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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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Please call your Senators today to demand an end to U.S. military aid to Guatemala and Central America! The peoples of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are increasingly experiencing violations of their rights at the hands of the state. All three governments receive millions of dollars annually in police and military training and equipment from the United States in the name of fighting the U.S. War on Drugs and the (unofficial) U.S. War on Migrants.

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A Nevada-based mining firm is suing Guatemala for more than $400 million, the first suit of its kind for the impoverished Central American country. 

The lawsuit which began on June 22 with the consultation process was filed at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a branch of the World Bank, and is based on CAFTA (Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement with the US). It allows transnational corporations to sue for alleged losses of investment. In the recent lawsuit, the Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA) mining firm claims that the Guatemalan government has not done enough to protect their investment. A dubious claim seeing how the police oppresses indigenous anti-mining protests. KCA's gold mine, which has been the sight of constant protest, was only in operation for two years, until the courts suspended the project in late 2015 over failure to adequately consult with the habitants of the La Puya area. Furthermore, the mine was the cause of massive environmental damages leading to health issues within the population. Individuals with courage to speak out against the operation were met with threats, violence, persecution and police repression. 

In their defense against KCA's lawsuit, the Guatemalan government brings forward information gathered by activists located in La Puya while ignoring the the interests of the communities. The KCA case also sheds light on corruption within Guatemala's former government as Daniel Kapps was meeting with the Director General of Mining Selvyn Morales in 2011 in an effort to seek a building permit. Shortly after this meeting Morales left his position in the government to work for a mining services company, which KCA immediately hired. Guatemala's government argues that KCA violated environmental norms and failed to obtain its construction license to build its mine, thus not having a right to be reimbursed for their losses. 

Indigenous communities criticize that the Guatemalan government argues on the claims and findings of activists while disregarding the needs and interests of the habitants.  

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In this montly newsletter, please read about : (1) Immigration Court in Cleveland, OH: Nicaraguans rank #1 in deportation proceedings filed; (2) - Recent Border Trends: Why We See so Many Nicaraguans and Venezuelans Arriving at the U.S. Southern Border; (3) Title 42: Expelling Migrants in the Name of Health Measures: Biden Urges Mexico to Take Migrants under COVID Expulsion Order He Promised to End; (4) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): Increase in ICE’s use of Ankle Monitors and Smartphones to Monitor Immigrants and Detention Numbers; (5) At The Border: Recent Incidents at and around the US-Mexico Border. TAKE ACTION ITEMS: After reading the articles, please take a few moments to advocate for migrant justice with our TAKE ACTION items: (1) Support Ohio Immigrant and Refugee Businesses this Holiday Season; (2) ​​​​​Urge Congress to Support and Pass Permanent Pathways to Citizenship (3) Stop the illegal and immoral transportation of migrants by certain governors to other states and Washington, DC.

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The U.S. government has called out Guatemala for its treatment of corruption and human rights prosecutors and judges.

Numbers of high ranking prosecutors and judges are in jail for their work against corruption and many more have fled the country. 

The attorney generals office categorically rejects this criticism, calling the U.S. ill-informed and stating it "lacked knowledge of the Guatemalan justice system."

Last year the  Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras herself was included in a list of corrupt and anti-democratic actors published by the U.S. State Department, singling her out for thwarting corruption investigations.

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October 13 the U.S. announced that it will donate 95 vehicles, valued $4.4 million to the Guatemalan government.  

This concludes a 2019 proposal by the U.S. to donate equipment to Guatemala's border security forces.

The donation is funded through a Defense Department foreign military “capacity-building” authority established in 2017 as Section 333 of Title 10, U.S. Code, used as an alternative to the Foreign Military Financing program (FMF). Due to human rights and corruption concerns, there has been a prohibition on using  the FMF program to aid the Guatemalan security forces and military.

Payment for the vehicles is part of the U.S. defense budget and does not come from the dedicated annual foreign assistance appropriation. 

Journalists and activists criticize the aid for the border protection forces, fearing the equipment could be used to block migrants crossing the border, an act that is already in motion.

Besides the dangers for refugees and others transiting, the last money and equipment from the US government ended up being misused for intimidation against human rights and anti-corruption activists, a part of the ongoing crackdown on independent media and anti-corruption prosecutors and judges. 

All this is bad enough, but the track records show that the anti-drug efforts barely produce any fruit. Even though 90% of all cocaine entering the United States passes through Guatemala, only 7-15 tons were seized by Guatemalan police. This hardly makes a dent in the total cocaine trafficking and is far behind other South and Central American countries.

Topping this off is the fact that the Guatemalan state has the necessary financial resources to pay for the donated vehicles.

Just two weeks back the Guatemalan Congress passed a law, promising each veteran of the 36-year long civil war, the equivalent of $4,500 U.S. dollars. The bonuses will be handed out with no regard for war crimes or crimes against humanity that the ex-soldiers may have committed during the conflict. The total is around $450 million.

Spending this $4.4 million on military is obviously a mistake. The money could have been spent far better, helping the civil society and simultaneously achieving crime fighting goals. 

It could provide food security to half a million Guatemalans suffering from hunger. 

A more efficient anti-crime program than militant oppression is always prevention. Funding community-based violence prevention would reduce violent crime; making communities safer might discourage the population from emigrating. 

A further crime driving factor is the massive corruption keeping the country hostage. The U.S. budget could have been used to renew the 2010's efforts to strengthen Guatemala's judiciary, building an independent justice system, which is needed to reach a significant change in the rotting justice structures. 

Over all, it is obvious that the military aid would do more bad then good and that Guatemala's society is likely to keep suffering for years. 


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On behalf of IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, Honduras, and Guatemala,  urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice.

IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

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As Fiscal Year 2022 is almost over, we are hearing numbers of 750 or more migrant deaths over the past twelve months. While, tragically, it does still happen that migrants die while being chased by Border Patrol agents or shot when attempting to cross the border, the majority of these deaths are a result of the so-called “prevention through deterrence” strategy that forces people to take on more dangerous routes when traveling up to the southern U.S. border to seek safety. And if they do make it through to the U.S., they are often expelled immediately or put into deportation proceedings, waiting for their hearing in Mexican emergency shelters or U.S. detention centers. Read IRTF's monthly overview of recent updates on U.S. immigration and what has been happening at the border!