Friday, March 8, 2013



No Good Deed Goes Unpunished in Guatemala
Tecpán, Guatemala, February 2013

By Alfredo Zarazúa, Guatemala City

Sandra Paredes Rojas, organizer of the Joranda Médica Internacional in Tecpán,

Guatemala, is a Guatemalan health care worker who brought a group of North American
doctors through Helps International to the Centro de Urgencias Médicas, the clinic where she has worked for many years. For her selfless labor, the newly appointed clinic director, Miguel Ángel Calel, banned her from working on the event she had spent a month and a half organizing through her international contacts and which she had
planned and executed in years past.

Director Calel had never met Ms. Paredes Rojas but that did not stop him from deciding that she was an abrasive woman because she tends to say things the way they are. He branded her a troublemaker--which is not surprising coming from one who was recently given his new job by the patriarchal and fascist-like Guatemalan government bureaucracy.

Sr. Calel was appointed Director of the Centro de Urgencias Médicas one year ago
by the rightwing, heavy-handed party in power in Guatemala. Apparently, being the
organizer of an event for the poor and indigenous people of Tecpán and environs was
reason enough for Ms. Paredes Rojas to be treated with vicious discrimination and
machismo by Sr. Calel. It is further proof of the poor treatment that health workers,
especially women, are subject to in Guatemala, where reprisals from official party
bureaucrats is common.

Guerry Hoddersen, speaking on behalf of the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) in the US,
called on Director Calel and the Guatemalan government to open the doors of the clinic
to Ms. Paredes Rojas and held them responsible for threats of violence or intimidation
against her. “No worker, whether he or she is a volunteer or not, should be mistreated
for organizing an event to serve the local indigenous people,” she said, “especially an
event that helps them to be healthy and able to live and work with dignity.”


From February 10-17, Ms. Paredes Rojas organized the International Medical Program
2013, which served patients from Totonicapán, San Marcos, Chichicastenango, Sololá
and Sacatepéquez.

This is the second year that she has organized the International Medical Program for the
Centro de Urgencias Médicas in Tecpán. In February 2012, Ms. Paredes Rojas put on a
similar International Medical Program at the same clinic with the help of her international

During the 2012 event, Ms. Paredes Rojas was responsible for doing laundry at the
local Centro de Urgencia Médicas. Her work during the full duration of the International
Medical Program was to wash hospital linens for patients that had surgery for hernias,
gall bladders, breast cysts, harelips, split palates, clubfeet, bunions and hysterectomies,
among others. Her shift started at 7:00am and did not end until midnight. She had to
wash laundry by hand since the machines could not wash all the linens used for 60
surgeries per day. (The doctors had thought to bring medical supplies and equipment
but not washing machines for their visit!)

This year medical services were offered in general medicine, pediatrics, gynecology
and dental work. There were so many patients that it was impossible to accommodate
everyone, so requests for hernia and gall bladder surgeries were denied and no help
was available for the many people with strabismus (weakness in eye muscles or crossed

When the Clinic Director denied Ms. Paredes Rojas access to the event she had
organized, she set up an “office” outside the clinic where she saw patients, registered
them, and gave them a number for a medical consultation with the international

All of Ms. Paredes Rojas’ work is on a volunteer basis and fortunately, the international
specialists supported her, even sharing their food with her. These North American
workers acknowledge that she is the organizer for the Helps International event, whose
purpose is to create an orderly program to assist the legions of people in desperate need
of medical attention. She plays an important role by answering questions posed by the
local people day and night. The doctors know that not just anyone can do that!

Ms. Paredes Rojas’ efforts have borne fruit thanks to the support from the Casa de
la Cultura in Chimaltenango and Tecpán whose members protect her 24 hours a day
so she can remain safe. Otherwise, she could become one more victim of the police
state regime. (If this were to happen, the FSP would mount a public campaign to alert
the medical volunteers and the US government to this abuse of power by the Perez

Ms. Paredes Rojas was interviewed by a Mexican news outlet and asked how much
she had spent on publicizing this event. She replied she did not spend one penny
because she asked “chimalteco” journalists at the Casa de la Cultura in Chimaltenango
for support. One day they all got together and she was interviewed, thus creating free
publicity for the program. She also visited “chimalteco” radio stations and community
radio in Tecpán to get the word out.

In spite of adversity, Ms. Paredes Rojas is deeply thankful to the volunteer doctors for
coming to this community on the Guatemalan high plateau and expressed her gratitude
to the people that attended the event. She also thanked the Freedom Socialist Party for
donating towels, sheets and pillow cases for hospital beds which the clinic desperately
needed. In February, a member of the FSP visited Ms. Paredes Rojas to show solidarity
with her work and gave her encouraging words to help her face the difficulties brought
on by the rightwing, heartless, self-serving Guatemalan regime.

As she pointed out, the only thing the current regime intends to do regarding health care
is to provide its sympathizers with jobs, even though they do not have the necessary
training to work at a medical facility. This can be seen at the Centro de Urgencias
Médicas in Tecpán where the new director has fired 150 workers and put 100 new ones
in their place. These new workers are not familiar with the correct medical practices
necessary to provide quality care for patients at the Centro de Urgencias Médicas
because they lack the necessary experience.

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