Guatemala Investigates DIPAFRONT Agents Over Extortion Complaints

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By LatAm Reports Editor

Police officers are among the top three attackers against migrants, organisations say.

The Minister of the Interior, Francisco Jiménez, confirmed that the agents of the Division of Ports, Airports and Border Posts (Dipafront) commit extortion against migrants at the borders, so he explained that an investigation has already been opened.

The complaints of migrants of different nationalities crossing Guatemala on its route to the United States have been constant and transcended more during 2023, when organizations and the media made public the testimonies of those affected, who describe the journey through national territory as hellish, even more difficult than crossing the Darién jungle in Panama.

The function of the Dipafront, according to the description of the National Civil Police (PNC), is to safeguard the national territory, ensure citizen security and respect human rights and international standards of care for migrants. However, according to the Minister of the Interior, this unit does not fulfill all its functions, so the investigations are focused on purifying the bad elements.

Dipafront has many complaints, especially with the treatment of migrants, this issue is very concerned, because they extort them, he said.

Jiménez said there is no stipulated date at which the results of the investigations will be revealed, since they have just begun.

“But a reorganization will be made in the Dipafront,” the official said.

On the part of the Social Communication of this unit, it was also stated that research units are being strengthened to improve controls and management in all bodies of the Ministry, and where it is necessary to do its part according to the law. Difrapront, as part of the Ministry, is in these processes to improve controls.

As to whether there are a number of complaints against the officers, it was reported that work is being done on the preparation of a statistic. They still ignore how many agents might be involved in wrongdoing.

Three aggressors

Extortion and even sexual abuse by the PNC have also been confirmed by organizations that defend the rights of migrants, although the greatest difficulty is the lack of formal complaint to the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP), since migrants want to go and continue their way, says Rosario Martínez, a researcher at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (Flacso), who carried out field research to know the problem.

Martinez claims that sexual abuse against women comes from three aggressors: PNC agents, the same migrants who go between caravans and human traffickers or coyotes.

It also confirms that the complaints are against the officers of Dipafront, a police unit that is required for more personnel and preparation.

There are 190 Dipafront agents who are on the entire border with Honduras, including 40 women, but unfortunately these agents have no preparation, and not only do they commit the abuses, it is all the migration authorities, he says.

Martínez says that the issue is addressed by other organizations at the Central American level in collaboration with the Migrant’s house, which assisted sexually assaulted women and transferred them to the nearest hospital. However, when they were told they had to pass to the MP to report they refused.

That’s where they don’t want anymore, because they just want to continue their way and that’s the big bottleneck, which women don’t want to report, he says.

Martinez, who meddled among migrants in their transit through Guatemala, says that sexual abuse and extortion are committed by the police authorities in exchange for a migratory favor – in order to continue, since many do not have the documents required to travel through Central America, such as records that the minors with whom they travel are their children or that they have the endorsement of their biological parents.

Workers of people who agreed to talk to Prensa Libre claimed that PNC agents charge between Q100 and Q300 for each migrant to let them continue their journey, and up to Q8 thousand for letting those with arrest warrants pass.

Collections in the border area with Honduras and El Salvador depend on the nationalities of migrants and pay between US$30 and US$100 (about Q240 or Q800).

Salvadorans

Celia Medrano, a human rights consultant from El Salvador, confirms that there have been reports of Salvadorans who must pay sums of money to continue their journey through Guatemala.

The stories are known when they arrive in Mexico, they say they do not report in transit countries, even if they were victims of sexual assault, because what they want is to continue and a complaint only delays them and they must return to the country of origin, when their goal is to reach the united states.

Francisco Pellizzari, who is in charge of the Migrant’s House in Guatemala, regrets that the Migrants’ House in Guatemala City does not report, and who regrets that the evidence for a solid investigation is scarce, since migrants arriving at that shelter try to not they prefer not to disturb them more by insisting that they go to the MP.

Testimonies

A report by the media El País, published in November 2023, collects testimonies of women who were sexually abused by alleged PNC agents during their journey through Guatemala, according to the characteristics they provide and because they were the ones who asked them for their documents in official retentions.

One of the women interviewed from Honduras who entered the Aguas Calientes border said that along with five women they were victims of sexual abuse in exchange for being allowed to continue on the route, because not everyone can pay the amounts in dollars they demand when they do not file personal documents or permits for the transfer of their children. The victims include a 10-year-old girl, according to which one victim reported to the media, after she managed to escape to Mexico.

The authorities urge to call 3032-7356 if in case you are the victim of any illegal collection by PNC agents.

This article has been translated from the original which first appeared in Prensa Libre