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Tue Feb 5, 2019, 03:30 AM

Guatemala's 'Slow-Motion Coup' Is Causing Migrants to Flee to the US

By Cole Kazdin
Jan 30 2019, 11:00pm

The real crisis Trump should focus on, experts say, is hundreds of miles south of the US-Mexico border.

Defense Department officials announced Tuesday that they’re preparing to send additional troops to the US’s southern border to support Department of Homeland Security efforts to fight what Donald Trump has been calling a national security crisis. But there’s not a whole lot of evidence of the sort of crisis Trump talks about: The number of unauthorized immigrants in the US is at its lowest point in ten years, according to Pew Research, and the number of Mexicans crossing the border without authorization has been declining steadily as well. But it is true that according to recently released statistics from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), the number of families seeking asylum in the US is increasing, many of them from Central America’s “Northern Triangle”: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Nearly 20 percent of migrants who were apprehended at the southwestern border last year claim their reasons for emigration are fear-driven.

. . .

The country is in the midst of what many observers are referring to as a “slow-motion coup.” This means not soldiers in the street, but rather a president, backed by powerful allies, taking over government institutions like the courts and challenging human rights protections.

“The current situation in Guatemala is already pushing and forcing people to flee,” said Giovanni Batz, a researcher and fellow at the School for Advanced Research in New Mexico and the son of working-class Guatemalan immigrants. “Crime is constantly on the minds of many. In Guatemala City, when you leave your house, you never know if you will be robbed, assaulted, or worse. The police are corrupt, known to take bribes, and have been implicated in working with narco-traffickers and gangs.” It’s led to a general distrust of law enforcement and the justice system.

The country’s president, former comedian Jimmy Morales, is trying to dismantle a UN-backed anti-corruption commission known by its Spanish acronym CICIG, which was investigating Morales himself for illicit campaign financing. (A Guatemalan court blocked Morales’s order to expel members of the commission from the country, but foreign members of the commission have fled, fearing for their safety.) In addition, the Guatemalan congress is drafting an amnesty law that, if passed, would allow dozens of people convicted of grave human rights violations to walk free. And allies of the president have voted to impeach judges on the country’s highest court who have ruled against Morales’s policies.


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