Guatemala News Update: March 17-21

Human Rights Ombudsman to reprimand institutions for noncompliance with Access to Information Law

The Human Rights Ombudsman, Jorge de León, announced that his office will present a report to the Public Ministry that will list institutions which have failed to comply with the Access to Information Law. 

Format of elections for Supreme Electoral Court questioned

Last week, Guatemalan parliament chose five judges and five alternate judges to comprise the Supreme Electoral Court until 2020. The judges were chosen in private meetings and some are now questioning the secretive format of the elections, fearing that the chosen judges may have to return favors to the election committee. 

Mother of jailed military officer murdered

The mother of Juan Chiroy, a military officer awaiting trial for the murder of six indigenous people in Totonicapan, was found dead after being beaten and strangled in her home. The deaths for which Chiroy is accused took place in October 2012, when indigenous people were protesting a rise in electricity rates.

Controversy continues over end of term for Claudia Paz y Paz

The Constitutional Court established that Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz’s term in office will end May 17, despite having made major strides for justice in Guatemala. Paz y On her chances of being chosen by the Nominating Committee as one of the six candidates for the next term, Paz y Paz said she hopes her application and others will be examined by merits.

Prisoners held without conviction

This article, titled “Guatemala: without freedom and without hope” outlines the tragic stories of women who are imprisoned simply for being poor. The article states that a report last August noted that up to 55 percent of those imprisoned are being held without a firm conviction.

Former Guatemalan president pleads guilty to money laundering

Guatemala’s former president Alfonso Portillo, who held office from 2000 to 2004, pleaded guilty to a money laundering conspiracy in a New York City Federal Court on Tuesday. He confirmed that he accepted $2.5 million in bribes to recognize Taiwan diplomatically. Portillo acknowledged his wrongdoing and entered into a deal with U.S. prosecutors, agreeing not to appeal any prison term between four and six years. Now, Guatemala is requesting a report from Taiwan about the bribery.

National Civil Police adds to its forces

The PNC added 1,613 police officers to its force on Tuesday, among them 463 women. The new officers will be sent to southern regions of the country to “combat violence” and attempt to decrease the homicide rate, which stood at 6,072 in 2013.

Another article notes that almost two-thirds of Latin America’s security forces are concentrated in seven countries — one of which is Guatemala — according to the platform Map of Citizen Security, a project by Brazilian NGO Instituto Igarapé, InSight Crime and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Study finds greater conflicts in municipalities with high concentration of mining licenses

A study by the Central American Institute of Fiscal Studies (Icefi) and the NGO Ibis found that 78 percent of municipalities with high concentrations of mining licenses have high levels of conflict. Despite these high rates of conflict, Guatemala became the first Central American country to receive certification from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) this week.

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