Guatemala News Update: June 23-27

US government responds to surge in child migrants

Coinciding with Vice President Biden’s visit to Guatemala last Friday, the US government announced its response to the surge in unaccompanied child migrants will be to increase the number of judges, asylum officers, immigration attorneys, and detention facilities that process irregular migrants in order to speed up processing and deportations. The US also promised $40 million to Guatemala to improve security conditions in an effort to address the push factors of child migration.

In addition, discussion in the US surrounding child migration continues as two congressional committees heard testimony this week about the thousands of children crossing the border. However, while there has been a flood of articles written about child migrants, Laura Carlson provides a critique of the media coverage of the issue, saying the real story about why children migrate isn’t being told.

In related news, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson sent a message to the parents of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, discouraging them from sending their children to “travel illegally into the United States.”

Protests across the country denounce energy and mining projects

On Monday, June 23, marches and roadblocks happened across Guatemala to protest transnational companies, mines, and hydroelectric projects, as well as demand dialogue with the government to address social services. Participants included of campesino, labor, youth and indigenous groups.

PPT finds Canada and mining companies guilty

Canada was found guilty of contributing to human rights violations in Latin America as a result of its efforts to promote, sponsor and protect Canadian mining investments abroad. Tahoe Resources was one of the five mining companies based in Latin America that were found culpable in the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal’s preliminary verdict of failing to respect, protect, and ensure human rights. The PPT also found the Latin American host states of the companies examined (Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, and Chile) as having failed to consider the impact of mining on human rights and consult the communities being operated in, as well as tolerating and collaborating with mining companies.

In related news, the Committee on Energy and Mines of Congress in Guatemala has not met for almost three months to rule on an initiative presented to reform the Mining Law that is almost 17 years old. One expectation of the reform is that it will establish consultation with communities as a norm, a requirement of ILO 169.

Government meeting with residents from San Juan Sacatepéquez delivers little

The first meeting between government authorities and residents from the 12 communities of San Juan Sacatepéquez did not result in any agreements. The communities have expressed concern about the cement plan in the region, including its impact on their environment and sacred spaces. For their opposition, the communities have seen increased militarization, conflict and criminalization. In this most recent dialogue, the government citing security issues as justification for declining to provide requested information about the location of the company’s proposed road or discuss which properties had been sold to make way for construction.

Attorney General Thelma Aldana discusses her agenda

Attorney General Aldana plans to create a new office dedicated to combating extortion. Aldana also plans to install four new regional district attorney’s offices focused on addressing crimes against women in the departments most affected by femicide.

In a related article, Abigail Bessler discusses why the world should care about the culture of violence towards women in Guatemala and draws attention to the country’s high levels of impunity for femicide and rape.

Calls for Guatemala to ratify UN convention against disappearances

Civil society organizations and family members of victims of Guatemala’s internal armed conflict gathered in La Plaza de la Constitución in Guatemala City last Saturday, June 21, to demand that the government ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The director of the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (Centro Para la Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos-CALDH) stressed the importance of ratifying the convention and noted that 45,000 people — 5,000 of whom were minors — were forced to leave their homes during the country’s internal armed conflict.

Historic sexual slavery case begins in Guatemalan courts

On June 23, Colonel Esteelmer Reyes Girón and ex-military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asij were indicted on charges of raping 15 Maya Q’eqchi’ women, committing crimes against humanity, and forcibly disappearing more than 20 people during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict.

Campesinos ask for the return of stolen land

Residents from 12 communities of Nebaj, Quiché, are calling on the government to provide restitution for lands that were allegedly seized by the military in 1984. Petitioners claim that the army took advantage of the fact that some title holders had fled from the armed conflict.

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