GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Guatemala’s Congress on Tuesday toughened prison sentences for human traffickers to up to 30 years as the government aims to crack down on smugglers known as “coyotes.”
President Alejandro Giammattei presented the initiative to Congress on Jan. 14 to increase the sentences to 10 to 30 years in prison, from two to five years, as part of changes to the country’s migration law.
Traffickers will also be fined between 100,000 and 200,000 quetzales ($13,000 to $26,000) for each Guatemalan or foreign person who is smuggled through national territory.
“The penalty for the crimes of illicit trafficking of Guatemalans will be increased by two thirds when the migrant is a minor … or if the migrant is a pregnant woman,” a document on the reform said.
Some lawmakers voted against it because they said it did not address corruption within Guatemala, which international officials say is a root cause behind a surge of illegal migration to the U.S. border.
The reform was approved in a speedier-than-usual 15 days and will take effect eight days after its appearance in the official gazette.
Guatemala’s government has sought to crack down on people-smuggling gangs after dozens of migrants died either through overcrowding in transport vehicles or at the hands of criminal groups.
Last week, Guatemalan authorities with the support of U.S. authorities arrested 10 people in raids against a migrant smuggling group linked to the massacre of 19 people in Mexico last year.
(Reporting by Sofia Menchu, writing by Cassandra Garrison; editing by Grant McCool)