Guatemala News Update: August 3-8

Preliminary hearing against Judge Yassmín Barrios begins

The Liga Pro Patria (League for the Nation) presented a preliminary hearing against Judge Yassmín Barrios for the crimes of breach of duties, coercion, and the right of the accused to counsel. The charges are in reference to actions taken by Judge Barrios during the genocide trial.

US and Guatemala officially form Bilateral Working Group

The Pentagon proposed the creation of a Defense Bilateral Working Group between Guatemala and the US. Julio Ligorría, Guatemala’s ambassador to the United States, attributed US interest in this working group to a high level of confidence in the Guatemalan army. The formation of a Bilateral Working Group on Matters of Defense was ratified by Guatemala’s Minister of Defense, General Manuel López Ambrosio, and only five other Latin American countries who are considered strategic military allies to the US (Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, and Peru) have similar working groups.

Human Rights Ombudsman reports on police harassment

Human Rights Ombudsman Jorge De León held a press conference on the findings of his five day long trip to investigate the experiences of migrants on their way to the United States. Much of what he reported related to corruption of the Guatemalan police and
included the assault of migrants by the police.

Environmentalists condemn the work of Michelle Martínez

The head of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), Michelle Martínez, is being criticized by environmental leaders in Guatemala for her silence on mining in Guatemala, a lack of concrete strategies to address climate change, superficial environmental studies, and neglect of indigenous peoples.

Decrease in child migration to the US

According to Deputy Foreign Minister Oscar Padilla, the number of child migrants entering
the US unaccompanied has decreased 40% in the past two weeks. He attributes this to the migration prevention campaigns that have recently been implemented, while officials from various consulates say it may be due to trafficking networks taking more caution, hot summer temperatures, or the recent prohibition of migrants riding the train “La Bestia” as a mode of traveling across Mexico to the US border. José Barillas, consul in Houston, Texas, said in the coming days migrant holding shelters in San Antonio, Texas and Oklahoma that were opened to address the border crisis will be closed.

Despite the recent decrease, according to Department of Homeland Security data, at the end of last week the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border into the US surpassed the Obama administration’s initial estimate of 60,000 for this fiscal year. The new estimate is that 90,000 child migrants will have entered the US by this October.

New campaign to slow migration

The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has launched a Spanish media campaign in Central America with messages like “you are endangering your child” and “they will not be able to stay in this country,” in an attempt to deter child migration. The campaign will be extended to metropolitan areas in the United States with high concentrations of Central Americans like Houston, Los Angeles, DC, New York, and Miami.

Deportation flights continue

President Molina announced that there will be 10 flights total this month taking deported family units back to Guatemala. Two flights were scheduled for last week but were delayed due to a case of chickenpox in a holding facility in New Mexico, and according to Alejandra Gordillo of the National Council for Migrants in Guatemala (Conamigua), approximately two flights will be carried out per week for the rest of August.

$405 million will go toward the border crisis

As a result of the lack of action by the US Congress prior to its August recess, the US government is going to reallocate $405 million from various Homeland Security programs to addressing the crisis at the border. Some of this money will be used to keep Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) operating.

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