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A Test for Guatemala's Democracy

Central American News
A Test for Guatemala's Democracy
By Central American News • Issue #48 • View online

Dear readers,
Welcome back to another week of Central American news. This week, the news has been edited by Rodrigo Peñalba and Jonathan Peraza Campos.
Guatemalans headed to the ballots today to choose their new president, although few expect a winner in the first round. In this contentious election, half of the electoral vote remains undecided as nineteen candidates campaign for the presidency. Businesswoman and former first lady Sandra Torres leads the polls as the centrist candidate from the Unity for Hope (UNE) Party followed by right-wing Vamos candidate Alejandro Giammettei. Although she ranks fifth in the polls, the Maya Mam candidate for the Movement for the Liberation of the Peoples (MLP) Party, Thelma Cabrera, has electrified the political landscape with proposals to transform a country laden with corruption and inequality in defense of indigenous and campesino rights.
Guatemala deals with large networks of corruption and narco politics. Former attorney general Thelma Aldana, who had worked with anti-corruption body led by the UN to help dismantle these networks, became the strongest candidate in the race. But she was stopped in her tracks when a day before her official registration, a warrant was issued for her arrest on charges of corruption, not long after she received death threats from paramilitaries and army veterans who demanded that she rescind her candidacy. Aldana remains in El Salvador as she fears for her life and arrest if she were to return to Guatemala.
This presidential election will put the strength of Guatemala’s democracy to the test.
Thanks for joining us, readers, for another edition of Central American News.
The Central American News Team

P.S. Next week, the Central American News team will take a summer break. We will come back with more Central American news on June 30th.
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Photo of the Day
Modesta Jocotol, 70, interrupted her busiess activities in the Mixco's market and came to vote because she considers "the change is urgent" for Guatemala. Photo: Edwin Pitán.
Modesta Jocotol, 70, interrupted her busiess activities in the Mixco's market and came to vote because she considers "the change is urgent" for Guatemala. Photo: Edwin Pitán.
📰 U.S.-Mexico Joint Agreement: After the Trump Administration and Guatemala deliberated on a potential deal to block Central American migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S., Mexico and the U.S. made a joint agreement where Mexico will escalate domestic immigration enforcement over a 45 day period until new action is taken. // Mexico and Guatemala are considering becoming “safe third countries” where asylum seekers would have to apply for refugee status in Mexico or Guatemala rather than the U.S.
📰 Detention Centers: The Trump Administration will use army base Fort Sill in Oklahoma, a former Japanese internment camp from World War II and prison for Native Americans, to hold migrant children in custody. // 24 immigrants have died in ICE custody during the Trump Administration. Among them is Johana Medina who was denied medical care and had asked to be deported before her death, according to attorneys in new legal claim. // Premature baby is found in custody with teenage migrant mother in a Border Patrol facility in Texas.
📰 Border Czar: Trump announced that Tom Homan, former director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was appointed as the administration’s “border czar” to oversee migration at the border, but Homan did not accept the job.
📰 Criminalizing Aid: Federal judge declared a mistrial in the case of humanitarian aid worker Scott Warren who faces three felony charges for assisting undocumented migrants. Jurors refused to convict the activist, so no verdict was reached. // Immigrant rights activists in Mexico are released from custody after being arrested last week on charges of trafficking immigrants. Activists claim these arrests are an attempt to appease the Trump Administration after an agreement was made to avert U.S. tariffs on Mexico.
📰 Elections: Today Guatemalans vote for their new president. Follow the special coverage on Guatemala’s elections by El Periodico and Prensa Libre. Hospitals and health centers are on alert for any emergency that may arise from this Friday until next Monday due to the general election occurring on Sunday.
📰 Corruption: Mayor of Las Cruces, Peten, René Gilberto Reynosa Alegria is no longer in the electoral race because he is under investigation for the death a councilman in his municipality.
📰 Justice: The OCDE demands tougher anti-terrorism and anti-money laundering regulations from Guatemala // Former Communications Minister Víctor Corado turned himself in for his connection to the “Construction and Corruption” case regarding the payment of bribes in exchange for granting public works and contracts to construction companies.
📰 Border Dispute: ICJ officially acknowledges pending Guatemala-Belize border dispute case, and has agreed to settle the territorial dispute between Guatemala and Belize. 
📰 Maya Artifacts Found: Trophy skulls found in Belize and southern Mexico may provide clues to explain the collapse of Maya civilization
📰 Child Labor: Belize celebrates World Day Against Child Labor and government submits recommendations to end child labor in the country
📰 Political Prisoners: Key protest leaders released from prison. Over 100 political prisoners were freed on June 10 and 11, under the new “amnesty” law approved by the government with 89 prisoners yet to be released. National Assembly President Gustavo Porras declared that under the amnesty law, former prisoners would be jailed again if they “repeated” the alleged crimes. // National Police have raided and occupied properties and a vehicle owned by former political prisoner Irlanda Jerez. Human rights organizations report at least three daily detentions for political reasons in the last week.
📰 Attack on Church: “Turbas” (thugs) sponsored by the government attacked cathedral in Leon during mass that commemorated the anniversery of the murder of fifteen year old Sandor Dolmus. United Nations’s High Commissioner on Human Rights condemned the attack that occurred “with the tolerance and acquiescence of the police.”
📰 BANCORP: The Economist believes that the closure of Bancorp due to OFAC sanctions will reduce international reserves by US$200 million dollars, but the financial system will not be affected. BANCORP was a bank founded by goverment allies and was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasure for corruption with funds from Venezuela.
El Salvador
📰 Women’s Rights: Following a series of reports of sexual violence in universities, student activist group presented petition to reform the “Law for a Life Free of Violence” (LEIV) to guarantee the eradication of all forms of violence against women in higher education.
📰 Forced Displacement: On Tuesday, human rights organization presented an annual report on the crisis of forced displacement in the Northern Triangle. In a speech preceding the presentation of the report, Vice President Felix Ulloa said, “We are going to confront forced migration head on. We are not going to sweep it under the rug.” Vice President Ulloa also accused Mexico of using Central America as a ‘bargaining chip’ in talks with the United States.
📰 Historical Memory: A Federal Judge in Seattle has ordered the U.S Department of Defense to release documents from 1980 to 1982 related to the military operations that led to the El Mozote massacre, and other massacres committed during the beginning of El Salvador’s armed conflict.
📰 Protests: Protests have continued throughout this week, from demonstrations in various cities to a torch-light protest this Friday in the country’s capital, where demonstrators continue to be met with excessive force and the use of tear gas.
📰 Platform for the Defense of Health and Education: On Thursday, the Government set up a dialogue table to address health and education, but supporters noted the absence of the Platform for the Defense of Health and Education. President of Colegio Médico de Honduras (CHM) and representative of the Platform, Dr. Suyapa Figueroa, invited the Government and other sectors to an alternative dialogue hosted by the Platform to take place Tuesday, June 18. // Dr. Figueroa also met with U.S. Embassy to discuss the roots of the ongoing protests.
📰 Government Budget: The National Congress approved a modification to the budget for the purpose of hiring more police officers and approved a loan for the purchase for the extension of the Palmerola airport construction contract.
📰 Women’s Rights: The Center for the Rights of Women (CDM) continues their advocacy regarding the total ban on abortion in Honduras, a week after a detailed report by HRW was released regarding how this high-risk situation affects women.
📰 Trade and Diplomacy with Asia: Japan becomes the second “best client” of the Panama Canal, following the United States and displacing China to third place. Still, China and Panama celebrated their second anniversary of diplomatic relations and joint projects. President Juan Carlos Varela expressed support for the relationship between both countries. // Vietnam and Panama signed a bilateral visa exemption agreement for travel between countries for those who possess ordinary passports.
📰 Constitutional Reforms: “Consejo de Concertación” finishes proposal for reforms of 40 articles in the constitution, including reelection of deputies. Lawyers discuss the reforms and possible alternatives.
📰 Economy and Infrastructure: Fiscal deficit of 1.6 billion dollars in Panama’s economy could worsen with an increase in taxes, according to economist Adolfo Quintero. // The upcoming Administration to take office on July 1 will receive infrastructure projects with an estimated investment of 10 billion dollars, according to the outgoing government.
📰 Former President Martinelli: Martinelli who is undergoing a criminal trial for corruption charges, among other offenses, is on house arrest after one year of imprisonment due to health concerns.
Costa Rica
📰 Impuesto de Valor Agregado (IVA) Regulation: Costa Rica has passed a new fiscal regulation that has given rise to questions due to plans to raise taxes on services related to the tourism industry to generate more profit in the sector. The regulation will also apply to “trans-frontier services,” such as Netflix and Airbnb, and to rental incomes on offices and houses. Costa Rican government expects to increase tax revenue with this new regulation.
📰 #MeToo: Costa Rican teens Maia Madrigal Frid and Fiorella Bolaños describe how the rise of the #MeToo Movement in Costa Rica has led them to question sexist ideas and behaviors that have become normalized in Costa Rica, such as street harassment, victim blaming, and the objectification of women’s bodies in advertising.
📰 Tropical rainforests: Costa Rica has almost doubled the size of their tropical rainforests in just a few decades by investing in new practices and rainforest conservation policy.
Moment of the week
Alfredo Zuñiga, AP. Yubrank Suazo is embraced by his mother Ana Julia Urbina after he was freed from prison, in Masaya, Nicaragua.
Alfredo Zuñiga, AP. Yubrank Suazo is embraced by his mother Ana Julia Urbina after he was freed from prison, in Masaya, Nicaragua.
Good Reads
📚 The Guardian profiles Thelma Cabrera Perez, an indigenous Maya Mam woman who is shaking up Guatemala’s elections with her “radical political project to disrupt and transform the oppressive state.”
💬 Washington Post’s article discusses the role the U.S. played in killing a UN-backed anti-corruption campaign in Guatemala.
📚 As Hondurans flee San Pedro Sula, known as the “Murder Capital of the World,” an op-ed in The American Prospect examines how U.S. foreign policy, banana corporations, and labor exploitation laid down the foundations for instability and violence in the Honduran city.
💬Bukele’s Twitter Tricks: Nayib declared himself “coolest president of the world” but only has 11 votes on the national assembly to approve his plans. He needs 56.
📚 New York Times article recounts doctors’ concerns with Border Patrol’s treatment of detained migrants who are brought to hospitals yet are restricted from ethical and necessary medical attention. Physicians for Human Rights released a recent report detailing how U.S. immigration enforcement obstructs medical care for migrants.
Multimedia & Art
🎥 Revista 5W, alongside a series of investigators and artists, published a podcast detailing a story of a group of youth in San Pedro Sula. The different episodes explain why thousands flee Honduras in caravans and why others choose to stay and fight current conditions.
🎥 Replicas of ‘Children in Cages’: 24 guerrilla art installations that depicted vivid images of migrant children in cages and blasted audio of sobbing detained children were placed around news organizations and highly trafficked areas of New York City.
The Team
Melissa Vida, Founder and Editor
Nansi Rodríguez, Guatemala News
Rodrigo Peñalba, Nicaragua News
Jonathan Peraza Campos, Migration News
Jalileh García, Honduras News
Rachel Ketola, El Salvador News
Rachel Osorio, Costa Rica News
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