Guatemala News Update: November 17-28

Guatemala’s Constitutional Court Upholds Controversial Selection of Judges

In a 3-2 ruling, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court upheld the appointments of more than 100 of the country’s new Supreme Court justices and appellate court judges, despite serious concerns about corruption in the nomination process. Civil society groups have voiced strong objections to the appointments, calling for the nomination process to be repeated from the beginning.

Residents in Disagreement over Hydroelectric Project

The town of Pojom in San Mateo Ixtatán, Huehuetenango is divided over a hydroelectric project, as some residents are in favor of the dam while others oppose it.

So far, there have been at least two deaths and two injuries resulting from the conflict. The villagers of Pojom are now asking the government to build a police station in the town as a way to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future. The National Civil Police have been unable to investigate these deaths thus far as access to the village is blocked by opponents to the dam.

According to Andrés Bernabé, a community leader, it is a lack of government control in the zone that has led to the recent violence. A government employee stated that the National Civil Police will most likely be used to reestablish order in the area.

Farmers End Highway Blockade

On November 14, campesino groups in Guatemala decided to end a three-day blockade of main highways and roads throughout the country. The blockade resulted in one death, nine police injuries and sixteen arrests. In addition, the blockade allegedly caused substantial economic losses and damages. The Guatemalan Chamber of Commerce claims that around $6.5 million was lost for each day of the blockade.

The Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC) organized the highway blockade as a way to show support for the Rural Development Law and to motivate Congress to act. This law, which would benefit farmers immensely, has remained on the table in Congress since 2005. They also demanded the repeal of the Telecommunications Law, which permits companies to build communications towers on public and private land.

Immigration and President Obama

In a speech on November 20, President Obama discussed his plans to reform immigration in the United States. Obama plans to use an executive action to prioritize the deportation of criminals and recent arrivals, while granting temporary legal status to those who have lived in the United States for more than five years as well as to parents of citizens and legal residents. These actions could shield up to 5 million immigrants from being deported.

Earlier in the week, it was also announced that the US is establishing an in-country refugee program in three Central American countries: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. This program, set to begin in December 2014, will provide a “safe, legal, and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey” to the United States by allowing parents legally present in the United States to request refugee admission for children and spouses still in Central America.


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