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Guatemala: News & Updates

Guatemala had the longest and bloodiest civil war in Central American history: 36 years (1960-96). The US-backed military was responsible for a genocide (“scorched earth policy”) that wiped out 200,000 mostly Maya indigenous civilians.  War criminals are still being tried in the courts.

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Guatemala City - Guatemalan civil society groups are pressuring authorities to arrest President Jimmy Morales for corruption on Tuesday as soon as his successor takes office. For more than half of his four-year term, Morales has been plagued by allegations of illegal campaign financing. He has denied any wrongdoing. He also shut down an international commission leading investigations into high-level corruption.
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President-elect Alejandro Giammattei took office yesterday in Guatemala City. Giammattei comes to the presidency backed by a group of hard-line former military officers reportedly associated with the sector that opposed the peace process that ended Guatemala’s 36-year civil war. Many are also associated with industries that extract resources from rural communities – often with US, Canadian and European investment – a sector Giammattei has pledged to promote. In one of CICIG’s first prosecutions, on August 9, 2010 an arrest warrant was issued against Giammattei on charges of extrajudicial execution related to violent deaths in the Pavon prison on September 25, 2006 while he was the National Director of the Penitentiary System. His then assistant and three police officers were arrested that day, but Giammattei, apparently alerted, had requested political asylum days before in Honduras’ embassy in Guatemala. His request was denied, so on August 13, 2010 he was taken into detention on the Mariscal Zavala military base.
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The Cleveland Immigration Working Group is engaged in a number of immigrant defense and support activities. We need more volunteer help. Please read below and consider helping with some of these needs: A. Safe Hotels Campaign B. Rapid Response Team C. Bond Packets for Release from Detention D. Court Monitoring E. Bus Reception F. Public Actions G. Sponsor Families H. Help for ICE Raid Victims and those in detention I. Prayer Support . If you would like to learn more about any of these initiatives, please email irtf@irtfcleveland.org or call (216) 961 0003.
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In the third case seeking justice for genocide on behalf of the Maya Ixil people, three high-ranking military officials, retired Colonel César Octavio Noguera Argueta, retired General Manuel Callejas y Callejas, and retired General Benedicto Lucas García have been indicted on charges including genocide, crimes against humanity, and forced disappearance. Callejas y Callejas and Lucas Garcia are both School of the Americas graduates. This is the first judicial process to try the high command of Fernando Romeo Lucas García’s military dictatorship for genocide. The present case involves 31 massacres in which 1,128 people were killed; the destruction of 23 villages; 97 selective killings; 117 deaths due to forced displacement; 26 cases of sexual violence; and 53 cases of forced disappearance. The Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR) awaits justice for this case since they first filed formal charges in this case in 2000.
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A video obtained by ProPublica shows the Border Patrol held a sick teen in a concrete cell without proper medical attention and did not discover his body until his cellmate alerted guards. The video doesn’t match the Border Patrol's account of his death. Customs and Border Protectionsaid that an agent had found Carlos “unresponsive” after checking in on him. ProPublica has obtained video that documents the 16-year-old’s last hours, and it shows that Border Patrol agents and health care workers at the Weslaco holding facility missed increasingly obvious signs that his condition was perilous. “Why is a teenaged boy in a jail facility at all if he is sick with a transmissible illness? Why isn’t he at a hospital or at a home or clinic where he can get a warm bed, fluids, supervised attention and medical care? He is not a criminal,” said Dr. Judy Melinek, a San Francisco-based forensic pathologist who reviewed records of Carlos’ death at the request of ProPublica. Interviews and documents illustrate how immigration and child welfare agencies, while grappling with surging migrant numbers, were unable to meet their own guidelines for processing and caring for children. With holding tanks that were never equipped to house migrants for more than a few hours, the Border Patrol was inundated with families and children. Shelters for children, offering beds and medical care, were already packed. Migrants were supposed to be held in CBP centers for no more than three days before being deported, moved to Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers or released pending a hearing. But Carlos had arrived at the peak of the surge, with 144,000 migrants apprehended in May alone. With the overflow crowds, nothing was working as it should have been. HHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement were backlogged in transferring children out of CBP custody. In a spot check soon after Carlos died, the DHS inspector general reported that a third of the 2,800 unaccompanied minors in CBP custody in the Rio Grande Valley had been there longer than 72 hours.
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Brighiit Mirón, a 15-year-old transgender teenager, was killed on November 9, 2019, with a bullet in the head in the Chipilapa neighborhood, in La Gomera, a municipality in the department of Escuintla in central-southern Guatemala, 47 kilometers from the city. In the report “Enough of trans genocide” by RedLactrans and Otrans in 2018, it indicates that 90% of the victims are Guatemalan trans women. The other 10% of the victims were trans women from other countries in the northern triangle of Central America, for whom the passage through the country has not been a guarantee of an improvement in their quality of life or of their protection.
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The Trump administration, which has already closed the Mexican border to most Central Americans seeking U.S. asylum, is planning to go a step further and send most of the would-be migrants to another Central American nation to seek refuge there. Regulations proposed by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security would authorize immigration judges at the southern border to send asylum-seekers to one of three countries — Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras — as long as it was not their homeland. They could apply for asylum there rather than in the United States. The rules would allow other migrants to remain in the United States if they could convince an immigration judge that they were likely to be persecuted, or tortured, in the Central American country where they were to be sent to apply for asylum. That would be very difficult to prove for a migrant who would have little or no time to gather evidence about conditions in the Central American nation and, in nearly all cases, would not have access to a lawyer, said Richard Caldarone, an attorney with the Tahirih Justice Center, a support group for immigrant women and girls.

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