Charles Lane’s Aug. 20 op-ed, “Guatemala’s migration paradox,” argued that Guatemala’s situation will improve the way Mexico’s situation did, thanks in part to improved public health and concomitant population growth. This overlooks Guatemala’s particular situation.

Guatemala has the sixth-highest rate of child chronic malnutrition in the world (47 percent). Malnutrition, food prices and conflict over land and water are major problems for two reasons: Guatemala has one of the most feudal landownership structures in the world, and drought and floods linked to climate change are wreaking havoc on small farmers’ crops. Mexico didn’t have to deal with climate change when its population boom peaked.

Further, as the July 15 editorial “A pass for graft in Guatemala” noted, the United States is helping to turn back the progress that had been made against corruption in Guatemala. This corruption, along with historical U.S. opposition to reform, has allowed “entrenched elites who have enriched themselves for decades without consequence” to maintain their grip on Guatemala’s land.

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Guatemala’s “entrenched elites” and their international partners are actually increasing land concentration in the country as they expand their sugar cane, African palm, rubber and banana plantations. In fact, the land grabs of the past 20 years have been so marked that Maya community leaders refer to them as the fourth major invasion of Maya land of the past 500 years.

Richard Brown, Alexandria

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