On Friday, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei introduced a bill to Congress that would substantially increase the prison sentences for people smugglers, with the worst offenders facing up to 30 years in prison.
The news: Guatemala has long been a crucial transit point for destitute Central American migrants – including Guatemalans – seeking a better life in the United States.
- However, after dozens of migrants perished in high-profile cases, either as a result of overcrowding in transport trucks or at the hands of criminal gangs, Guatemala’s government has moved to tighten down on people-smuggling gangs.
- Giammattei recommended increasing the punishments for smugglers, sometimes known as “coyotes,” from the current 2 to 5 years in Guatemalan law to between 10 and 30 years.
What they’re saying: In a speech to Congress, Giammattei stated, “I reaffirm my government’s determination to toughen prison sentences against coyotes and traffickers,” adding that the US should also extradite people smugglers.
- Guatemala’s president has asked for the change to be passed as soon as possible. However, the revisions must first be debated and approved by at least two-thirds of Congress’s 160 members.
- Smugglers who carry juveniles, pregnant women, or migrants who are subjected to cruel treatment might face even harsher punishments.
What’s going on: Giammattei’s announcement came only weeks after a truck carrying largely Guatemalan migrants toppled in southern Mexico, killing 55 people.
- The bill is expected to pass, as the ruling party may be able to secure the required votes through alliances and backing from other benches.
- On Friday, Guatemalan migration authorities said they were keeping an eye on another prospective caravan of migrants leaving Honduras over the weekend and attempting to enter into Guatemala.