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Guatemala's president is seeking a maximum of 30 years in prison for people smugglers

Guatemala's president is seeking a maximum of 30 years in prison for people smugglers

GUATEMALA CITY, January 14 (Reuters) - Guatemala's President, Alejandro Giammattei, has presented a proposal to Congress on Friday to increase sentence durations for people smugglers by up to 30 years for the worst culprits.

Guatemala has been a vital transit destination for impoverished Central American migrants - including Guatemalans - who travel throughout Mexico to the United States in search of a better life.

Guatemala's government has taken steps to stop gang traffic after dozens of migrants were killed in massive crimes, whether by overcrowded vehicles or by criminels.

Giammattei proposed reducing the time span for smugglers, formerly known as "coyotes," to 10 to 30 years, from the two to five years currently set out under Guatemalan law.

Giammattei said in a speech to Congress that the United States should also extradite people smugglers.

If smugglers transport minors, pregnant women, or migrants are subjected to inhumane treatment, penalties might be even higher.

Giammattei's announcement comes weeks after 55 mostly Guatemalan migrants died when the overcrowded truck ferrying them through southern Mexico was dismantled.

The Guatemalan president has called for the reform to be adopted as a matter of national importance. But the changes must first be debated and receive the approval of at least two-thirds of the 160 members of Congress.

The bill is expected to have a good chance of passing, as the ruling party may get the necessary votes through alliances and the assistance it has from other seats.

On Friday, Guatemalan migrants authorities announced that they are keeping an eye on another possible caravan of migrants leaving Honduras during the weekend and trying to cross Guatemala.

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