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Guatemala: Human Rights Defenders Under Attack

The U.N. human rights office has recorded an alarming 884 attacks against human rights defenders

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Guatemala, Human Rights Defenders
FILE - Hundreds of indigenous people, peasant farmers and activists demonstrate in the streets of Guatemala City, demanding the end of the corruption and the persecution of political leaders, May 8, 2019. VOA

A report by the U.N. Human Rights Office finds human rights defenders, minorities and indigenous people in Guatemala are subject to widescale, wanton attacks by state and non-state actors. The report, prepared with Guatemala’s National Human Rights Institution, covers the period from January 2017 to April 2019.

The U.N. human rights office has recorded an alarming 884 attacks against human rights defenders, including 39 killings during the two-year reporting period. It says human rights defenders are subject to physical attacks, threats, intimidation, surveillance, stigmatization, and gender-based violence.

Guatemala, Human Rights Defenders

A report by the U.N. Human Rights Office finds human rights defenders, minorities and indigenous people in Guatemala are subject to widescale, wanton attacks. Pixabay

The report accuses the government of misusing criminal law to silence those defending peoples’ rights to lands, territories and natural resources. It notes indigenous peoples, women defenders, LGBTI defenders, and journalists are among those at particular risk of abuse.

In mid-June, Guatemalans will go to the poll to elect the President and Congress. U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado said this is a particularly precarious time for human rights defenders. She said her office has documented a number of attacks against community and indigenous leaders targeted for their political involvement.

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“Three political candidates and two people with declared intentions to run for office have been killed since January 2019. Impunity in relation to these crimes is persistent and rampant. Independent judges — including from High Courts — and prosecutors have faced assaults, threats, reprisals and have been stigmatized,” said Hurtado.

The report warns these attacks and abuses of peoples’ civil rights bring into question the credibility of the electoral process. It says widespread violations will persist unless measures are taken to end the country’s endemic corruption, redress the lack of land tenure, improve security and institutional weaknesses.

The report recommends the government strengthen measures to prevent, protect, investigate and prosecute crimes committed against human rights defenders. (VOA)

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US Border Patrol Agents will Deploy to Guatemala to Train Side-by-Side

DHS personnel will advise Guatemalan police and migration authorities on how to halt human smuggling

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US, Border Patrol Agents, Guatemala
Central American migrants eat lunch, courtesy of Mexican officials, on the border bridge between Mexico and Guatemala, as they wait for their humanitarian visas from Mexican migration officials to be processed. VOA

The United States is reportedly sending dozens of Department of Homeland (DHS) security agents and investigators to Guatemala to help stem the flow of unauthorized migration from Central America to the U.S.

The Washington Post, citing anonymous U.S. officials with knowledge of the situation, reports DHS personnel will advise Guatemalan police and migration authorities on how to halt human smuggling. The intent of the effort, the Postreports, is to close heavily-traveled routes to the U.S. and discourage migrants from embarking on journeys to the U.S. through Mexico.

The reported plan has not been publicly disclosed, but DHS said in a statement Friday that acting secretary Kevin McAleenan finalized an agreement during a recent meeting with Guatemalan officials that included “a provision on law enforcement training to improve criminal investigations that disrupt human trafficking.”

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened stiffer tariffs on Mexico on Thursday if it does not stop illegal migrants, mostly from Central America, from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. He also threatened to cut off aid to Central American countries.

US, Border Patrol Agents, Guatemala
The United States is reportedly sending dozens of Department of Homeland (DHS) security agents and investigators to Guatemala. Pixabay

Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister Jesus Seade said Friday his country wants to combat the issue by using “traditional mechanisms and better exercise(ing) existing rules.” Seade will attempt to resolve the dispute when he meets on Wednesday in Washington with a U.S. delegation headed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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Caravans of migrants, mainly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador began coming to the U.S.-Mexican border in large numbers last fall. The U.S. says an average of 4,500 migrants arrive at the border each day, the largest migrant surge on the border in a decade. DHS says 109,000 migrants were arrested at the border in April. (VOA)