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Guatemala proposes heavy jail terms for human traffickers

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Posted: Sunday, January 16, 2022. 8:40 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Speaking to Congress on Friday, President of Guatemala Alejandro Giammattei has proposed plans to heavily increase jail terms for those who smuggle people into and out of the country – up to 30 years for the worst offenders, according to Reuters.

Guatemala is seeking to crack down on so-called “coyotes” or people smugglers after high-profile incidents of migrants dying due to overcrowding in transport or at the hands of criminals as they traverse the country toward Mexico and the United States in pursuit of a better life.

Prison sentences would be lifted to 10 to 30 years from 2 to 5 as currently legislated, said Giammattei, who reiterated government’s commitment on the issue and added that the United States should also extradite people smugglers.

Penalties would be even higher for those who transport minors and pregnant women, or subject travelers to inhumane treatment.

Giammattei’s announcement comes weeks after 55 mostly Guatemalan migrants died when the overcrowded truck ferrying them through southern Mexico overturned.

The bill needs two-thirds support from the 160-member Congress but has a good chance as the ruling party obtains the necessary votes through alliances and the support it has from other benches.

Guatemalan migration authorities said on Friday that they were also keeping an eye on another possible caravan of migrants that would leave Honduras at the weekend and try to cross Guatemala.

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