Guatemala to Eliminate Mental Asylum, Improve Health System


By Ian Van Buren

In the 1960s, the United States began to replace its mental asylums with much improved community based psychiatric treatment facilities. Today, poorly operated mental asylums still exist around the world. In Guatemala, the country’s only public psychiatric institution is nothing short of a disaster.

In 2011, Disability Rights International began an investigation over the country’s mental asylum with help from local advocates. In October 2012, the group filed a scathing complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an arm of the Organization of American States, documenting widespread mistreatment of patients, including sexual assaults and exploitation, beatings, prolonged use of solitary confinement, deaths from infectious diseases and overdoses of psychiatric medication.

Donald Robas, a patient with paranoid schizophrenia, has witnessed much of the mistreatment and has described the activity of the patients and the asylum’s personnel; if a patient refuses their medication, they are beaten and then put into what is known as the “little room”, a cell where they are left in solitude. Women can be seen selling themselves for what equates to less than a dollar. “I see when they have sex for money,” he says. “To buy food.”

At first, the Guatemalan Health Ministry denied most of the allegations. Regardless, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found the charges credible and directed Guatemalan authorities to improve safety and health at the hospital immediately. A year of negotiations concluded in October with a groundbreaking agreement by Guatemala to overhaul hospital policies and restructure the country’s mental health system.

Guatemala has promised to establish a program that, within two years, will significantly reduce the population of those who are mentally ill or disabled serving in long-term institutions and relocate them to safer, community-based homes, such as those used in the United States. New inpatient psychiatric units are to be opened at general hospitals, while outpatient mental health care and support, including free medication, will be made available at dozens of community health centers throughout the country. Criminally charged psychiatric detainees will be separated from ordinary patients, and a law codifying substantial new legal protections for the mentally ill and disabled is to be introduced within a year.

“The government accepts that people with disabilities need to be integrated into the community. They recognize that the only way to make people safe is to get them out of the facility,” said Eric Rosenthal, executive director of Disability Rights International. “If we can do it in Guatemala, we can do it everywhere.”

Guatemala is certainly not the only country where abusive, problematic institutions still exist. In order for the issue to cease, citizens and human rights organizations must continue to work through the media to spread awareness in effort to help those who remain in distress.

YouTube link regarding a similar story:

Original article:


Poverty Remains an Issue in Costa Rica

El Hueco

By: Ian Van Buren

Costa Rica is obviously well known as a beautiful island and a major tourist attraction where people can relax in paradise. What most people don’t know is that sitting just behind the perfect beaches and glamorous resorts are neighborhoods where life is a constant struggle.

One of these neighborhoods, El Hueco, or ‘The Hole’, is just that. It’s a community in Jacó of about 100 people who live in single room, shanty homes that are missing doors and windows. Running through the lot of shacks is a river contaminated by sewage. Living conditions are harsh, but somehow El Hueco’s residents find ways to make ends meet.

As ironic as it is that poverty can be found just behind all-inclusive resorts and elegant restaurants, these tourist attractions are the only employment options for El Hueco and other neighborhoods like it. “Jacó doesn’t produce anything,” one resident explains. “If there wasn’t tourism, we wouldn’t have jobs.” Some families living in The Hole manage to live off less than $500 a month, and during difficult times, they are left with no choice but to beg tourists for money.

To grow up in El Hueco and receive an education, even if only elementary, is an enormous accomplishment. Although school is free, bus transportation and uniforms are not. Therefore only a fraction of the children in the community are able to attend classes. In an effort to save money, families use a rotation system where multiple children take turns going to school and will share a single uniform.

The municipality of Garabito is an occasional source of extra income. Home to about 22,000 people and encompassing Jacó and Herradura, the municipality works closely with anti-poverty programs, such as Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social (IMAS), which is funded by the national government. The organization helps poor children get an education and provides aid to families in times of crisis. A new community center under development will also provide free afterschool programs.

According to Garabito Deputy Mayor Karla Gutierrez, volume is the biggest issue. With the tourism in Jacó creating job possibilities, people continue to arrive in search of opportunities. “If we take out two people, six will enter. The problem is there’s no control,” she said.

The problem exists in communities all over Costa Rica, and programs like Avancemos and the National Volunteer Program have been established to raise the standard of living. Avancemos aims to promote the formal education system and help adolescents from families who are struggling to keep their children in the educational system. The National Volunteer Program promotes building healthy societies through social participation that will guide Costa Rica’s development of a new model of social management.

According to the World Bank, as of 2012 poverty in Costa Rica is a staggering 20.6%, which is down from 21.6% in 2011.

Original article:

More info on the Avancemos program:

More info on the National Volunteer Program:

Puerto Rico statistics via The World Bank:


Caribbean Looking to Capitalize on Globalization


The Caribbean contributes to 40% of the drug flow into the U.S.

By: Abby Belongy

As the world is becoming increasing global, small countries are having more of a voice and are also joining together to make a larger impact.  While the UN and several of its agencies are present in the Caribbean, an August conference in Barbados showed that Caribbean countries want more attention from the General Assembly, especially for gender equality and regional issues.  The Barbados meeting drew delegates from 14 different Caribbean countries and several UN agencies, including UN Women and UNICEF.

The Caribbean area takes a different approach on gender equality than the U.S. and other western countries do.  Rather than having neutral laws that apply to all, they want a recognition that men and women are equal beings but have different characteristics.  With this philosophy, gender-neutral laws would have to be adjusted to benefit men and women equally but, sometimes, differently.  The UN typically applies a universal standard for gender rights, so the call to address the culture difference in the Caribbean does not have an easy solution.

The Caribbean also wants international support in tackling transnational crime such as drug trafficking and improving trade treaties.  As shown in the image above, the Caribbean accounts for an astounding 40% of the drug flow to the U.S. alone.  With the globalized world, crime is becoming harder to regulate as groups make national boundaries irrelevant.  International organizations such as the UN are the only practical way to combat transnational crime.

Caribbean Approaches Milestone

By: Abby Belongy

"Waiting and worried about HIV? Your baby can be born without HIV.  Ask your provider how."

“Waiting and worried about HIV? Your baby can be born without HIV. Ask your provider how.”

The UN set a Millennium Development Goal to halt and begin reversing the spread of HIV/AIDs by 2015.  The Caribbean, one of the most-affected regions in the world, has taken this extremely seriously.  Countries in the area, including the Dominican Republic, have decided the best way to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS is to prevent the transmission of the disease from mothers to babies.  Hospitals have offered support to pregnant mothers which includes free testing, Cesarean sections, medications, and breast milk alternatives, and this is being advertised throughout the region (see poster above).  With these steps, the Caribbean hopes to be the first region in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmissions, possibly by 2015.

The eradication of the deadly disease could be revolutionary in a struggling region.  However, Caribbean officials and citizens acknowledge the need for support to accomplish their goal.  Outside aid has been crucial to the development of awareness and treatment in the Caribbean, and a possibility of decreased funding puts the 2015 milestone at risk.  Additionally, the stigma against homosexuals in the area is still strong.  Advocates for the elimination of HIV/AIDS argue that the only way to truly fix the problem is to be less judgmental about homosexuality, so people are not afraid or ashamed to get tested or get treatment.

Read More:

About the Caribbean’s progress –

About the UN Millennium Development Goals –

About HIV/AIDS in different regions –

Dominican Diseases

The Dominican Republic, known for their beautiful coastlines and sugar production. But in most recent years, not everything has been so sweet for the Dominican Republic:

Severe outbreaks in Cholera the past few years have plagued not only the Dominican Republic, but also the island nation next to it, Haiti

Photo: Prensa Latina

Photo: Prensa Latina

In most recent news, as of August 27th, the Dominican Republic has had yet another severe outbreak in Cholera, despite new steps forward to produce more sanitary living conditions. This outbreak has effected at least 67 people and hospitalized five.

Islands of the Dominican Republic and Haiti have been infamous for their unsanitary living conditions as well as their extreme amounts of poverty. In recent years, the Dominican Republic has made great strides in reducing disease with sanitation efforts focused on water cleanliness reform; however, they still struggle with various outbreaks of bacteria and viruses. The CDC travel notice of awareness of the water conditions in the Dominican Republic (put in place in 2010) still remains in effect.

The Dominican Republic continues to work to rid their outbreaks of the disease with Haiti regularly

For those looking to travel to the Dominican Republic and surrounding areas, please check with the State on how to protect yourself from disease abroad.

-Maria Harper

Jamaica’s poor education reflected by GMAT scores



By Ian Van Buren

Jamaicans wishing to pursue a business degree at a respected university will have to fight an uphill battle. Jamaica ranks 119th globally with an average GMAT score of 434 out of 800. The global average score is 498.50. Respected GMAT coach and founder of Versan Educational Services Sandra Bramwell blames the island’s poor English foundation for it’s low scores. The GMAT tests for Math and English, and even non-English speaking countries are scoring higher than Jamaica. It doesn’t end there. Regionally, Jamaica has a lower average score than Barbados (511), Trinidad (495), Guyana (457), and even the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic (450).

It will be a difficult for the island turn scores around considering that their economy continues to struggle. The Jamaican dollar has hit a record low when last week it broke J$102 against the U.S. dollar. Although test scores are alarmingly low, Jamaica has produced some successful students like Jo-Anne Jackson-Stephens, who was accepted to Oxford University’s MBA program. Jackson-Stephens scored higher than 84% of individuals worldwide who took the GMAT. Another issue is attracting successful MBA graduates like Jackson-Stephens back to Jamaica. “I have opted to stay overseas because I think it is important for my professional growth as an attorney-at-law and aspiring entrepreneur to get international exposure. The crime and the economy in Jamaica are also factors,”  she said. In order to turn the economy around, it’s no mistake that Jamaica must make a significant investment to fund it’s educational system so that it can return contributions in the form of economic growth. How the State will allocate its resources for such an investment is the real equation.
Read more:

Who’s To Know?


Posted by Hunter Kinder

The Bahamas are known to visitors as an island paradise getaway. To me, I know they are holding at least 5 Cuban detainees since this July. The Free National Movement leader, Dr. Hubert Minnis, claims they were “physically abused.” Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Fred Mitchell, says Minnis’ claim and the FNM is, “siding with the enemies of the Bahamas against the Bahamians (via the Guardian).”

Minnis and Mitchell both claim that the detainees released a video reenacting the beatings; which was released on a Spanish TV station in Miami. So why is Minnis doing Mitchell’s job by bringing this to attention? Minnis has called Bahamian Prime Minister to fire Mitchell; while Mitchell believes the U.S. will take care of this.