November 28, 2020

COVID-19 threatens Guatemalan prisons with positive cases and death

The coronavirus crisis reached the Guatemalan Penitentiary System on Thursday with four confirmed cases, in addition to an inmate who died in a hospital with a clinical picture with symptoms similar to COVID-19.

According to a report by the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) released by the entity this Thursday, two women tested positive at the Center for the New Prison Management Model, Fraijanes 1, in the department of Guatemala, after conducting tests and swabs to the 51 female prisoners in the prison.

In addition, one of the inmates of the Preventive for men located in zone 18 of Guatemala City died this Thursday due to a table of symptoms similar to COVID-19, although the director general of the Penitentiary System, Luis Rodolfo Escobar, did not confirm that the death was due to the coronavirus.

“This person who died, we have the clinical picture for which he entered the Roosevelt Hospital, due to septicemia (infection) and osteomyelitis (pain, fever and chills). He was in the possession of the Roosevelt Hospital, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance , which is the governing body of the pandemic, “Escobar said at a press conference.

The direction of the Preventive of zone 18 made this day the decision to inform, without authorization, the Judicial Organism about the deceased inmate as “a possible case (of COVID-19) due to the symptoms the person was carrying,” Escobar argued.


Apart from the two women infected with COVID-19 in Fraijanes I, whose administration is foreign to the Penitentiary System and corresponds to another direction of the Ministry of the Interior (Interior), Escobar acknowledged that in the prison system he directs he adds two more cases.

This is a man who was identified in the western department of Quetzaltenango and a second case who was detained in the provisional prison of the Tower of Courts and who, although he was in charge of the National Civil Police, would later be handed over to the Penitentiary System .

“In support of these cases, we were authorized to transfer to refer to the Fraijanes 2 (prison), a space set up for 500 people where they may be in the isolation stage. If it were a case of COVID-19, we need to have a document official, “Escobar sidestepped.

The PDH, for its part, also highlighted the lack of antibacterial gel, masks and gloves in the 21 centers of deprivation of liberty of the Penitentiary System, although Escobar assured that this Friday they will be provided with these supplies, which were already acquired by the prison entity at your expense.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, there are 26,160 people in prisons, around 52 percent serving sentences and 48% in preventive detention.

Guatemala has more than 250 officials with COVID-19 among police officers -at least 150-, municipal traffic agents, soldiers, members of the health system and workers from some ministries, according to various state sources.

In total, the Ministry of Health has counted 4,145 positive cases of coronavirus and 68 died from the infection, in addition to two people who died of causes other than COVID-19 and almost 500 recovered.


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