The teen whose arms had been severed was still in shock, yet he managed to muster a smile & embrace visitors with his bandaged stumps. Evilio Gonzalez had fallen offÂ and then underÂ aÂ train he was ridingÂ on â€” a vain attempt to leave Honduras, cross through Mexico & obtain into the United States.
I met Evilio 10 years ago, while I was a reporter based in Latin America for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution & the Cox Newspapers chain. Catholic nuns at the eight-bed Rosa de Tepeyac Hospital in Mexico City were caring for the youthâ€™s wounds & shattered spiritual health. Among others in the clinic was Edgar Suniga, 14, whose left leg had been severed.Â
â€œCompared to what Jesus Christ suffered, this is nothing,â€ Evilio told me, demonstrating how the nuns were helping him learn to draw with his toes. Â
p>That same year, in Guatemala City, I moreover met Drik Borgan Godoy de Leon, a teen who spoke of his struggle to extricate himself from a gang. The 18-year-old was shot dead, just two months after our interview. I moreover met in Sandra Zayas, a beleaguered special prosecutor of crimes against women & children. One of her cases involved the murder of two Guatemalan sisters, 11 & 14, who were chopped to pieces because the elder sister spurned a gangsterâ€™s advances.
Since I reported those stories, the grip that organized crime hasÂ on Central American countries has tightened further. Justice systems remain notoriously incapable of handing the crisis.The regionÂ has a long history ofÂ stark inequality, dictatorships andÂ brutal civil wars that led to massacres ofÂ many poor inhabitants, includingÂ mass killings of Guatamala's Maya native peopl in the 1980s.Â The United States invested billions in military spending during that time to support select regimes in the area & is now financing drug war efforts there. Â Â
Many of the minors who are now turning themselves in at the U.S.-Mexico border speak of joining parents in â€œEl Norte,â€ or talk of how they dream of finding a job. But more & more are now speaking of theÂ horror at seeingÂ friends & relativesÂ killed, raped, extorted & the pressure they receiveÂ to serve gangs â€” or else.
Related:Â Will migrant kids lose access to child-welfare & legal specialists in rush to deport?
Thereâ€™s more to this story. Click here to read the rest at the Center for Public Integrity.
This story is part of Juvenile Justice. Scrutinizing controversial policies affecting young people at risk. Click here to read more stories in this investigation.
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Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity. This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.
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