A congressional body in Guatemala approved Friday two controversial bills as the citizens of the country are still struggling to cope with the aftermath of the deadly Fuego Volcano tragedy. One of the measures criminalizes abortion and bans same-sex marriage while the other would allow the state to give amnesties to persons implicated in crimes against humanity.
The proposed law to protect life and family promotes the “right to life,” upholds the “the institution of marriage between a man and a woman,” and defines families as constituted by “father, mother and the children who live with them or are under their custody.”
The bill, which has been criticized for being discriminatory, sets penalties for non-therapeutic abortions and prohibits same-sex marriage.
The second proposal seeks to put an end to prosecutions and investigations against people responsible for crimes against humanity, including torture, forced disappearances, and systematic rape during the country’s civil war between 1960 and 1996.
Congress has been criticized for using the national tragedy as a smokescreen to push through unpopular laws.
In May, Guatemala’s judicial system sentenced the 1980 military leadership to between 33 and 58 years in prison for disappearing a 14-year-old boy, Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, after his sister, Emma, escaped from an army base where she was tortured and raped 37 years ago.
Emma was imprisoned for participating in the student movement and with the communist party, considered subversive by the country’s dictatorship.
Marco Antonio is one of 45,000 people, including 5,000 children, who were forcibly disappeared during the civil war.
Guatemala's civil war began in 1960, six years after the United States-backed military coup ousted democratically-elected military officer Jacobo Arbenz, who led a widespread and popular program of agrarian reform that affected landed elites and the infamous United Fruit Company.
Shortly after the coup, left-wing parties and labor unions were outlawed by the state, and progressive social and economic policies were dismantled.