"Indigenous Populations in Guatemala and Ecuador" Training Materials for Asylum Officers

by David L. Cleveland

US-CIS, in response to a FOIA lawsuit by the Louise Trauma Center, released 52 pages of  training materials, dated June 2020, that it gave to its asylum officers. This article will quote some of the material. The pages are available on the “Asylum Officer Materials” page at www.louisetrauma.weebly.com, entitled “Indigenous…2020.”


Total population of the country is about 15 million; 43% is indigenous. Most of the indigenous are Mayan. There are more than 20 Mayan languages spoken. Page 8 of 52.

 K’iche speakers live in midwestern highlands; there are 15 dialects of the Mam language.

Racism and discrimination are “all-pervasive.” Page 17.

“Native communities celebrate the birth of boys but not girls.” Page 19.


26 indigenous leaders were killed in 2018. Page 23.

Legal Pluralism is the existence of more than one legal system within a geographic area. At times, the indigenous rely on international legislation. Page 27.

Winaq is the only indigenous political party; usually wins about 4% of the vote. Page 30.



-has 24 provinces; population of about 14.5 million; one source said indigenous were 6% of the population; another said between 35% and 45%. Page 34.

The Constitution says: “The State shall respect and encourage [the] preservation and use” of ancestral languages. Page 38.

Canari live in remote villages. 60% speak Kichwa.

There is lack of progress in the implementation of legal pluralism. Page 47. Some indigenous justice authorities have been kidnapped; some are in prison. Page 48.

The Constitution states that the indigenous have the “right to self governance.” Page 50.

Quichua suffer from high rates of poverty. Oil companies take their oil. Page 51.


Comments of the author

            The materials mostly lack dates and sources.

About The Author

David L. Cleveland was the Chair of the AILA Asylum Committee [2004-05] and has secured asylum or withholding for persons from 48 countries. Based in Washington DC, he is available at <louise.trauma.ltc@gmail.com>

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.