Guatemala’s Congress approved extending the state of siege for 22 municipalities in six departments for another 30 days on Thursday, October 10. The affected departments include Alta Verapaz, El Progreso, Izabal, Petén, Baja Verapaz, and Zacapa. Congress also included the municipalities of Livingston and Puerto Barrios (Izabal department) in the latest extension. President Jimmy Morales had initially announced the 30-day extension on Wednesday, October 2, but Congress was unable approve the measure due to a lack of quorum.
Since the state of siege was first declared on September 4, Guatemalan security forces have reportedly arrested around 640 people and seized weapons and ammunition in connection to suspected drug traffickers. A heightened security presence and an increase in operations targeting drug traffickers are likely to continue during the extension. Further engagements between security forces and suspected drug traffickers are also possible in the near term.
The state of siege for the northeastern departments was declared after a military patrol was ambushed by suspected drug traffickers in El Estor (Izabal department) on September 3. The soldiers were investigating an aircraft that landed at a clandestine runway when they were attacked. According to the army, three soldiers were killed and two are still missing following the ambush.
The state of siege reduces constitutional rights, restricts the right to protest and gather in groups, and curfews may be imposed.
Individuals in the abovementioned departments, and Guatemala more generally, are advised to monitor developments to the situation, anticipate heightened security measures and an increased security presence, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
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