Guatemala News Update July 7-11

International PBI accompaniers allowed to stay in Guatemala

Two Peace Brigades International volunteers were told on July 1 that their temporary residence permits were revoked for allegedly  “disturbing the public order.” Both volunteers were observers at the police eviction of the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya in May. However, on July 11 the Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla annulled the revocation order.

Migration discourse continues

Senator John McCain said he will seek to reduce the $80 million in annual aid to Guatemala from the US if Guatemala does not significantly reduce the number of children crossing the border. On a similar note, Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, stated that the US government’s priority is to return irregular migrant minors to their home countries. He stated that minors will be cared for while in the US but will not have the option of receiving humanitarian relief to stay in the US. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update June 29 – July 3

Guatemalan officials visit the US

This week Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina, along with other Central American officials, spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry regarding their concerns for the unaccompanied minors arriving in the US. President Molina reportedly said there can be no unilateral decisions—that all the countries must work together—and Guatemalan ambassador Julio Ligorría added that the officials must also work to address the root causes of migration.

Guatemala’s First Lady, Rosa Leal, wife of President Otto Pérez Molina, also visited border patrol stations this week in Tucson and Nogales.

In addition, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Oscar Padilla, visited a military base in California where unaccompanied minor migrants are being held. He reportedly spoke to them about the dangers of traveling from Guatemala to the US unaccompanied, such as sexual assault, labor exploitation, and even death. Padilla said the conditions the children are being held under are “very good, the facilities are well distributed so the minors can receive very good care.”

Unaccompanied minor found dead

The body of 15-year-old Gilberto Ramos was found in brush in La Joya, Texas on Monday, June 30. Originally from San Jose Las Flores, Huehuetenango, his mother said that his motive for migrating to the US was to earn money to pay for her epilepsy treatment. He was accompanied by a coyote who charged the family $5,400—a portion of which they still owe. Once Gilberto reached Texas he reportedly phoned home to have his parents deposit an installment of the payment and it is presumed that shortly after the coyote abandoned him and he died of heat exposure.

Guatemalan Commission on Migrants declared to be in permanent session

The Legislative Commission on Migrants declared itself in permanent session to discuss the current migration situation and create public policy that favors migrants.

Public Ministry asks that ex-guerrilla Solano Barillas get 690 years in prison

The Guatemalan Public Ministry is asking that Fermín Felipe Solano Barillas be sentenced to 690 years in prison for his role in the El Aguacate Massacre. His trial is the first ever to hold a guerrilla accountable for a massacre perpetrated during the internal armed conflict.

Network of former soldiers has strong presence in Guatemalan government

Security experts are noting the reformation of military circles in various Guatemalan institutions and are arguing that the President’s affiliation with the military has opened the doors for retired soldiers to hold important positions in government and other institutions. For example, the current Interior Minister of Guatemala, Mauricio López Bonilla, is a retired Lieutenant Colonel.

March in protest of National Army Day

About 500 human rights activists and indigenous peoples marched in Guatemala City to reject the commemoration of National Army Day. The rejection was in remembrance of the human rights atrocities committed by the Guatemalan Army during the internal armed conflict, and participants also called for the reinstatement of Efraín Ríos Montt’s 80-year genocide sentence.

Complaint filed against Hidralia Energia

On June 27 a complaint was filed by various indigenous organizations to the Human Rights Ombudsman denouncing the occupation of ancestral land without consent, threats, the use of landmines, serious gunshot injuries to two people, the illegal detention of at least 17 people, and more, that were committed by Hidralia Energia. The organizations argue that Spain, the owner of the hydroelectric project, should be held responsible for funding the project without requiring prior consultation with the communities that would be affected.