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People smugglers could serve up to 30 years in prison: Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei

FILE PHOTO: Guatemala's President Alejandro Giammattei addresses the General Debate of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 22, 2021. Justin Lane/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

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.

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