Guatemalan Giammattei calls for prison terms of up to 30 years for human traffickers


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Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei presented an initiative to Congress on Friday to drastically increase prison sentences for human traffickers, with sentences of up to 30 years for the worst offenders.

For many years Guatemala has been a key transit country for conquered Central Americans immigrant – including Guatemalans – who make the treacherous journey through Mexico to the U.S in search of a better life.

But the Guatemalan government has tried to crack down on people smuggling gangs after dozens of migrants died in high-profile incidents either due to overcrowding in transport vehicles or at the hands of criminal groups.

Giammattei proposed raising the sentences for smugglers, known as “coyotes,” to between 10 and 30 years from the 2 to 5 years currently established by Guatemalan law.

“I reaffirm my administration’s commitment to tougher prison sentences against coyotes and traffickers,” Giammattei said in a speech to Congress, adding that the United States should also extradite human traffickers.

The proposal states that if traffickers transporting minors, pregnant women or migrants are subjected to inhumane treatment, the penalties could be even higher.

Giammattei announcement arrives weeks after the death of 55 mostly Guatemalan migrants when the overcrowded truck carrying them through southern Mexico overturned.

The Guatemalan president called for the reform to be approved as a matter of national urgency. But the changes must first be debated and win the approval of at least two-thirds of the 160 members of Congress.

It is seen that the bill has a good chance of being approved, since the ruling party could obtain the necessary votes through alliances and the support it has from other benches.

Guatemalan immigration authorities said Friday they were also on the lookout for another possible migrant caravan leaving Honduras over the weekend and attempting to cross Guatemala.



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