In 1988, because of concern about the well-being of the health care workers at the Behrhorst Foundation, the CHHR invited Dr. Jonathan Horton, an ophthalmologist, to report on his experiences during 5 months spent as an observer in 1984 and 1985 at the Behrhorst Foundation. Dr. Horton told the committee that health workers are singled out for repression and that about one-third of the staff of the Behrhorst Foundation had been killed.

Dr. Horton wrote an article describing his experiences in Guatemala: 32

Over the years, political violence in Guatemala has been the most serious obstacle to progress in health care. Since 1980, open war has been going on between the army and various leftist guerrilla factions fighting for power. Although the foundation has maintained strict neutrality, at least a dozen health promoters have been killed in indiscriminate army counterinsurgency actions. In 1983, gunmen killed a Guatemalan doctor working at the clinic; later the same year, the director of the loan program disappeared. This violence has disrupted the foundation's work and forced a cutback in the health promotion program. Health conditions in the highlands have worsened lately because of the social dislocation and economic damage caused by the fighting. Enduring progress will be impossible until peace and security are established. In the past two years, the war has subsided and the army has ceded power to an elected civilian president; these changes offer hope for the future, but lasting peace will come only with social justice, land reform, and an end to the exploitation of the poor. In a sense, these are the most urgent medical priorities.

Following the death of Dr. Behrhorst, the foundation reportedly experienced some turmoil and disintegration, but a new director has since taken over and efforts are under way to reestablish its activities.

32  

Jonathan C. Horton, M.D., Ph.D., "Occasional Notes, The Behrhorst Foundation at 25 years," New England Journal of Medicine, June 15, 1987, p. 318.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement