Guatemalan Prosecutor Fights Against Asylum Deal with the United States

  • The request by Rodas joins others, promoted last weekend by lawyer Marco Vinicio Mejia, the Guatemalan division of Amnesty International, who also describes the agreement as illegal.
  • Trump's threats motivated economic powers within the country to support Morales, fearing the possibility of losing its main market and the destination of just over 40% of Guatemalan exports.
  • The country's weak institutions will make it very difficult to resist the enormous pressures of the employers and the factional powers.

The Guatemalan Human Rights Procurator, Jordan Rodas, on Monday asked the Constitutional Court to curb the pact signed on Friday between the Government of Donald Trump and Jimmy Morales. As agreed, refugees seeking refuge or asylum in the United States can receive the same protection in the Central American country and, having passed through it before, will be channeled back to Guatemalan soil. A formula that, in diplomatic political jargon, implies making Guatemala a “safe third country.

The Northern Triangle of Central America refers to the three Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, especially in regard to their economic integration. They have signed trade agreements with Colombia, the United States, and Mexico. The agreement with Mexico began in 2001, later involved the Mesoamerica Project, and expanded to Costa Rica and Nicaragua in 2011.

Also, there is a request for the Guatemalan Government to guarantee the population the right to express their disagreement freely and requests the dismissal of the head of the Interior, Enrique Degenhart. The request by Rodas joins others, promoted last weekend by lawyer Marco Vinicio Mejia, the Guatemalan division of Amnesty International, who also describes the agreement as illegal.

Procurator Rodas emphasizes that “the agreements signed under threats do not have legal effects,” in reference to tweets in which Trump threatened tariffs on Guatemala and forbidding the entry of its citizens to US territory. Those threats motivated economic powers within the country to support Morales, fearing the possibility of losing its main market and the destination of just over 40% of Guatemalan exports.

In large sectors of the Guatemalan population, a consensus has been established around the idea that when the country does not even have the capacity to guarantee citizens such elementary rights as education, health, nutrition, and housing, it will be very difficult to provide for those who want to seek refuge in first world countries.

Illegal emigration refers to a person moving across national borders in a way that violates emigration laws. Such a person may legally go abroad and refuse to return when demanded by the country of origin. A person who enters another country as an illegal immigrant may be sent back, and if a criminal, a person may face extradition or prosecution in the other country. The position of the United Nations is that freedom to emigrate is a human right, part of the right to freedom of movement. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

Official statistics support this sentiment: Guatemala has one of the highest infant mortality figures on the continent, with 24.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births and one of the highest rates of chronic child malnutrition in the world (46.9 per 1,000). In housing, things are not much better: one of the most recent projections places the housing deficit at 1.8 million for 2013, an upward figure due to high birth rates. Employment also offers scary figures: 65.8% of the working-age population survives in the submerged economy, a figure that rises to 80.3% among the peasant population of Mayan origin.

However, sociologist Gustavo Berganza said actions against making Guatemala a “safe third country” have little chance of moving forward. He points out that the country’s weak institutions will make it very difficult to resist the enormous pressures of the employers and the factional powers, to which the United States Embassy has joined. “I see it very difficult,” he tells journalists.

Human Rights Attorney, Jordan Rodas says he is confident that the Constitutional Court will strike the agreement down. “The agreement not only contradicts the Guatemalan Constitution, but the Vienna convention makes it null. I reiterate my confidence in resolving in law and without pressure,” he said.

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Joyce Davis

My history goes back to 2002 and I  worked as a reporter, interviewer, news editor, copy editor, managing editor, newsletter founder, almanac profiler, and news radio broadcaster.


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