country. That’s one of the most
common actors [INAUDIBLE]. Other Guatemalan
government employees tasked with protecting
human rights– so sometimes an internal
monitor, or something like that, from the police
who might show up and say, don’t do this, don’t
do that, you’re violate someone’s human rights. Domestic human rights
NGOs– so advocacy groups that are often based in
either departmental capitals or in Guatemala
City in the capital. International human rights NGOs. And then also
foreign governments or international
cooperation agencies, international aid
agencies who are viewed as being concerned
with human rights. So in the quotes
people will often just say human rights showed up,
but this is the menu of actors that they’re referring to. So to get us started, I wanted
to share one lengthy excerpt here from one interview which
you’ll see rolls together all the different
narratives that I’m going to be talking about. So I’m going to share this
with you and then move on to talking about the
different components and the different
points that are actually getting made in this interview. So this was an
interview that I was doing with someone who is a
young non-indigenous woman who, even by the standards
of her rural town, is not doing so
well economically, kind of a precarious situation. She’s basically a
street vendor of food. And her father had
recently been killed, he had recently been
murdered in their town. But that wasn’t really what
we were discussing here. So I just asked her, I said
as far as you’re concerned, what do you think
of human rights. And she says, well, human rights
only came to ruin everything. And I say in what way. And she says well, [INAUDIBLE]
they support criminals– today justice is not done because
they support criminals. And I say, well, what do
they do to support criminals. And she says, well now,
one cannot even go and ask for justice. Because there’s no right to it,
they also have their rights. The perpetrators, the
killers, yes, they also have their rights. No, that doesn’t help at all. Ever says then– she means ever
since human rights came– ever since then, things have
been bad here in Guatemala. And it goes on. So they don’t
protect people then. She says they’re protecting the
perpetrators, the murderers. Because that was the
problem– they wouldn’t even let us see my father’s killers,
because they protect them instead of acting
according to law. No, they protect murderers,
they take care of them. They take care of
them, they wouldn’t let anyone go harm them. They had already
killed my father. But they wouldn’t let
anyone touch them, because human
rights protect them. So we’re in a bad
spot, you know, because killers are held
prisoner just for a while and they want proof
of everything. And even though they
caught them in the act, that’s not sufficient for them. So then they let them go
and they kill more people. They leave you to worse, because
there’s no justice, no, no. And it goes on. So when you say that there’s no
justice, if there were justice, what kind of justice
would you want? And then she asks,
what would I want? And I say yes. And then she says that, well,
that he who kills be killed. He who kills should be
killed, that would be good, if I do something
bad to another person then they should
do it back to me. Because only God
has the right– I assume she meant only God
has the right to take a life. But I would like to see
justice done in this way. Because the prisoners
are eating and drinking, they even have
businesses in prison. They live better in prison
than on the streets. They have televisions,
they even have pool tables. They’re incarcerated,
but they live better because they have everything. So this is actually pretty
typical of the kind of answers that I would get back
during my interviews. But it’s a little bit
confusing to sort out what people are
concretely saying when they launch this visceral
attack on human rights. So what I’m actually going
to do in this talk here is try to separate out
these kinds of comments into three somewhat distinct
narratives or claims that people are
using to understand their lives and the situation
they find themselves in. And these are all interrelated. So some people will espouse
all of them all at once. Some people focus a little bit
more on one than on the other. So the excerpt we just saw
there was a lot of numbers two and three here, that human
rights prevent criminals from being punished and human
rights protect criminals and not victirms– a little bit
less of number one explicitly. So now what I’m
going to do is go through each of these
different narratives and explain them a little
bit and also give some more examples of
how each of these works to support this broad
idea that human rights protect criminals. So the first variant
of this argument that I heard quite a bit is that
human rights encourage crime. And there are two
ways that people would assert this happens. So the first is an excess
of rights argument, that now people have
too many rights, people are actually too
free, and this freedom means that people feel like
they can commit crimes. It’s like democracy gone
wild is this understanding of this critique
of human rights. A second one, or a second
sub-point in this argument, is the idea that people don’t
fear the state enough anymore because the state is
no longer repressive. And so therefore, human rights
had to do with the state being less repressive. The state is less repressive
so people commit more crimes. So human rights encourage crime. So we have a few examples
of this type of reasoning. Now this person is
really interesting. So this is Domingo– I had
everybody choose pseudonyms, so this was the
pseudonym that he chose. And he actually is an
example of something who is a
self-identified leftist. And he’s an indigenous rights
leader in his town in Quiche. So he falls into that
category of people we wouldn’t really expect to
hold these types of views. And sure enough, at
first he starts out saying that human rights are
magnificient– God gives us all these rights. This is sounding pretty good. But the problem is
that some people apply them badly and
take advantage of them to do bad things. And when they get
caught, they say, oh you can’t punish me
because of my human rights. They take advantage of
the concept to do wrong. That is what some
people do, like criminals– they use human
rights for protection. So here he’s an
example of somebody who has a moderate
view of human rights. This was something I
heard a lot actually. Some people have bought in hook,
line, and sinker to the idea that human rights only
protect criminals. Some people think that there are
some good sides to human rights but that they also either
protect criminals or encourage crime, which is what
Domingo is saying here. Now here’s another example. This is more on the
second sub-point that I was raising
earlier about the state not be sufficiently repressive. So this was Raul,
who is not indigenous and from eastern Guatemala. On And when I asked him what
he thought of human rights he said, oh, human
rights, no, no, no. Now since that came along
they’ve not let the police and military do anything. Because according to what I know
from my parents and other older people, will General Ubico
and General Rios Montt were in the presidency they
would just grab the criminals like so and they would
kill them and was no role for human rights. But let me tell you,
according to society, the fact that they killed one of
those people, that was fine, because they were
removing a person who was doing wrong rather than good. The military governments
killed all those people. So then I asked,
well, so if there was military government
internationally do you think there’d be less crime? And he says, oh yes, yes, that’s
why now, how can I even explain it, people are yearning for
General Otto Perez Molina to reach the presidency
because he’s a military man. And local, he is. This was done before the
election– he was then elected, he’s now president of Guatemala. This also relates to the
other project that I’m doing. I told you there would be
glimmers of the other project in this project. And so these are
just two examples of the types of answers that
I heard fairly typically throughout the interviews
in this first area. So the second narrative
that I’ve parsed out is the idea that human
rights prevent criminals from being punished. And there are a couple
of different variants of this, or logical points that
often fall into this argument. So the first is that
human rights literally prevent law enforcement
from catching criminals. So this is people saying
essentially you’ve got criminals, you’ve got
police, you’ve got judiciary, and human rights
are the thing that are preventing the police from
going and getting the criminals or from processing them and
prosecuting them effectively. A second variant
of this is the idea that human rights advocates are
skilled at getting criminals released on technicalities. So a lot of people have a
perception that human rights advocates are really
well educated, they’re really
passionate, they have a lot of resources relative
to other local actors, and they have a lot of
time on their hands, and they really know the law. And so they’re really adept
at manipulating the system in a way that
prosecutors aren’t. Just the perception. I should also add that
I don’t necessarily endorse any of these
views– I’m just sharing other people’s
views with you. And then finally,
people will often say things along the
lines of the human rights don’t allow for sufficiently
severe punishment of criminals. And so we’ll see some examples. But this would be
essentially the idea that if someone tries
to lynch a thief, or, kill a criminal,
or something like that, human rights or human rights
advocates will show up and will stop them
from doing it. So therefore, there’s
not sufficient deterrence and there’s not sufficient
punishment of criminals. So I’m going to go through
again some examples that relate to each of these
different points here. So I would say that the general
concept that human rights prevent criminals
from being punished is the most common
variant of human rights are criminals rights
that I would hear. And so you often get
very general statements along these lines. Those are just some examples. Oh, here with human
rights now it’s not possible to get justice. Human rights come and
help the criminal. Human rights are
bad because they go around defending bad
guys, thieves, murderers. Human rights only serve
to protect criminals. So these are fairly
vague statements. And then in some cases
I was able to get people to elaborate, like what do
you actually mean when you say they’re protecting criminals. How do they do that? What tools do they use? These were the
kinds of questions I was asking to try to
get people to be more concrete in their interviews. So here’s one example. So this is someone from
Quiche who’s not indigenous. So [INAUDIBLE], explain. He says, well, the person
goes to prison a ton of times and because of human rights
they cannot find him again more thoroughly. The killer goes, kills someone,
goes to prison for a few years, and gets out because
then someone who works on human rights intervenes. So this is that idea that human
rights advocates are basically either preventing people from
being tried or getting them out of jail. Now Alex here is
interesting because he works for the judiciary. So he was explaining,
well human rights are very good in the
sense that they protect the constitutional
rights of the citizens, all people who live in
the Republic of Guatemala. The only exception,
or the bad things in human rights or the Human
Rights Prosecutor’s Office, is that they’ve been
looking out more for the interests of criminals. The criminals commit
their criminal acts, and the police come,
they capture them, and the first thing they– he
means the alleged criminals– say is that this is an illegal
arrest because they haven’t done anything. And then they say, the
criminals always say, is that the first thing
they’re going to do is go and complain
to human rights. This makes policing difficult.
So this is more the sense that they are literally–
human rights are literally– preventing the police from
detaining people and keeping them in detention. Then we have [INAUDIBLE]
again– this is actually all one long statement from him. I just separated it out to
try to make it really clear. This is like that last
point, that the idea of human rights or
human rights actors prevent people from punishing
criminals in the way that they would
like to punish them. So he says, well, if
you want to do something to a criminal, human rights
will not agree with it. If you want to make something
happen in a situation where it’s necessary
to carry out justice, human rights will come and
say no, because that and that, and no, no, no. So many people do
not agree with that. And then Carlos, who
is from the same town, is a little more explicit. He says, if we
kill a thief here, human rights and a ton of
international institutions will come. And presumably what he meant
was give people a hard time. So this is basically– what my
dissertation is really about is lynchings and other forms of
vigilantism in Guatemala, which are very, very, very common. And so essentially what
both people are saying is that human rights won’t
let them carry out vigilantism in a way that they would like
or criticizes it when they do. And then the third
narrative, that is embedded in the broader
critique of human rights as criminals rights, is the
idea that human rights protect criminals and not victims. This is a little bit different
than the other two areas I shared with you. So some of the
substantive points that people tend to
make in this narrative are the idea that good people
deserve rights and bad people don’t, that human
rights advocates work to protect the
rights of criminals, and human rights
advocates don’t work on behalf of victims of crimes. And we’ll see there is a
little bit more relationship to reality at least
in the last point. So I’ll discuss each
of those with you guys in a little bit more detail. So first, this is
getting to the idea of good people and
bad people and who deserves rights or assistance. So we have Ana. She says human rights have
come and upset everything. That’s actually
pretty common– I mean you guys may have
noticed even in the excerpts that I’ve been sharing, and
this is just a small sample of the 200 plus interviews. Literally, verbatim
saying human rights have come and upset everything,
very common way of starting answers to this question. So human rights have come
and upset everything. Because now it’s
not about the rights of the citizen, the
person who’s doing good, but rather that rights
are for criminals. And implicitly she’s saying
criminals are not citizens, which is real interesting. Then I have Jesus, who is
another example actually of somebody who self-identifies
as a human rights activist actually. So he’s also indigenous
and from Quiche. And he’s really interesting–
this is a good, I think, illustration of how participant
observation combined with interviews sometimes gives
us more formation than just doing interviews by themselves. Because I’d spent
some time with Jesus, and I’d been to his house, and
talk to him in other settings. This is someone who owns several
books by Rigoberta Menchu, this is someone who has
been to a human rights training conducted by Unicef. And the man actually has a copy
of a training manual related to the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights in his house. And this is not a
luxurious house– his whole collection of books is
basically the Rigoberta Menchu books and the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. So when I got to know
Jesus, I thought, surely this will be someone
who wholeheartedly doesn’t have really any
critique of human rights. And yet. So here’s Jesus’ take. He says, well human rights
should work for both sides, they should be balanced. But a large part of the
population is left unprotected. When there’s a rape, an assault,
a kidnapping, where are they, where are human rights? And what he means is for the
victim where are human rights. Where are the rights
activists, why aren’t they there helping the victim? And then this is a really
interesting except that gets to the idea of who
deserves rights or doesn’t. So Guillermo is
saying, well, I think human rights should exist
but they should stick to doing their job, which is not
so much to protect criminals, but rather to be the
protectors of the people so that their human
rights are not violated. I would like to see human rights
protect those people who really deserve protection, that’s all. And then I asked, well, what if
they say that everyone deserves protection– so the idea
of universal human rights– and Guillermo says, I think
that not everybody deserves protection. That’s my personal opinion. What protection does
someone deserve when he’s killed six, seven people? This was a really common
objection that I heard, just basically a wholehearted
disagreement with the idea of universal human rights. And then this is
actually someone else who works in
law enforcement at a fairly high level in
one of these rural towns. And he’s got a
nuanced opinion here– he’s analyzing some
of the other views that I’ve shared with you. So he says, I think that
human rights are good. They’re good, but
the information is misunderstood by the public. The public, what they
see is that the people who go around fighting
for human rights– the state authorities– they
defend the criminals more than the person
who is the victim. And that is really
what they see. What happens is
the judicial system has to respect the
rights of the people. And the truth is that we
forget the victims sometimes as judicial officials. We forget the victim. We realize that we have to tell
the person accused of the crime that they have the
right to this, and that, and these guarantees,
and the victim is just left by the wayside. It shouldn’t be that way. And so perhaps you need a
place with a very high impunity rate and really no
victim services at all. There are perhaps some
glimmers of reality at least underpinning something
of these attitudes in this latter category. And it’s important to
note for the context, or putting this in
context– and as I was mentioning earlier–
rates of violent crime are very high in Guatemala. So there aren’t really any
credible national victimization surveys. But one of the recent
victimization surveys in Guatemala City found that
in a third of households someone had been the victim
of a violent crime last year. And that’s a violent crime. Basically everyone
has either been the victim of a
serious crime recently or knows someone has been. And so I think it’s
fairly accurate to say that people
see themselves as– Well I like this
quote here, which is from Susana
Rotker, and something she wrote in 2002
actually about Venezuela. But it’s basically the
idea of potential victims. I’m using it here to
apply to Guatemala. But a lot of Guatemalans see
them as potential victims. The way she explains the
potential victims is this is someone who could
be killed at any moment because they fetch a big
ransom, because they wear brand-new shoes, or
because the assailant who made a bet with his friends
fired his gun by mistake. The potential victim is middle
class, wealthy, or poor. It’s anyone who goes
out and is afraid, afraid because everything is
rotting and out of control, because there is no control,
because no one believes in anything anymore. And when you’re in this
kind of environment, if people buy into
a certain rhetoric that human rights protect
criminals and not victims, and virtually everyone views
themself as a potential victim, then a huge percentage
of the population is finding themself alienated
from the idea of human rights, or maybe that human rights
doesn’t apply to them. So I think this last area is
really fairly significant. So what do I think are some of
the root problems underlying the whole discourse that I’ve
presented to you here today? I think that absolutely
impunity and high rates of violent crime, especially
combined with impunity, really underlie a lot
of the frustrations. And that’s often the
topic that people who are linking [INAUDIBLE]
the human rights to. The conviction rate– I
think it was in, oh gosh, it was either in 2008 or
2005, one of those two years, but recently– there was
a year in which there were over 5,000
murders in Guatemala and 8 convictions for murder. So the conviction rate,
even for homicide, is usually somewhere
between 1% and 3% per year. And for other
crimes, most people don’t even report
them to the police. If you look at crime
data from Guatemala, you see a really
strange anomaly where usually other types of crimes
are a lot more prevalent. But in Guatemala,
property crimes and stuff like that aren’t
going to get reported. So just vast, vast, vast,
massive rates of impunity. The UN Special
Rapporteur said recently Guatemala is a good place to
commit murder because you’ll probably get away with it. And that’s absolutely true. So the second big area I think
is lack of support for victims. This is again a huge
percentage of the population. I was really struck when I was
doing the interviews that I wasn’t actually seeking to find
out information about people’s own personal experiences with
crime victimization and crime crime. And a lot of people
insisted on bringing up recent serious crimes
that had happened to them and really insisted on framing
their experiences presenting themself as a victim
of violent crime. So this is an identity
that a lot of people feel that they have. Typically I’d
start my interviews for my dissertation research
just with a question when and where were you born. And I had at least five people
respond to that question by telling me things
like, well, my husband was murdered last year. So this is really–
the idea of being a victim or potential
victim– very salient. Almost no support for them. So Rosa’s family,
for example, who we saw the quote from
in the beginning, they had to work really hard to
find the body of the person who had been murdered, got no
updates about the case. And it’s really a
very difficult system. It is difficult for
me to ascertain often what has happened to
a case in Guatemala. So for people who
aren’t used to dealing with the judicial system or
managing complex documents, it’s almost impossible
to figure out really what’s happening to your case. And there’s really no
victim support services in the way we might think
of in the United States– so just compensation,
or counseling, or things like that. Lack of knowledge
about due process combined with distrust of
law enforcement and state. And we know the levels of trust
in the police in Guatemala are very, very low. And this lack of knowledge,
lack of understanding, and lack of patience,
this was something that a lot of the judicial
officials and people in the law enforcement sector
that I interviewed flagged as one of the
frustrations that leads people to then blame human rights
for the problems of crime in the country. So people sometimes
honestly don’t understand why someone
might be detained, and then be released, and then be called
back for their trial or some of the evidentiary standards
that the legal system has. And then finally,
of course, there’s the historic vilification of
human rights in Guatemala. So this is a term
that’s in Guatemala primed to associate with all
sorts of negative actors. During the era of the
civil war, the government was quite aggressive
and vociferous in denouncing and criticizing
human rights advocates, and in many cases actually
even calling the human rights community themselves either
terrorists or criminals– deliquentes. So this mashing up–
this not the exact same, it’s not that
people are spouting out exact same rhetoric again. But the notion that
there some association between human
rights and criminals or that human rights can
be somehow advocating for criminals, some
of the [INAUDIBLE]. So what are some
of the consequences of these attitudes? One of the biggest
immediate consequences is hostility toward
human rights advocates and the idea of human rights. And as I was
mentioning, sometimes in the interviews if I made the
mistake of mentioning the term human rights too early
in the interview people would get really angry and
go off on these diatribes. So this is something that
makes it really difficult to do training, do education,
address some of the problems I mentioned on the first slide. Because if you can’t
even discuss a concept– it’s become so polarized and
gets people so angry– then where do you start? And there’s real hostility
toward human rights advocates. Some of that is related to all
the other political conflicts in the country. But some of it is
related to this feeling that they’re
protecting criminals. So sometimes when people
try to intervene– to stop a lynching,
for example– these attitudes can be behind
some attacks on human rights advocates. Further dehumanization
of alleged criminals– the dehumanization,
in particular, of alleged gang members
in Guatemala is legendary. Town security
committees will even put up these caricatures
of gang members with tattoos behind bars
and things like that. And this is a country
with a strong history of dehumanization, and
in fact of genocide. And so this is keeping
alive those ideas, albeit with a different target–
in this case, criminals. Obviously rejection of the
idea of universal rights. This is the whole rhetoric that
some people deserve rights, other people don’t. It’s very contradictory to
the idea of universal rights. Further weakening of
trust in law enforcement and democratic
state institutions to the extent that law
enforcement and state– like the Human Rights
Prosecutor’s Office– are being seen as protecting
criminals and not victims. That leads people to trust them
even less than they already do. So some of these
things are circular. And support for
vigilantism, which I’ve talked about in my other work. And then in some cases support
for military government or [INAUDIBLE], which is
very harsh policing tactics. Domestic human rights
groups, by which I mean human rights
groups based in Guatemala staffed by
Guatemalans, tend to be very aware of this discourse. And they actively work to
address its root cause. So it was really interesting
when I did interviews with people who run human
rights NGOs in Guatemala City. If I even mentioned–
I’d ask them things like do you have
problems with people saying that human rights
protect criminals. The reaction I got
was always, oh yeah– every time we give a
talk, every time we give a presentation, any time we even
put out a poster with the word human rights on it, we
get this criticism back, don’t human rights
only protect criminals. So they’re very
well aware of this. And I think it’s
really interesting that a number of domestic human
rights groups in Guatemala– so groups like GAM, which
is the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo, the mutual
support group, they were founded to deal
that the human rights abuses of the civil
war and to support surviving family
members people who had been killed in the civil war. And they’ve actually shifted
some of their advocacy efforts to work on crime and to work
with crime victims today. So it’s very interesting. They were running a support
program, for example, for the widows of bus drivers
who’ve been shot and killed in Guatemala City. And to the
international community, these are not people we think
of as victims of human rights abuses today. Because the murderers of
these people’s husbands were common crime, if
you want to call it that. But some of these domestic
human rights groups have pivoted and are starting
to work on paint crime as a human rights issue. Or the discourse that
a lot of them will use, or that they’re
trying to promote, is the idea of
democratic security, that a well-functioning
democratic state, we can protect
everyone’s rights. And so that’s their preferred
term they’re promoting. Some of them have
even gotten involved– so even Helen Mack, for example,
Myrna Mack’s sister, who runs one of those
prominent human rights groups in Guatemala City, became
the Commissioner for Policy Reform for a period of time. So domestic groups
are very involved with issues of
policing, and crime, and to some extent
crime victim’s rights. International groups not
at all, as I can tell. So if you look at
recent publications– I haven’t yet done
interviews with them. I’m interested in
potentially expanding as part of the project also,
if you guys find it interesting and you’d recommend that. But based on their
publications really do not seem to be
aware of this, based on the informal
conversations with people who work in international NGOs
that are active in Guatemala. They seemed blindsided
when I’ve mentioned this entire critique
of human rights, that they protect criminals. And I think there
are a few reasons why they might systemically
be ignoring this issue or downplaying it, at least
in the publications that I’ve looked at so far. So the first is that the
international human rights advocacy community
in Latin America was historically
focused on limiting the power of the state– so
reining in abusive states, stopping excess police
detentions, illegal detentions. So it would be very contrary
to their founding ideals to ever be put in
a position to say, no, you should
strengthen policing, we should be working
on police reform. I think that would be a
hard move for them to make– not impossible, but
not something they’re inclined naturally to do. And then a second
possible reason is that most international
humans rights groups historically
focused on negative rights rather than positive
or affirmative rights. So by negative
rights I mean freedom from– so freedom from abuse,
rather than positive rights. Because in, for
example, the ICCPR, there is a right to
justice actually. The people who have been
the victims of crimes– it’s very explicitly
stated– theoretically have the right to
judicial redress for the crimes against them. But this kind of promoting
positive or affirmative actions of states has not
historically been the focus of the international
rights community. So I will leave it at that
and take your questions. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. This is super interesting. I know you don’t want to take
a stance on the rightness or wrongness of some of the
statements that you showed– Oh, I think some of
them are totally wrong. I’d be completely
happy to say that. Yeah. Well maybe you can
then just reply. I’m going to play
devil’s advocate a bit. Couldn’t you make the argument
that– so let me start over. So what you’ve shown
here, you’ve really framed as perceptions,
and misunderstandings, and a lack of knowledge
about the way things happen or are
supposed to happen. But couldn’t you also
make the argument that there’s more
than a grain of truth to a lot of what
these individuals have said based on their
personal experience and then based on some
other evidence that we have. So I’m thinking of
three pieces of evidence in particular coming
out of Colombia. I’m not going to remember the
name, but I can get it for you. We know that insurgents
in Colombia know precisely the maximum number of people
they can kill in a given village and what behaviors
they can and cannot do in order to avoid attracting
human rights observers, human rights attention. So that to me is evidence
that criminals are indeed manipulating the
system and are really protected by human rights,
if you look at it that way. I’m also thinking about–
you had a commentary up there that was about someone who
had mentioned there’s rape, and there’s crime, and where’s
the justice for the victims. I’m just putting myself in
that person’s perspective and thinking about the
domestic abuse epidemic in Guatemala and how–
you’re going to know more about this than I do,
but my understanding is that women can get
refugee status in the US because the state has been
deemed completely negligent, almost turning a blind
eye to the problem. And so in light of that,
that comment, to me that sounds like that
person’s actual experience. And that may not be
actually a misperception or a misunderstanding of
how things actually happen or are supposed to
happen– that is the truth of what is happening. And it does, in
that sense, make it seem like the state is
really paying more attention to the criminal side of it. And the last piece of this
is a bit more removed. But I’m putting myself
in the state’s position relative to human
rights and I’m thinking about what incentives
they might have to be weary of taking these
cases to full prosecution. And I wonder if
International funding based on human rights records
has anything to do with that. So my understanding is that
from the US, a lot of the states whom we give funding is
based on showing improvement in human rights protections. And I wonder if that makes
the judicial system scared, for lack of a better word, to
not only enact human rights but to do it wrong or
to prosecute criminals in the incorrect way. And so when we talk about
people being able to get out of the system, and the
system is loosey-goosey, and no one really
knows how to do it, I wonder if there is some
incentive to– maybe incentive isn’t the right word, but
there is some hesitation to try and prosecute
someone in a system that they know is flawed
and which that is then going to reflect poorly on their
protection of human rights. Does that make sense? Yeah. Yeah. So there’s some
really good questions. Yeah, I should also say
as a general comment that as a matter of
ideology or interpretation I do just personally disagree
with a lot of what people said. But that said, I
take what they’re saying as their experience. So I didn’t mean to be
belittling or critiquing their own ability to express
their own experience, which is actually totally contrary the
entire approach of my project and everything else I’ve done. So the broader
point is well taken. But something [INAUDIBLE]
in reverse here. So you ended up with a
question about– essentially, I think you were asking
whether the state would be afraid of or concerned
about prosecuting people in ways that aren’t
in accordance with international
standards of due process or in ways that might be seen as
violating the rights of people who are accused of
crimes, because then they might lose some of their
international funding. So I think it’s really important
to note that historically there have been a lot of
problems with prosecution, overzealous prosecution,
in Guatemala, or false or trumped-up charges. So when I say human rights
groups have historically been working to rein
in abusive states, that’s basically Guatemala
or similar states that I’m talking about. And so there is a real problem–
I’m certainly not saying that without appropriate
procedures in place they should just be
aggressively prosecuting people, not respecting due process. That’s definitely
not what I’m saying. And there would be
really the possibility for a lot of people’s
rights being abused in that kind of scenario. In terms of losing
international funding, yeah, absolutely, Guatemala’s
international funding, especially from the US, is
tied to its human rights performance. They tend to be a little
bit more concerned about– so if they started
rampantly prosecuting criminals, or alleged criminals,
in ways that were illegal or not protecting
their rights, I think that would be a problem. More generally though,
up to the present the US has been more concerned
with Guatemala’s performance in human rights trials. So for example, the whole fiasco
with the Rios Montt trial. Just it, I think, it was
December of this last year. So December, 2014,
the US basically made future aid to
Guatemala conditional on retrying Rios
Montt domestically. And Guatemala is very
upset about this. And foreign diplomats are
sitting in on the trial and Guatemalan government
is accusing them of meddling in their justice
system, which maybe the US is. Whether that’s for
better or worse, it’s a matter of interpretation
or whose side you’re on. And then also– it’s a really
interesting change, actually, that the US government has
told the Guatemalan government, again, that their future aid
is conditional on getting the military out of
policing in the country. This is shocking to me. And the Guatemalan
government has said that it’ll go along with it. And a militarized policing
is the entire program that they’ve been promoting,
pursuing, and expanding for the last 10 years. And supposedly in
2016 the military– so soldiers right now patrol
the streets of Guatemala in camouflage
carrying out policing. And the civil police actually
transfer some of their budget to the military to
hire soldiers to go out and do policing for them,
which is really problematic and totally violates the
peace accords, for example. But there’s no
domestic actor, there’s no domestic opposition that’s
organized to stop this. And so it’s actually
the US government that has finally stepped in
and said, no, you actually have to stop doing
this, or else we’re going to cut off your aid. So aid conditionality
remains a real issue. And yeah, I think,
it’s possible if there were really problematic
prosecutions it would be a problem for them. So I’ll get to that in a second. So you had two
other points here. The point that
the state actually doesn’t serve any victims,
including especially victims of domestic violence–
absolutely true, totally absolutely true. So these sense that
people will have when they’re the victim of
a violent crime that they’re all alone, absolutely
very valid. People are often
re-victimized, and not just in an emotional
trauma sense. When I worked at the
embassy– so I’m bringing it up a little bit– there were
some cases that I worked on. We would respond to
American citizens who were victims of violent crime. And there was one
particular case where someone called
the police after being the victim of violent crime and
then was raped by the police after calling them. So, yeah, victim’s rights
are a big problem, especially for women. And then I don’t know as much
about the example from Colombia that you mentioned, so I
think we would talk about it afterwards or something. Yeah, totally picks up
on Rebecca’s comments and questions. First of all, really fascinating
talk, really depressing. I know you didn’t
mean it this way, because you then said
so in response to her, but there’s a sense of when
you present all these quotes and read them, there’s a
sense of they’re dupes, they’ve being misled,
they don’t know. But then some of the stuff
that you showed at the very end suggests there’s again
this not just kernel of truth but real truth. I guess the
background of this is a totally broken criminal
justice system, which I don’t think– some of the
stuff you said suggests that, but you didn’t really
talk about that. And so for human rights to have
positive meaning in people’s minds, they’re codified
in laws and then there has to be evidence
that the laws are actually carried out in a just manner. In the context of a broken
criminal justice system where it’s utterly corrupt and the
people who get off basically are buying their way
out or manipulating, there’s a lot more truth
to what they’re saying than what you’re suggesting. So if you want to? Yeah, no, the point
is well taken. I will say that part of the
reason I used the phrase kernel of truth, especially
having spent a lot of time with the people I’ve
interviewed– I definitely don’t think they’re
dupes, don’t want it to come across that way. And I think that their views
are things they believe based on their own experiences. I will say that I
had presented some of this material at a
conference before and emphasized a little bit more some of
the connections to reality and got to screamed and
swear– I was actually sweared at in a conference. So I’ll say that
I’m playing around with the right level of not
wanting to seem like I actually think human rights
only protect criminals, but at the same time
recognizing that for the people expressing these
views, for them there are valid and very
concrete experiences that have led them to think this. So it’s a fine
balance, and it may have to do with the
mix of anthropologists and political scientists
in the room, I’m not sure. You might want to talk about
that up front in your talk, about politics and
sensitivity of the language. Yeah, nobody wants to
see something presented that suggests that
people who are the beneficiaries of a lot
of human rights advocacy don’t themselves
like human rights. It almost makes
it sound like I’m saying international
human rights community should walk away from Guatemala
and throw its hands up. But that’s actually
not really what I want to be saying at all. But thank you. OK, I”ll start over here
and then work my way around. Well, I thought one of
the most interesting was the slide where you
talked about the domestic and the international
human rights groups and how they distinguish. And so you’re speaking
here to, let’s say for the sake of argument, a
crowd that here’s Guatemala and you have your
list at the beginning. Let’s say we’re more
serious than just tourists. We think human rights,
what a wonderful thing, it would be even worse without. And to hear that
anybody doesn’t believe that, it seems troubling,
to say the least. But then you pointed
out how the people there were reacting to this. And I can’t believe that
an anthropologist is now asking a political scientist
for comparative stuff, but I’m wondering
where does this come from in terms of the
violence, the murders, all that? And how does it
compare to other places that you can think of in
Latin America for instance? I mean, drugs you
mentioned in passing. But it would seem to
me that in addition to the broken
judiciary, which you find in a lot of different
places, you have the drug wars, you have the drugs
being ferried through. And I’m wondering
whether that doesn’t feature very prominently. And then a completely
different question. And this is the
anthropologist again in me. You go in as an American. And I don’t know how much you
used or didn’t even mention the fact that you used to
work for the government. But how did that
figure in in terms of how people responded to you? If you never said you worked
for the government, why not? All these kinds of things. Yeah. So the first point. I’ll just take the
comment that it’s interesting to make the
international domestic human rights communities. So where does the
balance come from, how did the judiciary
get so broken, how do this relate to drugs? I mean 5,000 murders
a year, is that higher than it was 20 years ago? Oh yeah. [INAUDIBLE] Something is developing–
it was a broken judiciary 20 years ago. Right, right. So a few things. First of all,
broken judiciary can encompass a lot of different
systems in Latin America. The degree to which
policing and judiciary is broken in Guatemala
is a little unusual, even compared to the rest
of Latin America. For example, much
higher– I don’t know the statistic off
the top of my head, but a much higher
percentage of homicides. For example, Mexico
actually solved. And so both the rates
of violent crime and he impunity– I’m not
saying that that’s a lot. That’s sufficient in
Mexican into saying that comparatively Guatemala
is probably along with Honduras one of the highest crime
and least capability states in terms of law
enforcement and judiciary. El Salvador, for example, has
considerably more resources and professionalization. Very high crime rates
also, but you even notice a difference if
you go into a police station in El Salvador. People have vehicles,
vehicles have gas. Police stations
in Guatemala often don’t have a working
telephone, their vehicles often don’t have gas. That is just the
most common thing, you’re talking to the police,
they’ll say– rural police. They’re all federal, but
they’re assigned to towns. And they’ll say, oh yeah,
we got a call last week but, look, there’s no gas, so
we can’t even drive anywhere to go investigate it. So just very, very,
very low capacity. And where drugs and high-level
international organized crime fit in are the incentives
for people in the judiciary and in the police. So in terms of threats to
people daily well-being, with the exception of a
few places in Guatemala, where there are
sometimes pitched gun battles between
narco trafficking groups, it’s usually quite
targeted violence that results from narco trafficking. And when we talk about 5,000
and 6,000 murders a year, there’s really no information
available about them. So people sometimes
do research in Mexico, and you can triangulate based on
newspaper reports which murders are drug violence and
which ones aren’t. It would be really
very difficult to do that for Guatemala. The news reporting for
most of these homicides is body found by road, the end. We know very little about
what it is that has happened. But I will say that I’ve had
some variation in the degree of organized crime actually
in the different regions where I was doing my research. And eastern Guatemala,
there is quite a bit of narco trafficking. And there was some
intermediate level– not like the
international cartels, but some local
landowners who were involved in narco trafficking
in one of the municipalities. And one of the
municipalities is one of these places that has a
very high level homicide rate. And– this is in
the book project, actually– but people
felt very safe. Oh, because if they
weren’t involved, they weren’t going
to get killed. Exactly. Yeah, it’s a high risk,
high reward proposition It’s very targeted. But the bigger impact,
I think, for this story that I’m telling today, from
drugs and organized crime is actually in making police
fearful to do their job and deterring judges from
even accepting posts. So there’s some regions
of the country where it’s very difficult
to get someone to agree to be a judge because
they’re likely to get killed, which then makes it
difficult to comply with international standards,
due process and things when you arrest someone,
because how can you bring them before a judge when
there is no judge. And there is no
judge because people are concerned about organized
crime, quite reasonably. And also for police, police
don’t get trained as units, they’re constantly getting
transferred around the country. And so it makes
it very difficult for them to assess the
local organized crime situation when they’ve gotten
sent to a new municipality. So the most reasonable
thing for them to do is actually to do nothing
and just protect themselves, hide in the police station,
and not investigate any crimes. Because what if that one crime
is related to organized crime and then they can
retaliate against them? So I think it does have some
of these institutional effects. But the explosion of
violence that people are more concerned about
is often gang violence. And people’s perception
of gang violence is– there’s a quote from a
chapter from Benson and Fisher, who are anthropologists. They talk about how
gang members loom larger than life over the countryside. As so people are really
maybe less concerned than they should be about
narco trafficking locally and much more concerned
about gangs– Maras, Mareros. Very, very concerned
about that type of crime. And then how did
I identify myself, being American or non-American. So I still know people
in Guatemala City from the time when I
worked in the embassy. So they obviously know that
I worked in the embassy. And one of the
biggest problems is that I’ve worked in a consular
section and people want visas. And people still want visas. And I occasionally
ran into people I interviewed for
visas, because I interviewed like 15,000
people and it’s not that big of a country. So for that reason, when I
was in the municipalities, the rural municipalities
where I do my research, I didn’t want people to think
that I can give them visas now. Because I really at this
point have no connection to the US government and can’t
do anything to get them visas. And the whole visa thing
is just a wormhole. And so I did not
specifically tell people that I’d worked
at the US embassy. I was also concerned
about people thinking that I was somehow involved
with DEA or CCE, which is this international institution. The only targeted
threat to my security was when somebody
thought, they actually thought I was Spanish,
which doesn’t really make any sense based
on the way I talk. But they thought that I was
a Spaniard working for CCE and investigating
organized crime. And so some local
narco traffickers, who were therefore
not happy, I was able to convince them
that I was not Spanish, did not work for CCE. And I had the
mayor’s phone number and we resolved
the whole problems. And so basically, the
way I presented myself was that I originally had gone
to about 25 municipalities when I was choosing
the case sites. And I talked to a pretty good
array of local leaders there. So the mayors, who usually
know everyone and everything, including any organized crime
actors that are in the area. That was critical,
to have a commission to support the mayor
to do a project there that had something to do
with crime and security. Teachers were very
helpful– people at schools, they tend to know a lot of
people in their communities. And the religious leaders. So both evangelical pastors
and Catholic church. And I was very careful–
some people historically have gone about
research in Guatemala especially through
introductions facilitated by the Catholic church often. And today the population
is pretty evenly divided in a lot of communities between
Catholics and evangelicals. So I just went to all the
churches all the time. So then the way I
presented myself, usually university student,
American university student doing a thesis. People are familiar
with anthropologists, because there are a
lot of anthropologists that do research in Guatemala. So usually in my
verbal consent script, I’d usually say,
political science student, it’s kind of like
being an anthropologist or a sociologist. Nobody has heard of
political scientists there, but there are a lot of
anthropologists running around. So people understand
the idea of, oh, you’re doing research
about communities, you’re doing research. People understand the
idea of doing a thesis. People were much more confused
when I went back to Guatemala and tried to explain
that I work at MIT. And they could
not piece together what I’m doing at a
technical institute. And I’ve actually now
asked for permission to just say that I’m at
a university in Cambridge to introduce myself
in the future because it was
just too confusing. Obviously people would
know that I was American. They would sometimes
ask why do you know so much about Guatemala. Or they would try to piece
together their own stories about how this happened. So I would usually–
this is something that [INAUDIBLE] told me–
just go vague, vague but true. So I’d usually say
I’d lived here before. And they would often
leave it at that. Or they’d say where, I’d
say I lived in the capital. They’d often leave it at that. And then if they
really pushed, they’d say what were you doing, I’d
just say I worked for the US government, they sent me here. And they’d usually
assume that I was in the Peace Corps,
that I was a secretary, or something like that. I never really had
anybody– but what were you doing, what were you doing? Or one of the other
common stories that people would concoct was
that I had a Guatemalan parent. That was another
real common one. Oh, you’re from the US, but
you speak Spanish really well, and you sound like a
Guatemalan sort of, so it must be that you have one
Guatemalan parent in the US. I never told people
that, I corrected them. But that was the story
a lot of people came up. Yeah, I guess I’m curious to
know– you didn’t talk much about people who do
support human rights or about variation across
the communities in which you did the field work. And I’m asking this in
part because while I don’t know about questions in
survey data on human rights, I know or have some
familiar with the questions on vigilantism and [INAUDIBLE]. And what you see, if
I remember correctly, if you think of
vigilantism and support for vigilantism as the
flip side or the mirror image of human rights,
is half of Guatemalans are critical of
vigilantism, which isn’t enough– I think–
but it’s still a lot. And then at the same
time, those numbers skew enormously on the
indigenous Ladino axis, with Ladinos being
only about half as supportive of
vigilantism as [INAUDIBLE]. Given that one of your
communities is indigenous and the aren’t aren’t, I’m
wondering is there a variation that systematic you see, and
if so, what does it look like? Yeah, that’s interesting. So I’m still playing
around with some of the most recent
[INAUDIBLE] data. And there are some really good
questions that are relevant. And I’m actually trying
to incorporate more into the revised version of
my dissertation for the book project. And this whole correlation
between support for vigilantism, what
we mean by vigilantism, where lynchings
happen– if that’s what we mean by vigilanteism–
and indigenous population, it’s kind of messy. And in my dissertation
project I argue that it actually has a lot
to do with the civil war. So the civil war targeted
indigenous people, so there’s this correlation
between indigenous population and wartime violence. And then you get
these correlations between views about
vigilantism and where lynchings happen after the war. Now I was actually
surprised, that said. So I have one majority
indigenous town that’s in Jalapa. And part of the
reason I ended up choosing that town–
all the variation here was chosen for the
dissertation project, not for this
particular project– but I chose that town because
it’s majority indigenous and was not significantly
effected by the civil war. And then there’s a majority
Ladino town, [INAUDIBLE]. And then there’s a majority
indigenous town, Quiche. So I should say that
some of the people, about half the people from
Quiche that we saw here, are not themselves indigenous. So there is even there
a pretty loud and vocal non-indigenous elite. And something I talking about
in the dissertation project is that there are some
of these lynchings that get coded as indigenous
lynchings there, because [INAUDIBLE] came up with
this data set of lynchings– the UN mission, UN Verification
Mission in Guatemala. And they have this
data set, which again is a little questionable. But they basically say
here’s a bunch of lynchings that happened, are they
indigenous lynchings or not? And their decision
rule is did it happen in a majority
indigenous municipality? And if yes, then they put
down indigenous lynching, which is how they categorize
some of the lynchings in this particular town where
I was doing the research. And I didn’t present any of this
here, but in the other project I go through very carefully
the very first lynching that ever happened in
that town and talk to people very concretely, like
who was there, who started it. It was the Ladinos, it
was the Ladino minority in this majority
indigenous town who were the main instigators
of the first lynching there. So it’s kind of an aside about
the indigenous Ladino question. In terms of variation
across the towns though, I was surprised how
little variation there was on the views
about human rights. So I definitely, like I talk
about in the another project, I definitely think
that there are differences in the way
people go about vigilantism. So in eastern Guatemala,
people are not generally doing things that are
collective, and public, and performative in the way
that they’re doing in the west. Doesn’t mean there’s
not vigilantism, it just means that it
doesn’t necessarily register when you ask
that type of question. And it’s not quite as
visible as the lynchings that are happening. So two of the most common,
most consistent attitudes that I found were
distrust of the police– so people will sometimes
say, oh, the reason there are lynchings in the west is
because people don’t trust the police, or
indigenous people don’t trust the police, or something. Nobody trusts the police. The Ladinos in eastern Guatemala
had the exact same complaints about the police that people
in western Guatemala did. So that was very constant. And then the critique of human
rights and the basic variants of the critique
about human rights that I was presenting
here were very constant across the two
places, which was quite surprising to me actually. And then in terms of people
who do support human rights, it’s interesting. Maybe I should go through
and tally this out, although it’s not going to
be a representative sample, so it doesn’t mean anything. But just thinking back
to the interviews, I should say that at
least a third of people– like a third to a half–
had some kind of mixed view about human rights. So I had a few quotes
that had this flavor where people will start out
and they’ll say, oh, human rights are
magnificent, human rights are great in theory,
but then in practice here it’s not working so well. There’s usually a “but”
somewhere in there. So people’s views are
a little bit nuanced. I didn’t really present this as
much– the areas where people seemed, when they
were discussing, to be the most supportive
of the idea of human rights, was social and economic rights. So it’s almost like they leapt
over the first generation rights and gone straight
to the second generation. That’s a lot less
controversial to say that people have a
right to health care, people have a right not to
be living in extreme poverty. To the extent that stuff came
up in my interview was not very controversial. But to say that criminals
have a right to due process is a very controversial
statement. You’ve been waiting patiently. Thank you for your presentation. So I was wondering
if you could tell us who benefits from this
kind of discourse. It seems to me that law
enforcement institutions might actually benefit
from this idea. You have a case of
basically state failure. And you need to explain somehow
the fact that you’re not able to catch and
prosecute criminals. And it would seem to me that
this goes very well with that, but I don’t know. And so then perhaps
for your future survey projects to see if there’s
a correlation between trust in law enforcement institutions
and belief in this attitude basically. So I was just wondering if
you could talk about that. Yeah, so it’s interesting. You’ve reasoned
your way to a point that some of my interviewees in
Guatemala City actually made. I didn’t present it
here, but some of them actually critized– well,
there are a lot of reasons you can criticize
Guatemalan law enforcement– but one of their criticisms
was that police officers or prosecutors,
sometimes when they’re trying to explain why they
haven’t solved a case, or they haven’t arrested
anyone, or they weren’t successful prosecuting
them, they’ll say, oh, we couldn’t catch this
person because human rights were tying our hands. So there are active proponents
of this explosive discourse, which sometimes include
people in law enforcement. I mean it’s not a blanket
statement– there are also people in law enforcement who
totally disagree with this. But sometimes that does come up. The other main two
beneficiaries are, to the extent that there is any
ideological coherence to Guatemalan political
parties, more right wing parties or military-affiliated parties. This is what the other
project is about. Some candidates in Guatemala
will make explicit references to their own past
human rights abuses as a qualification
for holding office. So in the domestic–
he didn’t do this very much internationally–
but in the domestic media during his presidential
campaign, Otto Perez Molina, it was very interesting
that he was domestically referred to as el
general, el general– the general, the general. And that was how the
person in the one interview here that I showed
was referring to him. And all of his
domestic advertisements he’d be in his old
military uniform, old pictures of himself. He was an
on-the-ground commander in the Ixil Triangle, which is
where the genocide happened, when the genocide happened. So he’s fairly
directly implicated. He was in some other
military intelligence units that have been
involved in some very problematic human rights cases. And he would
actually say things. And I saw one television
interview with him in Guatemala– that was
domestic television– where he was explicitly pointing
to his role in the genocide– well, he didn’t call
it that exactly, but in the saving
of the country– as qualifying him to
fight gang members today. So there’s actually
a situation, if you think that force
is the way to get things done and human rights
are making you unsafe, then it can actually make
sense to vote for someone who is a past human rights abuser
and might play fast and loose with the rules in the future. So I think that’s another set
of people who benefit from this. I think we have time
for one more question. OK. Well I see two, maybe
I’ll let you guys group and then I’ll try to
address it quickly. Sure. So I think this
might have already been answered to
some extent, but it seems like the question of
whether these people’s views are valid hinges on the
empirical question of what is the contribution of
these human rights groups or regulations on the actual
impunity that we observe. And I think that’s a really
hard question to answer, but I was just wondering
what your thought on that is. Just a couple of
short questions. One you partially
addressed earlier– when it comes to
continued aid to Guatemala being dependent on
progress in human rights, does that progress
include improvements in positive rights, like
the right to redress, or is it exclusively
negative rights? And the other
question is is there a perception that back
under the Ditadura that state violence was more
predictable, despite things like the abuse of state
power or false prosecutions, than privatized violence is now? And does that perception
vary from indigenous to non-indigenous communities? Yeah, so those are
really good questions. I’ll just give them the
one line answer because I know we’re running out of time. So how much do human
rights advocates contribute to impunity? I would say that at most very
small drop in the bucket. I mean, the other
types of problems that we’re talking about
are so severe that even if human rights advocates
turned around tomorrow and said, we are really going to
support crime victims, we’re going to push for a
prosecution in all cases, I can’t really imagine that
it would make much difference, playing out the counterfactuals. So I think that the substantive
issue is way overblown out of proportion. It’s actually a sharp– I
like the way you phrased this. It’s a helpful way of
clarifying some of the things I was saying. So is foreign aid being
tied to improvements essentially in prosecution
and law enforcement? Not really enough. I mean there are a
lot internationally funded efforts to help
Guatemalan institutions. Police come over from Miami all
the time and train the police. There’s a lot of military
and police training. Obviously, there’s
a lot of equipment. There’s some interesting hybrid
international institutions like CCE– maybe we can
talk about it afterwards. It’s just a really
interesting institution. There are a lot of
foreign-funded justice centers and things like that. So the direction has been not
so much to apply aid to progress but to try to
facilitate progress. The unfortunate
thing is that it does create a very uneven
landscape of options for victims or for
addressing crimes. So if you’re in a
particular location and you’re the victim of a
particular type of crime, there might be some
foreign-funded center for victims or
something like that. But it’s a pretty
sparse patchwork. I know that in Villa
Nueva outside, which is a suburb of Guatemala City,
there is this justice center that USAID runs. And it’s supposed
to be quite good. It’s supposed to be a much
better experience for people who are able to access that. But it’s not really
a systemic change. Or for example, they’ve
created these partially foreign-instigated
and foreign-supported femicide courts that are
supposed to address violence against women. It’s a patchwork approach,
because in some ways maybe that one court
is operating better, but then you’re not
really doing anything to address the system-wide
problems of all the people who don’t have access to
that one particular court. The state violence, it really
depends who you talk to. So people in Guatemala
City, for example, which is one of the most random,
and chaotic, and violent places in the country today, and was
[INAUDIBLE] in a relatively more targeted way by the
civil war will definitely say, oh, there was less violence
during the civil war, violence was more
predictable, things like that. If you were in a town
that was severely affected by the
civil war, especially if you were in a group
that was the target of mass indiscriminate
violence, people’s views would probably be different. So it depends who
you’re talking to. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE]

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