Former Guatemala Minister to Face Homicide Charges

The top prosecutor in Guatemala has charged the former minister of social welfare and his deputy with negligent homicide over the deaths of 41 girls in a fire at a government-run shelter.

The director of the Virgen de Asunción shelter has also been charged.

The three suspects were sacked by President Jimmy Morales after the deadly fire on 8 March.

Months before the tragedy, prosecutors had recommended the shelter be closed over allegations of abuse.

Former social welfare minister Carlos Rodas, his deputy, Anahi Keller, and the ex-director of the shelter, Santos Torres, have been charged with negligent homicide, abuse of power, mistreatment of minors and failure to fulfil their duties.


Prosecutors argued the three lacked the necessary experience to run the shelter which housed as many as 700 children.

Defence lawyers will be making their case later on Wednesday.


‘Disgraceful treatment’

In court, prosecutors described the events leading up to the fire.

They said that the night before dozens of girls tried to escaped from the facility, which was infamous for its overcrowding and allegations of mistreatment.

Those who managed to get away were caught by police and returned to the shelter in San José Pinula.

As a punishment, 56 of them were locked in a room measuring 6.8m by 7m (22ft by 23 ft).

“There was no bathroom nor any drinking water, they were locked up and their treatment was disgraceful,” prosecutor Edwin Marroquín said.

One of the girls set a mattress alight in protest at their treatment, he said.


The fire quickly spread and within nine minutes the temperature reached 300C, Mr Marroquín said.

Seventeen girls were killed at the scene and another 24 died in hospital in the following weeks.

According to the prosecutors, fire fighters were not called in time and were originally told there was a riot, not a fire.


The tragedy caused outrage in Guatemala, especially after it emerged that there had been concerns about human rights violations in the home as early as 2013.

In November 2016, a court order was filed, calling for precautionary measures to be taken but the social welfare ministry rejected the accusations and appealed.




Trump Removes Stephen Bannon from NSC

WASHINGTON — President Trump reshuffled his national security organization on Wednesday, removing his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, from a top policy-making committee and restoring senior military and intelligence officials who had been downgraded when he first came into office.


The shift was orchestrated by Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who was tapped as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser after the resignation of Michael T. Flynn, who stepped down in February after being caught misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador.


General McMaster inherited an organizational scheme for the National Security Council that stirred protests because of Mr. Bannon’s role. The original setup made Mr. Bannon, the former chairman of Breitbart News, a member of the principals committee that typically includes cabinet-level officials like the vice president, secretary of state and defense secretary.


The original order also made the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence only occasional participants as issues demanded. Critics said Mr. Bannon’s presence in a national security policy-making structure risked politicizing foreign policy.


A new order issued by Mr. Trump, dated Tuesday and made public on Wednesday, removes Mr. Bannon from the principals committee, restores the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and intelligence director and also adds the energy secretary, C.I.A. director and United Nations ambassador.


A senior White House official presented the move as a logical evolution, not a setback for Mr. Bannon. He had originally been put on the principals committee to keep an eye on Mr. Flynn and to “de-operationalize” the National Security Council after the Obama administration, this official said on condition of anonymity to discuss internal dynamics. This official said that process had been completed.


But the reorganization seemed a clear victory for General McMaster as he struggles to assert control over national security. In addition to the changing membership of the principals committee, the new order also puts the Homeland Security Council under General McMaster rather than making it a separate entity, as Mr. Trump’s original order had done.

Bottom of Form


General McMaster had envisioned making these changes shortly after taking the job in February, but proceeded slowly to avoid inflaming an already volatile situation. Mr. Bannon and his allies initially insisted his position would not change under any reorganization by General McMaster, but eventually the president was convinced that it was wiser to take him off the principals committee.


The principals committee, led by the national security adviser, is the primary policy-making body for national security, and decides questions that do not rise to the level of the president himself. The committee also debates issues that will get sent to the president, and frames the choices for him.


Political advisers traditionally have not served on the committee. President George W. Bush kept his senior adviser, Karl Rove, out of sensitive national security meetings. President Barack Obama permitted his senior adviser, David Axelrod, to sit in on some, but he was not given formal status and he has said he merely observed and did not participate.


In addition to giving Mr. Bannon formal membership, the original national security organization reduced the role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and national intelligence director, stipulating that they would attend only “where issues pertaining to their responsibilities are to be discussed.”


Members of Mr. Trump’s team said they did not mean to downgrade them; it simply took Mr. Bush’s original order and cut and pasted language into theirs, not realizing that the two officials had been upgraded under Mr. Obama.


Uhuru Kenyatta’s sister pass on.

The Kenyatta family is mourning following the death of Margaret Wambui, the first daughter of the founding President Jomo Kenyatta. Margaret, a step sister to President Uhuru Kenyatta, died Wednesday at her Lavington home aged 89 years.


The deceased was Jomo Kenyatta’s second born child, after her brother Peter Muigai – both born of the founding President’s first wife Grace Wahu. She served as the Mayor of Nairobi – the first woman to hold the position -from 1970 to 1976, before being Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, where she served for ten years from 1976 to 1986.


A close family member who declined to be named confirmed to The Standard Margaret’s death. The deceased, who was leading a quiet life after an industrious political career where she championed the interests of women empowerment and involvement in politics, attended Ruthimitu Primary School and was among the pioneer students of Alliance School, when it began as a mixed school in 1947.