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7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died in US custody is laid to rest | US-Mexico border News





San Antonio Secortez, Guatemala – Jakelin Caal was excited to go to the United States.

The seven-year-old indigenous Q’eqchi’ girl told everyone in her small remote village in San San Antonio Secortez about the new life she and her father, Nery, were going to have.

“She was excited to travel,” Matin Tut, Jakelin’s 52-year-old neighbour recalled.

“She mentioned it every chance she could,” he told Al Jazeera.

Jakelin and Nery made it to the US on December 6, crossing the border into New Mexico with a group of more than 150 others. They were detained by Customs and Border Protection agents, taken into custody, and on December 8, Jakelin was pronounced dead.

More than two weeks later – on Christmas day – Jakelin was buried.

“We barely slept last night,” Domingo Caal, Jakelin’s grandfather said, as he walked down a muddy trail to the simple grave of cement blocks he and other men from the community constructed in a small cemetery.

Jakelin’s mother Claudia said her daughter dreamed of going to the United States [Jeff Abbott/Al Jazeera]

On Monday, a wake was held, with neighbours and others from nearby communities visiting the family.

“This should be a very special day for them,” said Ilvera Cuz, Jakelin’s grandmother. “The should be preparing tamales to celebrate Christmas. But they left everything and are here supporting us to share in this pain.”

Another child dies

CBP initially said Jakelin died of dehydration and shock, a claim the family refutes. The official cause of death is pending as the autopsy results are being finalised. 

The administration of US President Donald Trump, who has implemented a “zero tolerance” policy at the border, has been under increased pressured from rights groups over the way migrants and refugees are treated both at the border and once in custody.

The United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe Gonzalez, called on US authorities to investigate the case.

“The government should also address failings within the immigration system, and specifically within the US Customs and Border Patrol agency, to prevent similar situations,” Gonzalez said in a statement earlier this week. 

But on Wednesday, CBP reported the death of an eight-year-old Guatemalan child that was in its custody. According to a CBP statement, the boy was treated in the hospital for was initially thought of as a common cold. He was later released. He was transferred back to a medical facility after exhibiting nausea and vomiting. He died shortly after midnight on December 25. The cause of death is not known.

In search of better opportunities

Jakelin and her father were driven to flee to the United States due to the extreme poverty, rampant inequalities and lack of opportunity in rural Guatemala. 

Nery had briefly worked on a palm oil plantation, but according to his brother, Carlos Caal, was fired after six months for demanding better pay. The brothers earned 65 quetzales a day (about $9), yet nearly half went to transportation and food each day.

Like many others, they went to the US, looking for better opportunities for themselves and their familiy.

According to data from the US Customs and Border Protection agency, more than 72,000 Guatemalans, primarily children or family units, were captured trying to enter the US southern border between October 2017 to September 2018. Nearly 30,000 others were captured at the beginning of fiscal year 2019, which began in October.

At least 30 people have migrated to the United States from San Antonio Secortez in the last three months, residents said.

“We have heard that there are better opportunities in other countries,” Tut explained.

“There were two members of the community that had already left,” he said. “And once we began to hear of people making it, we began to make the decision to go.”

Tut has thought about going, but Jakelin’s death has caused him to reconsider.

“Her death pains me and I do not have the will to go right now,” Tut said. “But who knows what will happen in the future, if the will to go will return.”

Back at Jakelin’s burial site, the community said a small Q’eqchi’ prayer.

Not much more was said before Jakelin’s body was slowly lowered into the simple plot on a hill that overlooks the fields.


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When Ontario declared a COVID-19 health emergency last spring, the first instinct of Ottawa entrepreneur Peter O’Blenis was to preserve cash.

“We basically stopped our discretionary spending,” said O’Blenis, the co-founder and CEO of Evidence Partners, which makes software for accelerating the review of scientific and medical literature, using artificial intelligence. “We cut investments in things meant to help us grow.”

It was a defensive posture born of experience. O’Blenis had 12 years earlier nearly been crushed by the global financial crisis. Another looked to be on the way.

In 2008, O’Blenis and his colleagues, Jonathan Barker and Ian Stefanison, hit a brick wall with their first venture, TrialStat, which helped hospitals manage patients’ electronic data. While TrialStat had secured $5.5 million in venture financing just a couple of years earlier, the founders had burned through most of it during a rapid expansion. When the financial world collapsed, so did their firm.

The trio played things far more conservatively with Evidence Partners, which has relied almost exclusively on customer revenues to finance expansion.

The caution proved unnecessary. Like so many other businesses, O’Blenis underestimated the government’s willingness to keep the economy afloat with easy money. Nor did he anticipate that COVID-19 would prove a significant catalyst for the firm’s revenues so soon.

Evidence Partners is hardly the only local firm with technology particularly suited for the war against COVID-19. Spartan Bioscience and DNA Genotek adapted existing products to create technology for identifying the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Ottawa-based units of Abbott Laboratories and Siemens Healthineers make portable blood analyzers that diagnose patients afflicted by the virus.

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Shepherds of Good Hope wants to expand ByWard Market operation with eight-storey housing complex





The Shepherds of Good Hope plans to build an eight-storey building near its current shelter for the homeless in the ByWard Market that would include supportive housing for up to 48 people, a soup kitchen and a drop-in centre.

The organization says it wants to be part of the solution to the housing crisis that has fuelled a rise in homelessness in Ottawa.

People would be moved out of the emergency shelters and into their own tiny apartments in the complex, which would include a communal dining hall and staff available to help with mental health, addiction and medical problems, said Caroline Cox, senior manager of communications for the Shepherds.

Some residents in the neighbourhood are opposed, saying services for the homeless and vulnerable should not be concentrated in one area of the city.

“I was flabbergasted,” said homeowner Brian Nolan, who lives one block from the development proposed for 216 Murray St., where currently a one-story building houses offices for the Shepherds of Good Hope.

Nolan said that, in the 15 years he’s lived in the area, it has become increasingly unsafe, with home and car thefts, drug dealing, loitering, aggressive and erratic behaviour, urinating, defecating and vomiting on sidewalks and yards and sexual acts conducted in public on his dead-end street. Before he lets his son play basketball in the yard, he checks the ground for needles and his home security camera to see who is nearby.

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Carleton University Hosts the Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City





evehe Carleton University Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City given by Leslie Kern launches Ottawa Architecture Week. Urban geographer, author and academic, Kern will discuss how the pandemic has highlighted long-standing inequalities in the design, use and inclusivity of urban spaces. The talk will share some of the core principles behind a feminist urban vision to inform a wider vision of justice, equity and sustainability.

: Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.

About the Speaker

Kern holds a PhD in Women’s Studies from York University. She is currently an associate professor of Geography and Environment and director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Mount Allison University.

Kern is the author of two books on gender and cities, including Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World (Verso). The book discusses how our cities have failed in terms of fear, motherhood, friendship, activism, the joy and perils of being alone, and also imagines what they could become.

Kern argues, “The pandemic has shown us that society can be radically reorganized if necessary. Let’s carry that lesson into creating the non-sexist city.”

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