Guatemala News Update: January 26-30

Update on the Genocide Case

Guatemala’s National Institute of Forensic Science (INACIF) informed on Friday, January 23rd that the results of Montt’s latest medical evaluation show irreversible neurological damage caused by osteomyelitis, the disease diagnosed by INACIF only two weeks before. Though the medical results have proven Montt’s grave status, Judge Flores has ordered weekly evaluations to determine if the he will be able to be present at the next court hearing.

The case continues at a standstill, as further complications and delays have arisen due to concerns from both parties regarding the lack of impartiality of the judges. At the beginning of the re-trial, Montt’s team –though having knowledge of the Judge’s academic background for over a year– suddenly accused Irma Jeannette Valdés Rodas of impartiality.

Judge Valdés was forced to recuse herself from the case and this week, lawyers representing victims in the genocide case presented an objection against the head judge of the Appeals Court that will rule on the recusal. The lawyers argue that Anabella Esmeralda Cardona is not impartial due to her in courses and conferences hosted by the military. The trial will be delayed until both motions are resolved.

Other legal objections from the defense are likely to cause further delay and, according to the International Justice Monitor, it is becoming increasingly uncertain that Ríos Montt will face a re-trial.

Updates in the Spanish Embassy Case

Former chief of the Guatemalan National Police, Pedro García Arredondo, who was found guilty of causing the deaths of 37 people during the 1980 attack on the Spanish embassy case, has been transferred to a hospital in Guatemala City. Moisés Galindo, Arredondo’s lawyer, claims the accused has diabetes and that the disease has created complications on a minor foot injury. Arredondo has been granted a legal authorization for temporary stay at the hospital.

Arredondo was also ordered to pay reparations of Q9 million (approximately US$1.2 million) to the victims’ families. The money is to be divided among the families of six of the victims.

Pérez Molina Discusses Human Rights at Inter-American Court

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina was invited to discuss the human rights situation in Guatemala and the country’s compliance with Inter-American Court rulings. During the meeting, the President reiterated his intention to respect and implement Court sentences.

Civil society groups, who released a public statement the same day, highlighted that the Guatemalan state has been charged by the Court in 19 different cases and that the government has repeatedly refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the Court; in August 2014, the Court found Guatemala to be in “contempt” for the lack of implementation of 11 sentences in cases relating to the internal armed conflict. “We respectfully call on the Guatemalan State to reconsider its position,” they wrote, “that is in clear violation of international law, and to guarantee effective access to justice for victims and their families.”

During his visit to San José, Costa Rica, Pérez Molina participated in a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

Plan for Alliance for Prosperity in Northern Triangle: Step in Right Direction for Guatemala?

This week, the President’s cabinet discussed the Plan of Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle, launched November 2014 in Washington, DC. The plan aims to improve the countries’ infrastructure with a desired $15 billion aid contribution. This article by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs offers analysis on whether or not the plan would truly benefit Guatemala — citing concerns regarding weak state institutions and the risk of exacerbating inequality and violence.

Groups have raised concerns that the plan will increase conflict in rural and indigenous communities where there is already tension surrounding the imposition of large-scale projects. A lack of supervision of infrastructure development in rural areas of Guatemala could lead to further abuses and exploitation by corporations.

Guatemalan Journalists Face Violence Amid Early Electoral Campaigns

The Guatemalan Journalists Association (APG) has expressed concern for an increase of violence against journalists as the 2015 presidential elections approach.

Though it is only the beginning of the year, several attacks and threats have already been reported. Two journalists have faced criminal charges for criticizing unofficial candidate Manuel Baldizón. Another has been legally persecuted by President Pérez Molina and Vice-President Roxana Baldetti for releasing information on supposed acts of corruption.

Violence against journalists has also included physical attacks, creating a hostile environment for news reporters in Guatemala. 74 attacks were reported in 2014; there have been eight attacks already this year.

The Organization of American States Analyzes “Irregular” Migration to the US

A meeting organized by the OAS Department of Public Security, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was held on January 27 and 28 to discuss irregular migration from Latin America to the US. The goal was to discuss experiences from eight different countries —  Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic — as part of the beginning of a three-year program for prevention of irregular migration.

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