New Guatemalan Leader Demands Respect From Trump

President-elect Alejandro Giammattei speaks during an interview with AFP in Guatemala City on August 12, 2019. Johan ORDONEZ / AFP

 

Guatemala’s president-elect Alejandro Giammattei said in an interview with AFP he would not seek confrontation with President Donald Trump over Central America’s migration crisis but would demand respect from his US counterpart.

“All diplomacy comes down to reciprocity,” said Giammattei, a 63-year-old conservative who defeated former first lady Sandra Torres in Sunday’s run-off vote.

“If he respects me, I respect him, if he treats me well, I treat him well, if he treats me badly, I treat him badly,” said Giammattei in the interview late Monday.

Giammattei said he views “with concern” a controversial migration pact agreed by his predecessor Jimmy Morales, that would allow Washington to send most Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers who passed through Guatemala back to the poor, crime-ridden country.

The deal has been strongly criticized in Guatemala, not least by NGOs who say the country does not even have the resources to look after its own population.

But the president-elect has so far avoided taking a strong position on the US deal, which he said would have to be submitted to Guatemalan lawmakers for approval.

Central America’s migration problem is not new, he said, but “it was magnified because it’s become a theme of the political campaign in the United States.”

“I understand President Trump’s position,” in the perspective of the campaign, said Giammattei.

“He wants to assert his image as the man who keeps his promises. That’s good. I understand him. I understand President Trump.”

Giammattei, a doctor, takes over from the corruption-tainted Morales in January at the start of a four-year term.

He has pledged to attack the grinding poverty that affects some 60 per cent of Guatemala’s 17.7 population, as well as a murder rate of 4,500 per year, key drivers of illegal migration to the United States.

“People leave because they don’t have housing, because of the low levels of health and education,” he said.

 Investment Bank 

As part of his plan to keep would-be migrants at home, Giammattei proposes massive investment to promote rural development and agribusiness and improve infrastructure on both sides of the border with Mexico, by creating an “investment bank” under the aegis of the Organization of American States (OAS).

“We could create a gigantic pole of development that could benefit both countries,” he said, adding that he would plead his case in Mexico City as well as in Washington during the transition period.

Also on his agenda is a visit to El Salvador next week for talks with President Nayib Bukele on combating organized criminal gangs and developing a massive Caribbean-Pacific railroad project.

“This is an incredible investment and we can count on more than one million jobs created in four years,” he said.

The fight against the region’s criminal gangs “must be multinational, must be done at the regional level. Organized crime does not respect borders,” said Giammattei, who has pledged to reintroduce the death penalty, suspended since 2000 in Guatemala.

He also promised “a fierce fight against drugs, and cartels — of which many are Mexican and operate in Guatemala.”

UN anti-corruption mission ‘finished’

On the fight against corruption, Giammattei ruled out any possibility of restoring the mandate of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), the United Nations mission that charged former president Otto Perez with graft and ran afoul of Morales because it investigated him.

“The Cicig is finished,” he said, adding that “President Morales has decided not to renew its mandate,” which ends in September — three months before Giammattei assumes power.

He acknowledged that the mission “was effective in some cases,” but regretted that it limited itself to “the criminal prosecution of the corrupt” and did not attack the causes of corruption.

“There will be no more Cicig,” he said emphatically.

He pledged to confront “de facto powers” who profit from corruption at all levels of Guatemalan society, including within his own political party.

“The de facto powers don’t scare me. I fear only God.”

AFP

White House Defends Trump’s Aid Cut To Central America

 

The White House on Sunday defended President Donald Trump’s decision to cut off aid to three small Central American countries, insisting they weren’t doing enough to stop the flow of migrants to the United States.

Trump announced the aid cut-off to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala last week and threatened once again to close the US border with Mexico in response to the migrant surge.

“If we’re going to give these countries hundreds of millions of dollars, we would like them to do more,” White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

READ ALSO: Israel Reopens Gaza Border Crossings After Rocket Strike

The aid has gone to fund programs to combat gangs and foster development in the three countries, with the aim of addressing the root causes of the mass migration.

“If it’s working so well, why are the people still coming?  Why these historic numbers again, 100,000 people will cross the border this month alone,” Mulvaney said.

“It’s not working well enough to help us solve our border crisis.  And that’s what the president’s focused on,” he said.

Critics warned, however, that US funding cuts are likely to worsen conditions, possibly adding to the migrant flow. And they said Trump’s threat to close the border with Mexico if carried out, would hurt the US economy.

Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, dismissed the threat to close the border as “a totally unrealistic boast” by Trump.

“We need to focus on what’s happening in Central America where three countries are disassembling before our eyes and people are desperately coming to the United States. The president cutting off aid to these countries will not solve this problem,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

White House counsellor, Kellyanne Conway spoke on “Fox News Sunday,” insisted Trump’s threat to close the border “certainly isn’t a bluff.”

On Saturday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that, at the president’s direction, the State Department was ending its foreign assistance programs for the three Central American countries for 2017 and 2018.

The State Department did not say how much unspent money was involved in the step, which could be largely symbolic.

In comments to reporters Friday, Trump suggested as much as $500 million is at stake.

“We were giving them $500 million. We were paying them tremendous amounts of money, and we’re not paying them anymore because they haven’t done a thing.”

AFP

Manhunt Launched After Hit-And-Run Driver Kills 18 Guatemalans

 

Guatemala launched a manhunt on Thursday after 18 indigenous Guatemalans were killed in a hit-and-run by a truck driver who fled the scene.

The Central American nation announced three days of mourning after the incident Wednesday night in the western town of Nahuala, whose population of around 65,000 are mostly K’iche’ Maya.

A group of people had converged at the entrance of the town, at the scene of another hit-and-run in which a local community leader was killed, when they in turn were hit by a truck with its lights off on a road without street lighting.

Chilling images from the scene showed the victims’ bodies in their brightly colored clothing laid out in a line on the asphalt, as relatives cried out in anguish.

“In total there are 18 deaths that have been counted in this tragedy,” fire department spokesman Cecilio Chacaj told AFP, revising down a previous toll of 30 that he attributed to early chaos on the scene where bodies were piled up on top of another.

READ ALSO: Workers Jump To Their Deaths As Dhaka Office Block Fire Kills 19

Three of the dead were children, Chacaj said.

Another 20 people were injured in the accident, several seriously, and were being treated in hospitals.

The government announced three days of mourning starting Thursday, while President Jimmy Morales tweeted his condolences.

“We are currently coordinating actions to provide all the support to the victims’ families,” he said.

Driver on the run

Police spokesman Pablo Castillo told reporters that an operation was underway to track down the driver.

He added that investigators were initially prevented from getting to the scene by angry residents and relatives of the victims, but were given access after opening a dialogue with community leaders.

Local reports said the man killed in the first accident was a community leader and president of the state Council of Urban and Rural Development, though authorities have not confirmed this.

The semi-trailer did not have its lights on when it struck the group of people, which may have been why the driver did not spot them, while the highway was also unlit, according to local media.

Traffic rules are frequently ignored in Guatemala, a nation of some 16.5 million people.

AFP

Guatemala Seeks US Aid For Migrants After Volcano Eruption

FILE PHOTO Police officers carry a wounded man after the eruption of the Fuego Volcano, in El Rodeo village, Escuintla department, 35 km south of Guatemala City on June 3, 2018.
NOE PEREZ / AFP

 

Guatemala Monday asked the US government to give its migrants Temporary Protected Status after the devastating Fuego volcano eruption.

Officials have confirmed the deaths of 112 people as a result of the eruption on June 3, but scores more people remain unaccounted for.

“I have instructed the Minister of Foreign Affairs to request immediately from the government of the United States of America, Temporary Protected Status (TPS)” for migrants from Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales said on Twitter.

Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel said later that she sent a note to President Donald Trump’s administration making the request “in favor of our migrant brothers.”

The goal is “to benefit (undocumented) nationals who live … in the United States with a work permit to avoid their deportation,” she added.

The volcano, 35 kilometers (about 22 miles) southwest of the capital, sent an avalanche of burning volcanic material over the San Miguel Los Lotes community in the south of the country.

Guatemala made its bid for TPS after Washington recently announced it was cancelling the benefit for El Salvador and Honduras as of 2019 and 2020, respectively.

TPS, which grants temporary residence and work benefits to immigrants, was granted to Salvadorans after two earthquakes that devastated much of the country in January and February 2001. Honduras has had it for years after a hurricane.

The Guatemalan National Migrant Assistance Council estimates that about 1.5 million Guatemalans live in the United States and only between 300,000 and 400,000 have legal residence.

Guatemala Volcano Search Cancelled As 200 Still Missing

Rescuers search for victims in San Miguel Los Lotes, a village in Escuintla Department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala City, on June 4, 2018.                                                  Johan ORDONEZ / AFP

 

Authorities on Sunday called off a search for the nearly 200 people missing since Guatemala’s Fuego volcano erupted earlier this month, devastating the surrounding countryside.

Officials have confirmed the deaths of 110 people as a result of the volcanic eruption on June 3, but another 197 remain unaccounted for.

A spokesman for the government’s civil protection agency, David de Leon, said the agencies involved decided to end the search “due to the fact that the area is uninhabitable and of high risk.”

The volcano, 35 kilometers (about 22 miles) southwest of the capital, is still generating four or five weak explosions an hour, sending a column of gray ash more than 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) into the sky.

Guatemala’s south-central region was also shaken on Sunday night by a 5.8-magnitude earthquake with its epicenter at Iztapa, on the Pacific coast near neighboring El Salvador, the civil protection agency said.

There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Additionally, rains were forecast for Sunday, posing a danger of volcanic mudflows.

More than 3,600 villagers have been forced to take temporary refuge in schools and community halls.

The suspended search had been focused on the hardest-hit communities of San Miguel Los Lotes and El Recreo.

The only exception to the suspension is in the area of Alotenango, where volunteer firefighters continued to search for two colleagues who went missing on the day of the disaster.

AFP

Nearly 200 Missing In Guatemala Volcano Disaster

Volunteers and rescuers evacuate the disaster zone as a column of smoke and ash rises from the area where lava flowed down the Fuego Volcano, in Escuintla Department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala City, on June 5, 2018.  Johan ORDONEZ / AFP

 

Nearly 200 people are missing and at least 75 have been killed since Guatemala’s Fuego volcano began erupting over the weekend, officials said Tuesday.

Seven communities in already devastated areas were evacuated as the volcano’s activity increased, with rescue operations halted.

In the city of Escuintla, near the summit, panicked locals rushed to their cars to escape, causing chaotic traffic.

An AFP photographer saw a large plume of ash rise into the sky, prompting an evacuation of everyone authorities could find before the police, the military and rescuers were ordered to stand down.

And a total of 192 people remain missing since the weekend eruptions, disaster relief agency chief Sergio Cabanas told reporters.

Rescuers search for victims in San Miguel Los Lotes, a village in Escuintla Department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala City, on June 4, 2018. Johan ORDONEZ / AFP

 

The search for bodies in mountain villages destroyed by the eruption was progressing slowly, officials said earlier, given the nature of the terrain and the way the volcano released large amounts of boiling mud, rock and ash down the mountain.

“We will continue until we find the last victim, though we do not know how many there are. We will probe the area as many times as necessary,” Cabanas told AFP.

However, the prospects of finding any more survivors was poor, he said.

“If you are trapped in a pyroclastic flow, it’s hard to come out of it alive,” he said, adding that people who may have been caught in the flow may never be found.

Nearly 200 Missing In Guatemala Volcano Disaster
View of the damage caused by the eruption of the Fuego Volcano in the village of San Miguel Los Lotes, in Escuintla Department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala City, taken on June 5, 2018.
Johan ORDONEZ / AFP

 

Among the latest of the 75 fatalities reported by the National Institute of Forensic Sciences was a 42-year-old woman who died in hospital having lost both legs and an arm in the eruption.

The previous toll was given as 73. Some 46 people were injured, around half of whom are in serious condition, officials said.

The 3,763-meter (12,346-foot) volcano erupted early Sunday, spewing out towering plumes of ash and a hail of fiery rock fragments with scalding mud.

The Fuego Volcano in eruption, seen from Alotenango municipality, Sacatepequez department, about 65 km southwest of Guatemala City, on June 3, 2018. ORLANDO ESTRADA / AFP

 

Authorities said more than 1.7 million people had been affected by the disaster, including more than 3,000 ordered evacuated, many living in shelters in Escuintla, Sacatepequez and Chimaltenango since Sunday’s eruption.

The speed of the eruption took locals by surprise, and could be explained by it producing pyroclastic flows, sudden emissions of gas and rock fragments, rather than lava, said volcanologist David Rothery of Britain’s Open University.

President Jimmy Morales, who has declared three days of national mourning, has visited the disaster zone.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was deeply saddened by the “tragic loss of life and the significant damage caused by the eruption,” and said the UN was ready to assist national rescue and relief efforts.

People evacuate the disaster zone as a column of smoke and ash rises from the area where lava flowed down the Fuego Volcano, in Escuintla Department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala City, on June 5, 2018. Johan ORDONEZ / AFP

 

AFP

Guatemala Opens Israel Embassy In Jerusalem After U.S.

Guatemala Opens Israel Embassy In Jerusalem After U.S.
(L to R) Sara Netanyahu and her husband Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin applaud as Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and his wife Hilda Patricia Marroquin cut the ribbon during the inauguration ceremony of the Guatemalan embassy in Jerusalem on May 16, 2018, also attended by Guatemalan Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel Polanco. RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP

 

Guatemala inaugurated its Israel embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday, becoming the first country to follow in the footsteps of the United States’ deeply controversial move that was accompanied by deadly violence on the Gaza border.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales were among officials who attended a ceremony inaugurating the new embassy at an office park in the disputed city, which is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The US and Guatemalan moves break with decades of international consensus. US ambassador to Israel David Friedman also attended Wednesday’s ceremony.

So far the only other nation with immediate plans to open an Israel embassy in Jerusalem is Paraguay, expected to do so before the end of the month.

Netanyahu profusely praised Guatemala for making the move and noted it came only two days after the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem.

The Israeli premier spoke of Guatemala’s early recognition of the state of Israel after its creation in 1948 and said he would visit the country of 16 million on his next visit to Latin America.

“I look forward to assessing with you the practical ways… that we can advance this friendship and this alliance,” Netanyahu said.

“But today, I just want to say how delighted we are to have you.”

Morales called it a “transcendental moment for future generations” who will “remember that friendly countries took courageous decisions in favour of Israel and we do this because you have a special place in our hearts.”

– ‘To the fringes’ –

The US embassy move on Monday was accompanied by mass protests and clashes along the Gaza border that saw Israeli forces kill some 60 Palestinians.

Israel has faced international criticism over its use of live fire against demonstrators.

It says its actions are necessary to defend the border and stop mass infiltrations from the Palestinian enclave, which is run by Islamist movement Hamas.

On Monday, tens of thousands had gathered near the border while smaller numbers of stone-throwing Palestinians approached the fence and sought to break through, with Israeli snipers positioned on the other side.

Most of those killed were shot by Israeli snipers, the Gazan health ministry said, in the bloodiest day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since a 2014 Gaza war.

Israel’s army said “it appears that at least 24” of those killed were militants, mainly from Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

It said explosive devices and firebombs were used, while Israeli soldiers were also shot at.

But there were numerous calls for an independent investigation into the deaths, with Britain, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium among those supporting such action.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the European Union have previously called for an independent probe, with 116 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since a campaign of protests on the Gaza-Israel border was launched on March 30.

Morales’s decision to move Guatemala’s embassy has been seen as partly influenced by his evangelical religious beliefs.

Evangelicals want to see Jews rebuild their temple in Jerusalem, which according to their beliefs would facilitate the second coming of Christ.

The move is also seen by some as a gesture to elicit US support at a time when Morales stands accused by Guatemalan prosecutors of accepting illegal campaign contributions.

Former Guatemalan foreign minister Gabriel Orellana has said Morales’s embassy move has the effect of banishing his country “to the fringes of the United Nations”.

Jerusalem’s status is perhaps the thorniest issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

AFP

Former Guatemala Dictator Rios Montt, Accused Of Genocide Dies At 91

In this file picture taken on April 30, 2013, former Guatemalan de facto President (1982-1983) retired General Jose Efrain Rios Montt, gestures during his trial on charges of genocide during his regime, in Guatemala City. PHOTO: Johan ORDONEZ / AFP

 

Efrain Rios Montt, a former military dictator who ruled Guatemala between 1982 and 1983 and who was facing retrial on genocide charges, died on Sunday aged 91, sources close to his family said.

One of his lawyers, Luis Rosales, told reporters that Rios Montt “died in his home, with the love of his family and a clear conscience.”

Rios Montt is accused of being responsible for the murders of 1,771 indigenous Ixil-Maya people during his short reign, which came at the height of a brutal 36-year civil war.

A May 2013 trial delivered a conviction and an 80-year sentence against Rios Montt — the first time a Latin American ex-dictator had been convicted of genocide.

But that verdict was overturned just days later by Guatemala’s constitutional court because of a “procedural error,” and a new trial was ordered.

That trial of Rios Montt and his spy chief, Jose Rodriguez, was halted in 2016 after an appeals court ruled each man should be tried separately.

Rios Montt’s lawyers sought to block further proceedings against their client, arguing his health was too poor and he suffered from dementia.

Denied charges

According to the UN, some 200,000 people died or were made to disappear during the Guatemala’s long, brutal civil war, which ended in 1996.

Rios Montt was accused of orchestrating an extermination policy against the indigenous population, which was perceived to be collaborating with left-wing guerrillas waging war against government forces.

He denied the charges in his original trial.

“I never authorized, never signed, never ordered an attack against a race, an ethnicity or a religion. I never did it!” he said at the time.

Short in stature and vigorous into old age, the former dictator had a humble beginning, with little to suggest a rise to national power.

He was born in Guatemala’s remote Huehuetenango province, near the border with Mexico.

He enlisted in the army as a teenager and rose through the ranks, receiving training courses at the US-run School of the Americas, where Latin American officers learned harsh tactics used in crackdowns on dissidents.

Politically, Rios Montt came to the forefront in 1974 when, as a brigadier general, he was put forward as a coalition presidential candidate.

Historians say he won an overwhelming victory, but electoral fraud prevented him from taking office. Another general, Kjell Eugenio Laugerud, took power instead.

As a consolation prize, Rios Montt was sent to Spain as the military attache.

US support

Upon returning home three years later, he turned away from Catholicism, his religion of birth, and became a fervent evangelical Christian.

On March 23, 1982, he took power in a bloodless coup, deposing Lucas Garcia.

During his 18-month rule, ruthless even by the standards of Latin American dictators, Rios Montt engaged in a “scorched earth” policy against dissidents, wiping out entire rural towns where leftists were suspected of living or having support.

He appointed so-called faceless judges who mounted summary trials and ordered numerous alleged criminals — often leftist rebel sympathizers or militants — executed.

Rios Montt also used his office to preach to his people: every Sunday night, dressed in a combat uniform, the dictator would take to the airwaves and talk about God, morality and politics.

He claimed in one such sermon that a “good Christian” lived their life “with a bible and a machine gun.”

As conflicts raged in nearby Nicaragua and El Salvador, then US president Ronald Reagan praised Rios Montt in 1982 as “a man of great personal integrity and commitment.”

Congressional immunity

But as evidence of gross human rights violations mounted, Rios Montt’s defense minister, General Oscar Mejia, ousted him from office in August 1983.

In 1989 Rios Montt founded the right-wing Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG), which reached national power with the election of Alfonso Portillo (2000-2004).

Portillo was arrested in 2010 on corruption charges and ended up being extradited to the United States, where he spent a little over a year in prison for money-laundering.

Rios Montt managed to avoid prosecution by entering Congress, where he enjoyed parliamentary immunity.

The ex-general served as a legislator between 1990 and 2003, including a stint as head of the chamber.

He also launched three unsuccessful presidential bids.

Courts blocked two of those attempts on grounds that he led a coup to take office, and by the time his lawyers won the right for him to run in 2003 his popularity had waned considerably.

When Rios Montt’s final term in Congress ended in 2012, along with his parliamentary immunity, he was slapped with charges of genocide and put under house arrest.

AFP

Six Killed In Guatemala Hospital Attack

At least six people were killed and 12 others injured on Wednesday after several suspected gang members stormed the Roosevelt Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in the capital Guatemala City.

They attacked the hospital with rifles to free one of their companions – 29-year-old Anderson Daniel Cabrera Cifuentes. He was convicted of various crimes, including murder in 2013.

The director of the Roosevelt Carlos Soto described the event as a “massacre”.

Powerful Earthquake Shakes Guatemala, El Salvado

Powerful Earthquake Shakes Guatemala, El Salvado
File photo

A major earthquake struck off the coast of Guatemala on Thursday, damaging buildings and downing trees.

There were, however, no reports of casualties, even as the quake caused powerful tremors in neighbouring El Salvador.

The earthquake, measured at a magnitude of 6.8 by the U.S. Geological Survey, struck 38 kilometres (24 miles) southwest of Puerto San Jose at a depth of 46.8 kilometres.

A deeper quake of similar magnitude struck the interior of Guatemala last week, killing at least two people and damaging buildings.

Antigua’s fire service told local radio that the quake had damaged houses, bringing down some roofs, but confirmed that no casualties had been reported.

Earthquake Kills Two In Guatemala, Shakes Mexico

Chile Earthquake
File photo

A strong earthquake hit southwestern Guatemala near the border with Mexico in the early hours of Wednesday, killing two people, officials said.

The 6.9-magnitude quake damaged buildings in the neighbouring southern Mexican state of Chiapas, authorities said, but there were no immediate reports of deaths in Mexico.

The earthquake hit 15 km (10 miles) west-northwest of the city of San Marcos, at around 1:30 a.m. local time (0730 GMT) at a relatively deep 111 km, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported.

An aftershock struck around 20 minutes later, the agency added.

According to authorities, power went off in the Guatemalan departments of Retalhuleu, Quetzaltenango and Suchitepequez.

Emergency services reported that a church collapsed in San Sebastian, Retalhuleu, killing one person while Guatemala’s President told a news conference that another person was killed in Quetzaltenango.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said that based on available data, there was no tsunami threat from the quake.

Software guru; McAfee fakes heart attack, likely to face deportation

Software guru John McAfee, fighting deportation to Belize, was rushed to a hospital in Guatemala on Thursday shortly after his asylum request was rejected, but a suspected heart attack turned out to be stress in a fresh twist to the saga.

The 67-year-old US computer software pioneer was taken swiftly from a hospital in a police car out of the sight of media, after earlier arriving in an ambulance lying on a stretcher.

His lawyer said he was being taken back to an immigration department cottage where he has been detained since crossing illegally into Guatemala from neighbouring Belize, where police want to question him in connection with his neighbour’s murder.

“He never had a heart attack, nothing like that,” said Telesforo Guerra, a former attorney general who had earlier said McAfee had two mild heart attacks.

“I’m not a doctor. I’m just telling you what the doctors told me,” he added. “He was suffering from stress, hypertension and tachycardia (an abnormally fast heartbeat).”

McAfee was posting on his blog www.whoismcafee.com in the morning, the time he suffered the stress attack.

“I don’t think a heart attack prevents one from using one’s blog,” Guerra had said at the time.

Guerra’s assistant, Karla Paz, earlier said she found McAfee lying on the ground and unable to move his body or speak.

McAfee was detained by Guatemalan police on Wednesday for illegally sneaking across the border with his 20-year-old girlfriend to escape authorities in Belize. He has said he fears authorities in Belize will kill him if he returns.