Guatemala News Update: June 29-July 3

Guatemala High Court Revives Immunity-Stripping Process for President Pérez Molina

On July 1, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court lifted the injunction suspending the process to remove President Pérez Molina’s immunity, which means that the Congressional Committee may now move forward with its investigation of Pérez Molina over corruption allegations. The process could result in the president’s impeachment.

Protesters Call for the Resignation of Pérez Molina

Demonstrators took to the streets of Guatemala City again this weekend to demand that President Pérez Molina resign amid allegations of corruption. Although many expected a low turn-out due to the national holiday on Monday, 300 people participated in the protest and have expressed their frustration that they are not “seeing any results.”

The Human Rights Convergence — a coalition of Guatemalan human rights groups — released a statement calling for the protection of citizens involved in the protests and other social movements to root out government corruption.

“Tear Gas Used to Attack Guatemala Village: Official Corruption Ransacking Nation’s Treasury and Natural Resources”

Epoch Times published an article reporting on the illegal jade mining in the mountainside of El Arco, highlighting the role of Guaetmala’s National Civil Police (PNC) in protecting the illegal operations. Residents have been organizing through a group called the Fundación Turcio Lima (FTL), created to “obtain clean water rights and to exercise civil rights by ordinary people by enabling them to gain official titles to their real property.”

Two Police Officers Arrested for the Murder of Journalists

Three individuals, two of whom are police officers, were arrested for the murder of two journalists on Friday. The officers, Jorge León Cabrera Solís and Artemio de Jesús Juárez Pichiyá, were believed to have murdered journalists Danilo López (a journalist for Prensa Libre) and Federico Salazar on March 10 as they were walking through a park in Mazatenango.

Damming Dissent: Community leaders behind bars in Guatemala after opposing hydro projects

This article by Sandra Cuffe looks at the pattern of criminalization of community leaders in Huehuetenango for their involvement in movements to oppose hydroelectric dams in the region.

“Are we witnessing a Central American Spring?”

This Foreign Policy article looks at the parallels in corruption scandals in Honduras and Guatemala as an indicator for a potential political spring in the region.

Guatemala News Update: June 22-26

Discovery of Suspected Congressional Corruption Network

Guatemala- AFP

Photo – AFP

Authorities opened an investigation on Thursday of a suspected network of ghost employees in Congress. Congressman Pedro Muadi has been linked to the alleged creation of 15 contracts of “ghost employees,” which are individuals recorded on a payroll system but who don’t actually work for that company or organization. It is believed that Congressman Muadi created these faulty contracts for security staff for a private company he owns. The CICIG requested the Supreme Court to carry out a pretrial investigation to remove Muadi’s immunity.

New York Times Op-Ed: “America’s Second Chance in Guatemala”

An Op-Ed by Anita Isaacs was featured in this week’s New York Times, in which Isaacs argues for more direct involvement by the US in Guatemala’s anti-corruption movement. Isaacs claims that the US has “turned its back” on hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans who have come together to demand the resignation of President Pérez Molina. She also argues that US officials, including Ambassador Todd Robinson, are manipulating the weakened political situation in Guatemala to pursue their own agenda. Isaacs expresses deep skepticism of Pérez Molina’s willingness to follow through on his commitments to carry out anti-corruption efforts. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: June 15-19

AFP Photo/Johan Ordonez

AFP Photo/Johan Ordonez

Guatemalan court brakes effort to strip president’s immunity

Guatemala’s Constitutional Court has ruled to act on a petition from President Pérez Molina which questions the legitimacy of the congressional panel that is currently investigating allegations against the president and, subsequently, choosing whether or not to remove his immunity from prosecution.

Last Friday, a Congressional hearing was held to elect the five-member commission; those voted into the commission were Baudilio Hichos López, Hugo Fernando García Gudiel and Juan Armando Chuy Chanchavac of the LIDER Party, Independent Congressman Mario Santiago Linares, and Hugo Morán Tobar of the CREO Party.

President Pérez Molina had been ordered to appear before Congress this Thursday to be questioned about his role in the corruption scandal. Instead of appearing to testify, the president sent in a written defense in which he claims that the Supreme Court should not have passed along his case to Congress. The President referred to the decision to remove his immunity as a “purely political, or spurious, or illegitimate situation.”

Also on Thursday, the head of the congressional commission investigating the president, Baudilio Hichos López, resigned after the CICIG linked him to the country’s social security scandal. Congressman Baudilio Hichos may now be stripped of the same legal immunity granted to him as an elected official that he seeks to remove from President Pérez Molina. The head of the CICIG as well as a top prosecutor in Guatemala suspect that Hichos was involved in a questionable real estate rental contract involving the social security agency. Read more about Baudilio Hichos’s resignation here.

Mexico Deporting Migrants from Central America in Record Numbers

After initiating its Southern Border Plan, under pressure from the US, Mexico has increased border protection along its southern boundary. According to the National Immigration Institute, Mexico deported 79% more Central Americans from January to April than it did during the same time period in 2014. Following the influx of nearly 50,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America into the US during 2014, the United States has increased bilateral efforts with Mexico to reduce the migration of Central Americans through Mexico. Human rights groups, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, have expressed concerns about Mexico’s heavy-handed approach to curtail the wave of migration. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: June 8-12

Guatemala’s Supreme Court Opens the Door for the Prosecution of Pérez Molina

The Supreme Court has approved for congress to decide whether to remove President Pérez Molina’s immunity from prosecution for possible involvement in the “La Linea” and IGSS corruption scandals. Should Perez Molina be put on trial, his possible prosecution would essentially result in his impeachment. 

The Upcoming 2015 Elections

In this Saturday, May 30, 2015 photo, protesters carry a fake coffin with a effigy of Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina during a protest to demand his resignation in Guatemala City. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) (The Associated Press)

In this Saturday, May 30, 2015 photo, protesters carry a fake coffin with a effigy of Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina during a protest to demand his resignation in Guatemala City. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) (The Associated Press)

A recent poll by Costa Rican firm Borge y Asociados indicates that while conservative candidate Manuel Baldizón is still the favorite to win the upcoming presidential election, comedian Jimmy Morales is gaining support. Morales is seen as an anti-establishment candidate with little ties to Guatemala City, which could benefit him with the recent public outcry over government corruption. Morales is running as a member of the right-wing party, Frente de Convergencia Nacional, which has ties to the military. However, many express their doubt in Morales’ ability to lead as president. He has also recently made controversial comments about the past internal conflict in the country, including his denial that genocide was committed against the Maya Ixil people. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: June 1-5

gabriela-smallSexual Violence as a War Crime in Guatemala: Mayan Women Struggle for Justice

GHRC Executive Director Kelsey Alford-Jones conducted an interview with Gabriela Rivera, a lawyer with Mujeres Transformando el Mundo (MTM), about the organization’s approach to seeking justice for sexual violence prevalent during the internal conflict, with a focus on the Sepur Zarco sexual slavery case.

Guatemala’s Political Crisis Explained

GHRC explains the current political crisis, as well as what may come next for Guatemala on the Due Process of Law Foundation’s blog (in Spanish).

Lawyer who defended former Guatemala dictator in genocide trial murdered

On Wednesday, June 3, the Guatemalan defense lawyer for Efraín Ríos Montt, Francisco Palomo, was shot dead by two men in Guatemala City. Palomo had previously defended former President Alfonso Portillo for charges of money-laundering in the United States. Along with the increasingly serious health condition of Ríos Montt, the death of his defense lawyer is expected to cause further delay in his trial for genocide. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: May 18-22

Protests Continue; Government Officials Resign Amid Corruption and Bribery Probes

On Saturday, May 16, an estimated 60,000 people gathered at the national palace in Guatemala City to denounce corruption and call for the resignation of top officials, including Otto Pérez Molina. In other regions of Guatemala, as well as in other countries, groups held simultaneous protests as part of the #RenunciaYa movement. Photos from the event are available here.

Then, on May 20, at least 15 more people were arrested in a separate fraud and bribery probe into the Guatemalan Social Security Institute (IGSS), including the central bank governor and the head of the  IGSS (who also used to be Pérez Molina’s private secretary). The investigation was also conducted jointly by Guatemalan prosecutors and the CICIG. On the same day, a large protest of campesinos took place in Guatemala City as part of the ongoing #RenunciaYa movement.

Yesterday, Pérez Molina dismissed the Guatemalan intelligence chief, as well as the ministers of the interior, environment and energy, in a move to address citizens’ calls to root our corruption. Calls for the president to also resign continue, but Pérez Molina has stated that he will serve out his term. 

Updates about the ongoing protests and political crisis will be made on our initial explainer.

Maya Q’eqchi’ seek justice in Guatemala and Canada

This in-depth article by Sandra Cuffe tells the story of the struggle of a group from Izabal to seek justice — both in Guatemala and Canada — for shooting community members protesting the Guatemala Nickel Company’s (CGN) Fenix ferro-nickel mining project. Mynor Padilla, the former head of private security for CGN (then a subsidiary of Canadian company HudBay Minerals) is currently standing trial in Guatemala for homicide and assault causing bodily harm.

A separate article also looks at the legal cases against the Guatemala Nickel Company.

The 14-year-old music prodigy who left his home in Guatemala for Los Angeles

This article, part of a series that looks at the aftermath of last summer’s “migration crisis,” details the journey of a 14-year-old Guatemalan boy from his home in Peten to the US.

Guatemala News Update: May 11-15

Guatemala Gets New VP in Wake of Tax Fraud Scandal

On May 14, Alejandro Maldonado was named as Guatemala’s new vice president following the resignation of Roxana Baldetti amid the revelation of a tax fraud scandal. On May 15, Erick Archila, head of Guatemala’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, also resigned due to what he called “political persecution.” Archila was summoned to appear this morning before a congressional commission investigating allegations of corruption against him, but refused to appear.

Meanwhile, citizens have continued to call for the resignation of President Otto Pérez Molina and will move forward with another wave of national protests set for Saturday, May 16.

In Washington, DC, the Mayan League is also organizing people to gather in front of the White House at 10 am in an expression of solidarity with the thousands in Guatemala demanding an end to corruption and impunity.

Guatemala Ex-police Chief Loses Appeal Against Life Sentence

Ex-police chief Erwin Sperisen’s attempt to appeal a life sentence has been struck down by a Swiss court. Sperisen — who also has Swiss nationality — was found guilyy last year in Switzerland of killing seven prisoners in a jail in his home country of Guatemala. Continue reading