Guatemala News Update: July 6-10

Ríos Montt. Photo by James Rodríguez

Ríos Montt. Photo by James Rodríguez

Ex-ruler Ríos Montt found unfit for trial

Attorneys for Efraín Ríos Montt have requested that the genocide case against him be dismissed after an investigation by Guatemala’s National Forensic Science Institute (INACIF) deemed Montt unfit to stand trial. INACIF released a statement on July 7 declaring that the 89-year-old would not be able to respond accurately to questioning due to his mentally incapacitated state.

Following years of delays, Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide and war crimes in May 2013. The case was celebrated throughout Guatemala and Latin America as the first case in which a former dictator was convicted of genocide in a domestic court. The decision was rescinded 10 days later by the Constitutional Court due to a questionable legal technicality. The retrial was set for January of this year, but additional delay tactics further derailed the case. A hearing is scheduled for July 23, 2015 to determine whether the trial will move forward, although it seems unlikely that the case will proceed.

CICIG Captures Former Minister of Energy and Mines and Former Private Secretary for President Pérez Molina

On July 9, the CICIG announced the arrests of several more public officials on corruption charges including  another individual close to President Pérez Molina — Gustavo Martinez. Martinez is the president’s son-in-law and former private secretary, and has been arrested for alleged influence trafficking. According to the CICIG’s website, Martinez had inserted meetings with various companies into President Pérez Molina’s schedule in exchange for bribes. Former Vice Minister of Energy and Mines, Edwin Ramon Rodas Solares, was also arrested.

US Policy Driving Militarization in Guatemala

This Truthout article expresses concerns over the expansion of Guatemalan task forces under the proposed Alliance for Prosperity Plan. It also describes the shortcomings of existing task forces, which have been funded and trained by the United States in order to prevent illegal immigration along the Guatemala-Mexico border. GHRC Director Kelsey Alford-Jones is quoted, stating that the current approach of militarizing security forces in Central America “endangers those who are fleeing violence or persecution and has done almost nothing to address entrenched corruption, trafficking and deadly violence.”

US Counselor Thomas Shannon Arrives in Guatemala

Counselor to the US State Department Thomas Shannon arrived in Guatemala on Tuesday with a delegation of high-level officials from USAID, the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies. The officials met with President Otto Pérez Molina and municipal leaders on Thursday. The meeting was part of US efforts to push forward the Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity, a massive plan for development created by the three Northern Triangle countries, and partly funded by the United States. Shannon also met with El Salvador President Salvador Sanchez Ceren earlier in the week.

The US Shouldn’t Export Colombia’s Drug War ‘Success’

This InsightCrime article details the opaque US policy of funding Colombian military forces to train security groups in the Western Hemisphere and elsewhere. Considering the frequent abuses perpetrated by Colombian forces in their own country, these policies raise alarm, especially for Guatemala, which will be amongst the top three recipients of Colombian-led military training in 2015.

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