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Archive for Guatemala

Newsline: Guatemala offers to help countries move their embassies to Jerusalem

Guatemala hopes other countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, the country’s foreign minister said this week, indicating her government’s readiness to help in this matter. “I believe that it’s a sovereign decision that each country needs to make for itself based on its position. Nevertheless, we as a country are willing to support other countries who want to follow Guatemala’s example,” Sandra Jovel told The Times of Israel in a telephone interview. “Hopefully, some of the countries that have wanted to do it will be able to follow Guatemala’s example and the decision we’ve taken.” On December 24, the Central American nation became the first country after the United States to announce its intention to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Other countries, including its neighbor Honduras, have been rumored to be intending to follow suit, even though El Salvador this week said it would not relocate its Israel embassy.



Newsline: Guatemala Will Move Its Israel Embassy to Jerusalem

Guatemala will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, its president announced on Sunday, becoming the first nation to follow President Trump’s lead in ordering the change, which has been widely criticized around the world. President Jimmy Morales announced the decision in a post on his official Facebook account, saying he had decided to move the embassy after speaking with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. “We spoke of the excellent relations we have had since Guatemala supported the creation of the state of Israel,” Mr. Morales wrote. “One of the most important issues was the return of the Guatemalan Embassy to Jerusalem.” No other country has its embassy for Israel in Jerusalem, although the Czech Republic and Romania are said to be contemplating such a move.

Newsline: Guatemala Ex-Police on Trial in 1980 Embassy Fire

A former police officer went on trial Wednesday charged in the deaths of 37 people more than three decades ago when the Spanish Embassy burned down during this Central American nation’s bloody civil conflict. Pedro Garcia Arredondo, the 69-year-old former special investigations chief for the Sixth Commando of the National Police, is accused of homicide and crimes against humanity for allegedly ordering officers to keep anyone from leaving the diplomatic mission as it burned on Jan. 31, 1980. Protesters from Indian, student, peasant, labor and other groups had taken over the embassy to call attention to massacres during the 1960-96 civil war. Police surrounded and sealed the facility. When the fire broke out, Arredondo “ordered police agents under his command to destroy windows with the only intention of causing the death of those inside because they were considered internal enemies,” prosecutor Hilda Pineda said. “The people inside were screaming in pain because they were burning.” Arredondo declined to testify but proclaimed his innocence in brief remarks. Former Spanish Ambassador Maximo Cajal y Lopez, who survived the fire, died earlier this year. However, he left testimony that will be presented at the trial along with the accounts of at least 23 other witnesses.


Newsline: Switzerland’s Guatemala embassy saved, Chicago consulate shut

Parliament has supported a counterproposal to maintain the Swiss embassy in Guatemala, but the Senate refused to give the thumbs-up to a call by the Swiss Club in Chicago to maintain the consulate general there. Following a short debate on Thursday, the Senate unanimously decided to snub plans by the foreign ministry to close the Swiss representation to Guatemala City and move all its services to Costa Rica’s capital, San José. Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter said the cabinet was taking note of the parliamentary decision, but he pointed out that Switzerland’s diplomatic network had to cut spending by CHF30 million ($31.7 million) under a programme approved by parliament. He said it was not easy to balance financial constraints and growing demands for a greater visibility of Switzerland around the world. Switzerland opened new diplomatic representations recently in Qatar, Myanmar and India. As a result it had to reassess the situation from a financial point of view. That’s why the cabinet wanted to close the embassy to Guatemala and set up a diplomatic hub for the whole central American region in Costa Rica, according to Burkhalter. The Senate on Thursday refused to join the House of Representatives, which sought to overturn a cabinet decision about the planned closure of the consulate general in Chicago. The professional consulate will now be replaced by an honorary consulate on the shores of Lake Michigan.


Newsline: Guatemala charges former police official Spanish embassy fire

A Guatemalan judge has ordered a former national police official to stand trial in the deaths of 37 people killed by a fire at the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala in 1980. Indian demonstrators had taken over the embassy to call attention to rights abuses during Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war. Security forces attacked and set fire to the embassy. The charges claim former police official Pedro Garcia Arredondo refused requests by the Spanish ambassador to withdraw police from the embassy and allow firefighters in to extinguish the blaze. Among those killed in the fire was the father of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu.


Newsline: Maya Artifacts Returned to Guatemalan Embassy

Federal authorities are returning eight ceramic artifacts to the people of Guatemala that were illegally exported. The Maya artifacts that date from 600 to 900 AD were returned during a repatriation ceremony at the Guatemalan Embassy on Friday. Two artifacts were recovered during an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of items being auctioned in Massachusetts last year. Six more of the returned artifacts were seized by Customs and Border Protection at Houston Intercontinental Airport in 2009 when a passenger declared figurines he said he bought while touring Maya ruins in Guatemala, thinking it was legal.


Newsline: US Embassy in Guatemala criticizes president’s proposal to legalize drugs

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala is criticizing President Otto Perez Molina’s proposal to legalize drugs in Central America. The embassy says Washington opposes such measures because “the evidence shows our shared drug problem is a threat to public health and safety.” An embassy statement on Sunday said that legalizing drugs wouldn’t stop transnational gangs. Perez Molina on Saturday said he will propose legalizing drugs in Central America in an upcoming meeting with the region’s leaders.