Guatemalan Police Reportedly Shaking Down Northbound Central Americans

By Jerry Kammer on August 11, 2014

Stories of predatory Mexican police, soldiers, and immigration authorities are common among Central Americans who pass through Mexico on their way to an illegal border crossing into the United States. When I was in the Rio Grande Valley in June, a Salvadoran man told he had been shaken down "maybe 15 times" on his way to the U.S. border and the friendly arms of the Border Patrol. I met him at the bus station in McAllen, where the Border Patrol had just dropped him and his son off with an order to appear in immigration court in Los Angeles, where they hoped to settle.

Now comes a bad news-good news story about predatory law officers in Guatemala, as reported by Prensa Libre, a daily newspaper published in Guatemala City.

The bad news is that the country's human rights director reports that he has received 180 claims of abuse allegedly committed against migrants by agents of the National Civil Police, known as the PNC for its initials in Spanish.

The good news is that Guatemalan authorities are taking action. According to the story, three PNC agents were arrested Sunday night and charged with demanding 800 Quetzales, about $102, from a Honduran family. According to the report, the agents threatened to deport the Hondurans if they didn't pay the mordida.

Guatemalan bus drivers have apparently also joined the shakedown business. According to the story, they are charging 500 Quetzales (about $64) for trips that normally cost 100 Quetzales.

Prensa Libre coupled its online story with a photograph of a classic image of the ongoing wave of Central American migration to the U.S. border. It shows a group of four young women and four children. They are identified as Central Americans who just crossed into the United states and are "waiting for the Border Patrol to take them to a shelter."