Stories written by Danilo Valladares

Farmed shrimp. Credit: Photostock

ENVIRONMENT: Shrimp Farm Certification: Mere Greenwashing?

Shrimp farming, one of the most destructive industries for coastal ecosystems, may soon be endowed with a set of standards that would supposedly vouch for environmentally responsible production, through the efforts of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

GUATEMALA: Retired General and Populist in Duel for Presidency

A retired general and a populist tycoon will face off for the Guatemalan presidency in a Nov. 6 runoff, since no candidate won 50 percent of the vote in Sunday's elections.

GUATEMALA: The War Over Land

The violent eviction of 91 rural families in northern Guatemala was the latest incident in the ageold conflict over land in a country where the army is frequently called in to force peasant farmers off their land.

Farmed shrimp. - Photostock

Shrimp Farm Certification: Environmental Guarantee or Greenwashing?

Efforts to establish standards for "responsible" shrimp farming are moving forward amid controversy.

Women candidates on campaign billboards in Guatemala City.  Credit: Danilo Valladares/IPS

GUATEMALA: More Not Always Better for Women

"Women have more opportunities nowadays to participate in the economic, social and political development of the country, but this has still not improved the quality of their lives," said Laura Reyes, one of the three women candidates for vice president of Guatemala.

US-GUATEMALA: Shocking Experiments Highlight Lack of Controls

The appalling experiments carried out by U.S. doctors in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948 using 1,300 human subjects who were infected with sexually transmitted diseases highlighted the inadequacy of controls and safeguards in clinical testing in this Central American country – still a major problem today, according to experts.

Nicaragua’s Antidote to Violent Crime

The so-called "Northern Triangle" of Central America, plagued by poverty, violence and the legacy of civil war, is considered one of the most violent areas in the world. But neighbouring Nicaragua has largely escaped the spiralling violence, and many wonder how it has managed to do so.

GUATEMALA: All Candidates Jump on the Social Programmes Bandwagon

Although he is accused by the opposition of failing to live up to his promises of transparency, job creation and security, Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom has received praise from all sides for his government's successful social programmes.

CENTRAL AMERICA: ‘Green Economy’ Not a Panacea

The "green economy" will not solve the problems of poverty and natural disasters in Central America as long as the development model continues to be based on over-consumption and over-production, regional experts say.

GUATEMALA: Activists Worried that Clenched Right Fist Will Take Power

Activists in Guatemala are alarmed at the prospect of a victory by the right in the September general elections, recalling the dismal records of past regimes in the areas of human rights, the economy and justice.

ENVIRONMENT-LATAM: Shrimp Industry Bites Hand That Feeds It

Mangrove forests in silt-laden intertidal coastal ecosystems provide a natural habitat for countless marine species, as well as livelihoods for thousands of families in Latin America and the Caribbean. But mangrove swamps are shrinking year by year, besieged by aquaculture, especially shrimp farming, environmentalists warn.

Students tending the garden at the school in San Cristóbal Totonicapán.  Credit: Courtesy of FAO/Guatemala

School Gardens Promote Learning While Fighting Hunger

"Yesterday I planted 20 broccoli plants at home. God willing, they will grow and we will be able to eat them," said 12-year-old Juan Francisco Ordóñez, a student at a school in San Cristóbal Totonicapán where a school garden has been established in an attempt to alleviate hunger.

GUATEMALA: First Lady’s Divorce Fails to Secure Presidential Bid

The decision by the Constitutional Court of Guatemala to bar Sandra Torres, the former wife of President Álvaro Colom, from running in the Sept. 11 elections strengthens the national justice system, according to activists and analysts.

Hondurans hold up photos of missing loved ones.  Credit: Danilo Valladares/IPS

CENTRAL AMERICA-MEXICO: Following the Trail of Missing Migrants

"We were in prison for three days in Mexico," Amarilis Rodríguez from Guatemala says between sobs. "When we crossed the border at Piedras Negras, in Tamaulipas, into the United States, we were chased by the 'migra' (border patrol agents). They caught me, but my brother escaped and I haven't heard from him since."

CENTRAL AMERICA: Families Downsizing

María José Aceituno, who works at a public relations firm in the Guatemalan capital, has two children and says she is not having any more, in order to safeguard the financial position and security of her family. "I would rather have two happy children than 10 who are dissatisfied," she said.

'Crowdsourcing' expert Luis von Ahn.   Credit: Susan028 - Creative Commons licence

Q&A: CAPTCHA Creator Would Like to Tap Crowdsourcing to Fight Crime

If you use the internet, you will have come across CAPTCHA, a test to determine whether the computer user is human or a machine. What you may not know is that one of its inventors, mathematician Luis von Ahn, comes from one of the poorest countries in Latin America, Guatemala.

CENTRAL AMERICA: Fair Trade Taking Root

"We started out with 10 organisations and now we have 22 cooperatives with more than 19,000 members who grow and export crops with an environmental, social and economic focus," says an enthusiastic Marvin López, with the Guatemalan network of small-scale fair trade farmers (CGCJ).

GUATEMALA: Child Abuse Starts at Home

Joshua Kotouc, a doctor from the U.S., came with a group of missionaries to San Miguel Chicaj, a small town in the mountainous province of Baja Verapaz in northern Guatemalan, in 2006. "El Gringo", as he is known in the community, decided to stay on out of "altruistic" motives.

CENTRAL AMERICA: Progress for Women’s Rights More Impressive on Paper

After protracted battles, women in Central America and southern Mexico have made headway in winning respect for their rights over the past decade, but the progress has been more formal than real, say women academics and activists.

Women-only bus in Guatemala City.  Credit: Danilo Valladares/IPS

GUATEMALA: Women-Only Buses Against Sexual Harassment

"We are all safer here; it's great because this way there are no men groping you," Jaqueline Escobar, a sales executive, told IPS on a bus that is exclusively for women, a service against sexual harassment that is being tried out in the Guatemalan capital.

Discussing a regional security and anti-drug strategy.  Credit: Danilo Valladares/IPS

DRUGS: Central America Throws Ball into Consumer Nations’ Court

The leaders of Central America, Colombia and Mexico called on the governments of the world's main drug-consuming countries to play a stronger role in fighting drug trafficking and organised crime by stepping up control of weapons sales and taking effective measures to crack down on consumption.

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