Controversy at Guatemalan Embassy in Honduras

A Guatemalan court on Monday ordered the arrest of a former presidential candidate, Alejandro Giammattei, who has been holed up at the Honduran Embassy in Tegucigalpa, on charges dating from his tenure as prisons chief during the previous administration.

A police spokesman said that Giammattei is accused of abuse of authority, murder and extrajudicial execution.

Dozens of police have surrounded the Honduran Embassy, where Giammattei went last Thursday to apply for asylum. The 2007 presidential candidate of the conservative Gran Alianza Nacional, sought refuge at the Honduran mission because he feared an attempt on life, according to Giammattei spokesman Herbert Chavez.

Giammattei, who ran the prison system during the 2004-2008 administration of President Oscar Berger, has been under investigation by the U.N.- sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, or Cicig, for the deaths of seven inmates in a crackdown at the Pavón prison farm.

At the center of the controversy is the allegation that in September of 2006, some 3,000 police and soldiers entered the detention center Pavón in Guatemala, to take control of the prison where inmates were living in luxury homes with satellite TV’s and even a jacuzzi. In this operation, seven prisoners were killed, and investigations were held into whether they were extrajudicial executions.

A report from the Guatemalan national ombud’s office concluded the inmates were executed by the security forces, while Giammattei said they died in clashes with police.

Two former cops and a serving police officer who took part in the Pavón crackdown were apprehended Monday by Cicig investigators and agents from the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office. Also taken into custody were Mario Roberto Garcia, an adviser to Giammattei during his tenure as prisons director, and two siblings of former deputy police director Javier Figueroa, for whom an arrest warrant was also issued.

Giammattei can only be arrested if the Honduran government rejects his asylum bid and expels him from the embassy.

Foreign Minister of Honduras, Mario Canahuati has stated that, “The trials to be taken in this regard are based with responsibility and respect for Guatemala, with the international community, and based on the Geneva Conventions and other international conventions. If the warrant is official, we have to respect it, as well as the resolutions and agreements to which Honduras is tied.” This suggests that Honduras will ultimately be refusing his request.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login