Guatemala News Update July 14-18

National Guardsmen may be sent to assist Border Patrol

President Obama has been asked to authorize the deployment of at least 1,000 members of the National Guard with access to drones, helicopters, and night vision to help Border Patrol agents deter migration. According to Prensa Libre, Obama has said that he would be willing to deploy the guardsmen as a temporary measure, provided there is room in the budget.

The OAS condemns suggested accelerated deportation of child migrants

General Secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, criticizes the notion that child migrants are a threat to US security and demands that their rights be respected. He elaborates by emphasizing that international standards say children have the right to an immigration interview, must receive humane treatment, and be given shelter.

Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office investigates protocol for receiving children returning to Guatemala

In response to claims by different migrant organizations that Guatemala does not have the necessary conditions to care for children who are deported from Mexico or the US, the Human Rights Ombudsman was present at La Aurora International Airport to observe how Guatemalan authorities are treating children upon their return to Guatemala. It was found that the appropriate protocols have been established for minors who are reentering the country and they are being moved to shelters that are well-maintained. Continue reading

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

Rally at the White House: Fighting for Central American Minors and Their Families

On Monday July 7th, GHRC was present at a rally in support of the Central American children detained at the US border as well as their families. Since last October, nearly 60,000 minors have been detained. Young migrants face a variety of push and pull factors that motivate them to make what is frequently a perilous journey to the US, and a significant number are fleeing violence in their home countries.

Once they are detained, children face being held in uncomfortable and overcrowded Border Patrol facilities. They must navigate their removal process without the right to an appointed counsel or child advocate and face being repatriated back to the potentially dangerous situation they initially fled from. Monday’s rally served as an opportunity to show solidarity with these young people and their families, as well as to appeal to the US government to prioritize the best interests and welfare of minors who have entered the country irregularly.

White House Rally 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.