Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Guatemala's hunger crisis

My colleague, Sam Loewenberg, was in Guatemala recently and has this poignant audio slideshow on the country's malnutrition crisis up on The Atlantic's website. (Other stories from his trip are at the Pulitzer Center's site and at The Economist.) Most of the hungry are rural indigenous people, whose exclusion from the economic and political life of the nation was at the roots of the country's bloody 30 year civil war, which claimed an estimated 200,000 lives.

This is all sadly predictable. When I was in Guatemala in 1997, just after the civil war had ended, it seemed pretty clear that the country's feudal power structure -- 2% of the population owned two-thirds of the arable land (and, for much of this century, the army, police, and courts)-- was the largest obstacle to the country's future prosperity and stability. Here is one of the pieces I wrote back then for the Christian Science Monitor. Sadly, twelve years later, it sounds depressingly up-to-date.


  1. there were 10 million guatemalans in 1997. today, just 11 years later, there are 14 million.

  2. 2% of them control land...plenty of spare land that is fallow...think politics not babies!