DOINews: DOI's International Technical Assistance Program Recognized for Outstanding Work in Guatemala

Last edited 09/05/2019

The U.S. Department of the Interior was recognized at an event hosted by some 300 employees of Guatemala's National Counsel for Protected Areas, the Guatemalan agency responsible for managing protected areas. At this event, Cynthia Perera, the deputy director of DOI's International Technical Assistance Program, to her total surprise, was specifically honored for her “outstanding leadership and unwavering support” of Guatemala's efforts to safeguard its largest protected area, the Maya Biosphere Reserve.

El Mirador Archaeological Site

In the foreground is a custom roof that was installed to protect excavations of significant ancient Maya structures at the El Mirador archeological site. The mound in the background is the top of a still unexcavated Tigre Temple, standing at 180 feet, surrounded by intact forests of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. DOI contributed to these efforts. Photo by RD Hansen-The Foundation for Anthropological Research and Environmental Studies.

The reserve, part of the largest tract of tropical forest remaining north of the Amazon, is home to thousands of Maya archaeological sites, one of the world's densest jaguar populations, and several long-standing small communities that sustainably manage and protect its forests. Due to its remote location along two borders (Mexico and Belize) and limited government presence, the reserve is increasingly threatened by illegal settlements, wildfires, wildlife trafficking, and other activities, many of which are directly related to drug trafficking through this region.

DOI-ITAP has worked in Guatemala to advance the conservation of this habitat by advising on all aspects of protected area management. DOI-ITAP implements this program through close working relationships with its in-country partnerships with non-governmental organizations — the Wildlife Conservation Society, Asociación Balam and Pacunam. DOI-ITAP also contributes world-class technical expertise drawn from several DOI bureaus, including the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and Bureau of Land Management. Through this support, the Guatemalan government has demonstrated positive and measurable progress, primarily in the areas of law enforcement and public participation, complementing the efforts led by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State.

Vice President of Guatemala speaking at DOI-ITAP supported multi-sector roundtable event attended by DOI-ITAP officials and others.Guatemalan Vice President Roxana Baldetti (far left) leads one of the DOI-ITAP-supported multi-sector roundtables; DOI Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs Lori Faeth (second from right); and DOI-ITAP Deputy Director and Guatemala Project Manager Cynthia Perera (far right), attend the event. Photo courtesy of Guatemalan News Agency.

As a U.S. government agency responsible for managing one-fifth of U.S. lands, DOI's work in Guatemala has helped to raise awareness of the importance of the reserve at all levels of Guatemalan society. Guatemala's President Otto Perez and Vice President Roxana Baldetti have provided active support for these efforts in the reserve. Just recently, Perez presided over a signing ceremony of a conservation agreement with a local community within the reserve. Similarly, Baldetti has led several meetings of the multi-sector roundtables; established as open venues for dialogue and consensus building on the management of protected areas; and most important, Baldetti has recognized these as part of the official political decision-making process for the reserve.

It is this political commitment that impressed Lori Faeth, DOI's deputy assistant secretary for Policy and International Affairs, who attended one the multi-sector roundtables with Perera. “I am inspired by the commitment and actions for Guatemalan Vice President Roxana Baldetti, and we very much look forward to continuing this collaboration between the Department of the Interior and the Guatemalan government and people,” said Faeth.

DOI-ITAP's Cynthia Perera accepting her award.
Deputy Executive Secretary for CONAP Marco Tax recognizes Cynthia Perera for her work in the Maya Biosphere Reserve with a Maya inscription carved wood clock. Photo by Gandhy Montoya, DOI-ITAP.

Perera's dedication to this project comes from her role as DOI-ITAP Guatemalan's project manager, but moreover, is related to her love for this land and its people, which can be traced back to her Guatemalan origin. Describing her work in the region, Perera said that despite the countless challenges and disputes ever present in this area, she derives her greatest satisfaction by collaborating toward the same goals with people “who are among the most talented, intensely passionate and committed individuals” with whom she has ever worked.

Barbara Pitkin, director of DOI's ITAP, referring to Perera's recognition, said, “We all believe we are making a difference in our work around the world, but it is moments like these that are so affirming.”

DOI-ITAP provides capacity building in other countries using the diverse expertise of DOI bureaus. For more information contact Barbara Pitkin at

Submitted by: DOI-ITAP
Sept. 23, 2014

Was this page helpful?

Please provide a comment