Guatemala News Update July 7-11

International PBI accompaniers allowed to stay in Guatemala

Two Peace Brigades International volunteers were told on July 1 that their temporary residence permits were revoked for allegedly  “disturbing the public order.” Both volunteers were observers at the police eviction of the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya in May. However, on July 11 the Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla annulled the revocation order.

Migration discourse continues

Senator John McCain said he will seek to reduce the $80 million in annual aid to Guatemala from the US if Guatemala does not significantly reduce the number of children crossing the border. On a similar note, Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, stated that the US government’s priority is to return irregular migrant minors to their home countries. He stated that minors will be cared for while in the US but will not have the option of receiving humanitarian relief to stay in the US.

In a meeting between Jeh Johnson, the Interior Minister of Guatemala Mauricio López Bonilla, and the Interior Minister of Mexico Miguel Angel Osorio, the three agreed to increase the search for and prosecution of coyotes and smuggler networks, in addition to other efforts to decrease migration.

President Peña Nieto of Mexico and President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala met on July 7 to discuss the creation of a new program called “Frontera Sur,” or “Southern Border,” to help protect the human rights of those traveling through Mexico to the United States.

Guatemala’s first lady, Rosa Leal de Pérez, launched the “¡Quédate!” campaign to urge Guatemalan children and adolescents to stay in their home country. The campaign seeks to inform potential migrants of the risks they may face as well as plans to offer a microcredit loan program.

UN officials have called on the US to classify Central American migrants fleeing violence as refugees displaced by armed conflict. If migrants are recognized as refugees they would potentially be eligible for humanitarian protection and asylum.

As a result of the recent influx of child migrants, the Guatemalan government is going to open a consulate office in Tucson, Arizona.

New Task Force to combat organized crime

A new Guatemalan Task Force to combat organized crime, Chortí Institutional, officially started yesterday. While it is based in the eastern department of Zacapa, its operations will also cover Petén, Alta Verapaz, El Progreso, Chiquimula, and Izabal. The Task Force is comprised of 200 police officers, 100 soldiers, and 48 armored vehicles which are to be donated by the US.

Portillo to be released February 2015

Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo will be released from US prison on February 25, 2015. Portillo’s Facebook page made the announcement and also said that Portillo’s attorneys will request that he be allowed to finish his sentence in Guatemala starting in September.

Spain aids fight against impunity in Guatemala

The government of Spain has donated 1.5 million quetzals to the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The CICIG seeks to strengthen Guatemalan institutions and the rule of law in order to identify, prosecute, and demolish criminal structures in the country.

Ex-guerrilla is sentenced to 90 years for his role in massacre

Fermín Solano was sentenced to 90 years in prison for his role in the massacre of 22 campesinos in the town of El Aguacate in 1988, although the Guatemalan Public Ministry originally asked he be sentenced to 690 years. Solano was the first guerrilla to be sentenced for a crime from the internal armed conflict.

Mining for the truth in Guatemala

Melinda Maldonado discusses lawsuits against Canadian mining companies for human rights violations in Guatemala and explores how these cases may shape the operations of the international Canadian extractive industry in the future.


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