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Mon Aug 12, 2019, 11:32 PM

Guatemala Is Not a "Safe Third Country." Decades of US Policy Made It That Way.

Michael Bakal, Truthout
August 10, 2019

On July 26, President Trump and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales officially announced their safe third-country agreement. Media coverage was explosive, and rightly so: The agreement would require immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador and possibly other countries to process their asylum claims in Guatemala. If not blocked by legal challenges, there is little doubt that this agreement would result in a humanitarian crisis far worse than what experts are already calling a mass atrocity along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The announced agreement came amid a period of violence in Guatemala: Just the day before, two Indigenous community leaders were killed. The first was 77-year-old Jorge Juc Cucul, who was hacked to death with a machete outside his home while tending to his corn fields with his daughter.

Cucul was a leader with the community organization known by its Spanish acronym, CODECA, the Committee for Community Development. Founded in 1992 to advocate for Indigenous land rights and related issues, CODECA has been the target of a brutal campaign of targeted killings in recent years. Fourteen of its leaders have been assassinated since the start of 2018.

The second was Daniel Coc Maquín, who was found dead after being hit by what was allegedly a mining company vehicle as he travelled home with his 12-year-old son, who was also injured.

Earlier that day, hundreds of Maya-Q’eqchi protesters had gathered outside the entrance to the constitutional court building in Guatemala City (I was at the scene as a human rights observer) to demand that the court revoke the mining license of the Guatemala Nickel Company, which has wreaked humanitarian and environmental havoc in their home community. It remains unclear whether Maquín’s death was an act of retaliation against the community for its mobilization.


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