Guatemala, Mexico and USA in the Guardian

A few really interesting articles in The Guardian recently.

This article about the US syphilis study in Guatemala, where orphans, prostitutes, conscripts and prisoners were deliberately infectd with diseases so they could then be studied.

More than half of the subjects were low-ranking soldiers delivered by their superiors to US physicians working from a military base in the capital. The Americans initially arranged for infected prostitutes to have sex with prisoners before discovering it was more “efficient” to inject soldiers, psychiatric patients and orphans with the bacterium.

Guatemala’s official inquiry, headed by its vice-president, is due to publish its report in June. “What impacted me the most was how little value was given to these human lives. They were seen as things to be experimented on,” said Carlos Mejia, a member of the inquiry and head of the Guatemalan College of Physicians.

Next up, an article about the Peace Caravan touring Mexico in protest of Calderon’s War on Drugs. 40,000 people have lost their lives in Mexico since Calderon began his campaign, including the son of Javier Sicilia, a Mexican poet, who was killed, presumably by drug gangs. The protest is calling for an end to the “force-based strategy” and instead asks the government to tackle the underlying poverty that fuels the drugs trade. It seems that a lot of the press focusses on the caravan protesting “drug violence”, which implies the cartels and reinforces the idea that the relatives of the deceased are asking for the government to fight harder, when in fact this is not the case. In an open letter, Javier Silicia addresses both the “political class” and the criminal gangs,

If you, “señores” politicians do not govern well and do not take seriously that we live in a state of national emergency that requires your unity, and you, “señores” criminals, do not limit your actions, you will end up winning and having power but you will govern and reign over a mountain of ossuaries and of beings that are beaten and destroyed in their souls, a dream that none of us envy.

The protest is not just about the gangs, it is very much about the “bad government” and their actions, too.

Javier Sicilia addresses crowds at a protest against the drug war

Javier Sicilia addresses crowds at a protest against the drug war

Further north, the Guardian brings us a report about prescription painkiller addiction in the US, where Florida is doing booming business in oxycodone, all fun and games until someone looses an eye (or overdoses and dies). Although a few people are getting super-rich off it, so at least that’s one good thing…

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Fixing Men: Sex, Birth Control, and AIDS in Mexico

Just finished (skim) reading this for my dissertation research.

I first read Matthew Gutmann when he was picking apart James Scott’s Weapons of the Weak in a journal article somewhere, I liked his argument that focussing on “everyday resistance” overlooked the mass, organised resistance spreading throughout Latin American communities, and that “everyday resistance” assumed that organised, overt resistance was beyond the means of peasants and other “undesirables”. Anyone who puts that kind of people-power spin on things gets me interested.

I’ll write more about Fixing Men some other time, but I wish I had time to do more than skim-read it for facts and figures about Mexican healthcare, because his take on masculinity and sexuality is fascinating. I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in AIDS, male sexuality, the privatisation of public health and discourses around sexual health. He interviewed his research subjects, men in Oaxaca, while they were having vasectomies, a big change from the usual anthropological methods of getting to know your informants over time whilst doing day-to-day activities alongside them. You can’t get much more “out of the ordinary” than getting a vasectomy.

‘Fixing Men: Sex, Birth Control, and AIDS in Mexico’, Matthew Gutmann, Berkeley, University of California Press