US Seeks to Solve Migration Crisis with Billion Dollar Investment Plan 
US Seeks to Solve Migration Crisis with Billion Dollar Investment Plan 
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US Seeks to Solve Migration Crisis with Billion Dollar Investment Plan 

On February 6th, even as Guatemalan authorities engage in a systematic evisceration of its justice system and private industry continues to dispossess Indigenous communities, Vice President Kamala Harris announced the next phase of her migration plan for Central America. Known as the “Root Causes Strategy,” this Vice Presidential initiative aims to tackle “the drivers of irregular migration by improving the conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras so people do not feel compelled to leave their homes.” In May of last year, Harris announced the creation of the Partnership for Central America (PCA) with a Call to Action to potential investors. This week, in a presentation for a group of US government officials and private sector leaders, Harris announced the next phase of the initiative: Central America Forward. 

In this phase, the US government will enact a series of new commitments to encourage more private sector engagement. Harris announced a new wave of private sector commitments of $950 million, raising the total investment under the Call to Action to over $4.2 billion. New commitments include Columbia Sportswear, Target, and other companies looking to purchase more textiles from Central American clothing factories, also known as “maquilas.” These clothing factories are infamous for decades’ long abuse of workers and criminal disregard for local environments. It will also include more access to funding for private companies from the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC).  

Even as the White House insists that “Central America Forward is a framework that goes beyond addressing the economic drivers of migration,” civil society organizations are deeply concerned at the plan’s failure to address the region’s persistent and alarming abuse of  human rights, failure of the rule of law, and deeply entrenched corruption. “Addressing the root causes of forced migration from Central America must focus on urging governments of the region to serve their people-without corruption and with full respect for human rights and the rule of law,” said Director of the Latin America Working Group (LAWG) Lisa Haguard. She continued, “Investment pledges mean little or can be counterproductive if US policy fails to fully address the corruption and human rights violations faced by the rural and urban poor, Indigenous and Afrodescendant communities, women and lgbtq people, and human rights defenders in Central America.” 

Last March, GHRC, LAWG, and 17 other organizations sent a letter to the DFC urging it to reassess its investment plans in Guatemala in light of rampant corruption and the breakdown of protections for human rights defenders and Indigenous communities. It stated, “A sound investment climate requires stability and strong institutions, as well as consistent adherence to rule of law.” Since then, conditions in Guatemala have only worsened. For 2022, Guatemala earned a historically low rating from Transparency International on its Corruption Perception Index–a rate unseen since 1996. Meanwhile, violent evictions in rural and Indigenous communities continue to rise.  

Judge Grants House Arrest to Officers Accused of Crimes Against Humanity 

On February 1, Judge Rudy Eleazar Bautista, granted house arrest to two ex-soldiers on trial for crimes related to the Death Squad Dossier Case. Salán Sánchez and Pérez Lorenzo face charges of forced disappearance, murder, attempted murder, and crimes against humanity. With this ruling, the two will no longer have to await their trials from prison.  

Family members of the victims of the Death Squad Dossier Case, called the ruling a devastating blow to transitional justice in Guatemala. In a statement, they said, “This resolution adds to the long list of benefits that functionaries of impunity and corruption in Guatemala grant to perpetrators of serious crimes of corruption and crimes against humanity.” Since the discovery of the Dossier–a compilation of Guatemalan intelligence files discovered in 1999 detailing the torture and murder of over 183 “political dissidents” by security forces between 1982 and 1982–these families have worked tirelessly for justice for their loved ones. With the release of the defendants, the victims fear their own safety as they try to push the case forward. “We consider that it is an injustice,” said lawyer Santiago Choc. He continued, “This is a circumstance that offends the dignity of the victims, because they are failing to protect them.” 

Swiss Delegation Confirms Mining Operations in El Estor Are Continuing

From January 25-28, our Guatemala Team led a delegation of visitors from Switzerland to investigate conditions in El Estor related to an illegal nickel mine which threatens local Indigenous communities. Currently owned by Swiss-Russian conglomerate Solway, the Fenix mine is an open pit nickel mine managed by Guatemalan subsidiaries MayaNiquel, Pronico, and the Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN). Since its creation in El Estor, ownership of the mine has passed between multiple international companies who have left  a trail of human rights abuses. Former Canadian owner Hudbay Minerals, for example, is currently facing an international lawsuit regarding sexual assault of 11 Q’eqchi women by company security. In October of 2021, Guatemalan security forces–acting at the direction of company management–violently attacked Q’eqchi protesters which was later condemned by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as “excessive use of force.”

In another instance, on November 18, the US Department of Treasury sanctioned Russian national Dmitry Kudryakov, Belarusian national Iryna Litviniuk and three others for their role in exploiting the Guatemalan mining sector under the Global Magnitsky Act. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson stated,“We will use our tools to help ensure that corrupt profiteers face consequences for stealing from the Guatemalan people.” Solway leadership immediately denied its connection to both businesspeople and announced that operations would be suspended until further notice. Community members however, report that they can hear trucks transporting mining materials at night. The mining operations are continuing. 

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