Greetings from the field!
Spirit of America recently funded a project in Guatemala to help counter narco-trafficking and drug-trafficking organizations that operate near the porous border with Mexico that we first told you about here. We assisted a US Army team in Guatemala’s northern San Marcos department where criminal groups are known to recruit young children to move illicit goods across the border. Families here live in fear; trying to protect their land and livestock and hoping their families don’t fall into a world of crime and violence.
Our US Army partners work alongside the Guatemalan Mountain Brigade to increase security and bring peace to families living right near the border. During my recent trip to the area, our partners and I met with the local leadership to assess the current situation on the ground and find out what the local people needed most. First stop, the Mayor’s office – to meet with the key leaders in the community and understand the root causes of instability.
During this meeting, a few needs became clear. For starters, livestock health was most critical. The local population pride themselves on healthy birds and pigs. However, they do not have the proper medicine to prevent common illnesses. When the families go to the market to sell their livestock and poultry, having up-to-date shots and antibiotics increases the likelihood of sale and market value, which inevitably increases their income.
The Mountain Brigade identified the area where the vaccinations were most needed, the town of Malacatan. According to the Anti-Narcotics Unit, this area is known for blind border crossing points and the vulnerable families that live there have no electricity, running water or even basic handheld radios to keep them in touch with society. Most of these people have never had any interaction with their government but are very familiar with the Drug-Trafficking Organizations operating with impunity in the area.
And so our journey continued. I rode in the back of a truck with our partners into the dense jungle of the border area to administer vaccinations to the local people’s livestock. This was such an amazing experience for me. Local kids rode their bikes with no shoes and their siblings hanging on to the back of their shirts. The local people were so excited to see the Mountain Brigade that they welcomed them with a family style breakfast and coffee before the day’s work began.
With full bellies, we split up into three groups, each comprised of representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Anti-Narcotics Units, Guatemalan military, US military and local vets. Each group traveled to approximately 30 homes and, in total, vaccinated approximately 820 birds and 110 pigs.
This was a huge win for the Guatemalan government and US Army team working in the area to build relationships with the locals near the Guatemala-Mexico border. For most of the locals, this was their first interaction with their own government. Something as simple as one eye drop for their birds or a deworming shot for their pigs will never be forgotten.
Thank you for your generosity. Your donation made success possible for the US Army team working with the Mountain Brigade in San Marcos. This civic action event benefited over 100 families and the vaccinations will protect the animals from common diseases affecting their agricultural production and ensure economic stability for the families. Additionally, you helped to increase security in these ungoverned spaces and enhance the relationship between the Government of Guatemala and the people. Thank you again!
Field Operations Project Manager, Latin America