Canary Institute Guatemalan News Summary ~ July 29 – August 4, 2009

Compiled by Patricia Anderson and Santos Tale Tax


The two initial bills were presented to Congress last week by the Guatemalan Migrant Commission. The bills seek to reform the Law of Migration and create a new decentralized entity to oversee migration: the Guatemalan Institute of Migration (IGM). The proposed IGM would have its own director and resources which would be dedicated to better controlling entrances and exits out of Guatemala. The bills also include an initiative that would create electronic visas for foreigners entering the country. These bills are separate from the one that was presented last week by the National Board of Migration which focused more on the protection migrant rights.

The airport is currently undergoing massive remodeling set to be completed within two years. Included in the plans is a special area for receiving Guatemalans who have been deported from the United States.

15,570 Guatemalans have been deported from the United States this year. Most of the deportees come from the departments of San Marcos, Huehuetenango and Retalhulea.

One Guatemalan citizen along with 96 Mexican citizens were detained in the United States after being found in a freight truck in Arizona. The group was traveling among crates of fruit being transported at 34 degrees Fahrenheit. The group was largely comprised of women and children ages 9-12.

In response to North American bishops decision to call on President Obama for migration reform, Central American bishops gathered last week to make the same call to the US president in the form of letters and calls to their parishioners on both sides of the border.

In an effort to tighten security along the Mexico-Guatemala border, stricter documentation requirements are being asked of Guatemalan citizens. Rather than using local passes, as border residents were allowed before, citizens residing in border departments are required to apply for a formal migration visa. All other Guatemalan residents must have their passport. These new requirements have hurt Chiapas economy as tourism from Guatemala has been down substantially since the requirements were enacted.


Thirty one new cases of H1N1 (gripe A) were identified last week, bringing the national H1N1 count to 528 cases. The death of a one year old boy brings the flu’s death toll to 10. There are now 30,000 doses of Tamiflu in the country, though the Ministry of Health has declined to comment on the possibility of a much larger outbreak, as there has been in the countries Mexico and El Salvador.


Regional commerce has fallen 17 percent since the Honduran coup. Part of this drop has been attributed to the difficultly trucks have had crossing the Honduran border. But the European Union has announced that it will restart commerce with Central America, minus Honduras, in September.

Climate Change

El Niño has begun to form over the Pacific Ocean. The weather phenomenon is expected to bring storms, floods and drought. The upside of El Niño is that its presence lowers the frequency of hurricanes, say experts. The effects of El Niño will likely not been seen until late October. Agricultural production will be severely affected by the droughts and floods produced by El Niño.

Community Consultation

The population of Churrancho in the department Guatemala voted 87.2 percent against the construction of a hydroelectric dam in a nearby river. Residents believe the dam will negatively impact their community and leave them with no water. Generdora Nacional, the owner of the proposed dam, complains that they were notified only two weeks before that the consult was going to take place. Generador Nacional already has the permission of the Ministry of Environment to construct the dam as the company has already turned in its required environmental impact study.

Food and Nutrition

The Canadian activist group Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC) warns that Guatemala and other countries like it are in danger of losing their native corn plants to genetically-modified super breeds. Guatemala has come under a lot of pressure to completely switch to genetically-modified seed since the largest seed was bought out by transnational company Monsanto’s Seed last year. ETC says genetically-altered crops and use of petrochemicals is a false solution to the food shortages caused by global warming. Agroindustry consumes 14 percent of the world’s fuel consumption, the same amount as cars and other forms transportation.


The Ministry of the Environment prohibited the mining company Montana Exploradora from importing cyanide as it has failed to pay proper import taxes for the last two years. Montana has been paying 3 Quetzales per kilogram where the tax is at 5 Q/kg. The Ministry has banned Montana from importing the chemical until it pays the difference. A Montana spokesperson has said that the company is preparing its lawyers for legal countermeasures.

Montana Exploradora S.A. Guatemala is a wholly-owned subsidiary of GoldCorp, a Canadian company that mines precious metals. Montana currently has several projects active in the Western highlands of Guatemala. It’s most notorious project is the Marlin mine in the department San Marcos. The Marlin mine has been opposed by local communities since its inception in 2005. Several community members have been jailed and threatened over the course of the mine’s operation and several protests of the mine have turn brutally violent. Montana is currently the largest bidder for exploration licenses in another region of San Marcos, which has sparked protests, marches and roadblocks nationwide.

The Pastoral Commission of Peace and Ecology (Copae) of the Catholic diocese of San Macos recently undertook a study of five rivers around the Marlin Mine. Copea, using its own equipment and laboratory, found large concentrations of metals near mining disposal sites.

The Mining Guild denounced Copea’s methods unscientific and declared its finding unreliable. Montana Exploradora assured the press the rivers near Marlin mine are not contaminated.

Bishop Álvaro Ramazzini of San Marcos diocese said he hopes the study serves an alert to environmental authorities and that it moves authorities to conduct more extensive environmental impact studies. Bishop Ramazzini has spoken out against the mine both from the pulpit and in public forums since the mine’s beginning, for which he has received death threats and law suits for ‘provoking violence among peasants toward mining activity.’

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