Before dying of pneumonia at a Guatemala hospital in late May, the recently deported 21-year-old Gustavo Antonio Vásquez Chaj told his family that the U.S. Border Patrol had kept him, at some point, wet, stripped of a layer of clothing, and in a cold cell during several days in detention.
The tragic journey of Vásquez Chaj and Tucux Chiché is one story among many of how harmful U.S. political and economic policies in Latin America violently intersect with a hardening and brutal system of U.S. immigration control. In their case, the young men’s voyage was first and foremost one of necessity rather than of choice. Vásquez Chaj and Tucux Chiché were economic migrants fleeing a country of wreck and ruin that decades of harmful U.S. foreign and economic policies have helped to bring about.
It is indisputable that the United States shares significant responsibility for the genocide of tens of thousands of Guatemalans—mainly indigenous Mayans, including members of Gustavo and Maximiliano’s community, who comprised a majority of the (at least) 150,000 killed in the 1980s alone.
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