After threats in Guatemala, Mexico ordeal, reporter hopes for asylum in US

By Guadalupe Peñuelas

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Jun 8 (EFE).- A Guatemalan journalist who fled his homeland after receiving death threats, was assaulted by people smugglers in Mexico and later applied for asylum in the United States now finds himself awaiting resolution of his case in this violence-racked northern border city.

Mario Alvarez Gonzalez, 41, is waiting for his US court hearing in Ciudad Juarez – a city that in May alone registered more than 100 homicides – due to an asylum policy known as Remain in Mexico that was implemented in early 2019 under then-US President Donald Trump and remains in force despite current head of state Joe Biden’s efforts to terminate it.

Even so, that veteran reporter with experience at Reuters, CNN en Español, Telesur and Univision says he not as vulnerable as he was in Guatemala since he is not working as a reporter and is virtually unknown in his current residence.

“I hope the United States reviews my case. I’d be useful. I wouldn’t be a burden. I hope they grant me an asylum opportunity,” he said Wednesday in an interview with Efe.

Alvarez Gonzalez also has traveled in the past in Latin America making documentary films and in his most recent position was the director of a Guatemalan television station, where he met frequently with politicians interested in buying ad space.

And besides his work as a journalist, he also was the owner of a butcher’s shop in his homeland.

One day while closing up the store, he said he was accosted by two individuals who issued a clear death threat.

“We know who you are, we know you’re the director and are (meeting) with politicians. If you don’t disappear, we’re going to disappear you and you’re going to be left dumped (on the ground) and you’re going to be news on your own channel,” he recalled one of them saying.

Alvarez Gonzalez thought the threat was a joke until in August 2021 a well-dressed man accompanied by armed bodyguards came to the shop and threatened him with a gun, saying he had ignored their earlier ultimatum and was still associating with the “wrong politicians.”

Told that his wife would be raped and his daughter would be kidnapped, the journalist decided to quit his job at the television station and flee the country with his family.

During his journey through Mexico, Alvarez Gonzalez came under suspicion from coyotes (people smugglers) who saw his press credentials and assumed he was an undercover reporter who planned to write an article on migration and people-smuggling.

They physically assaulted him at a home where they were holding him, refusing to believe him when he repeatedly tried to explain his situation.

“I saw the two coyotes go out for a drink. They left the door half-open and I escaped with my family,” he recalled.

Alvarez Gonzalez later went to an office of Mexico’s National Institute of Migration seeking to regularize his situation but was met with rejection.

Over the past few months, he and his family have been staying at the “Esperanza para todos” (Hope for All) shelter in Ciudad Juarez, where their basic needs are being met while they wait hopefully for a positive resolution of their asylum case. EFE


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