President Jimmy Morales has made good on his promise to shut down a UN-backed commission fighting rampant crime and impunity in Guatemala. Though it leaves a vital legacy, the commission’s exit risks strengthening the hand of criminal networks that operate with state complicity.
Congress took further actions to delegitimise defunct anti-corruption body, the International Commission against Impunity (CICIG), while govt lifted state of emergency imposed to tackle organised drug crime in north east. Truth Commission created in Oct for people who consider themselves to be victims of CICIG 6 Nov requested list from Public Prosecutor with names of all national and foreign personnel who have worked for body; as of 11 Nov, Truth Commission had held 28 hearings with more than 20 pending. Congress 12 Nov adopted amendment to Criminal Code which provides for reduction of sentences up to 50% for those involved in certain criminal cases including corruption, illicit association, money laundering and electoral crimes, if they accept guilt; civil society groups denounced legal change as strengthening impunity and filed appeal at constitutional court. President Morales 4 Nov announced end of state of emergency in 22 municipalities and six departments in north east since early Sept, during which govt seized thousands of kilos of drugs and 75 tons of chemical precursors, and arrested 973 people. Govt temporarily closed Mexican border after two attacks 13 and 17 Nov on customs facilities and officers by alleged smugglers. U.S. 18 Nov issued rule allowing it to send migrants seeking protection at its southern border to Guatemala in compliance with July agreement designating it “safe third country”, and 21 Nov sent first migrant, a Honduran. U.S. 1 Nov announced extension of Temporary Protected Status for Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and other countries until Jan 2021, which provides nationals from these countries temporary permission to live and work in the U.S..
Next year, President Jimmy Morales vows he will end the mandate of the UN-backed Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. Hugely popular, the commission has helped reduce the country’s terrible murder rate. To keep it going, its supporters should refocus on fighting the worst violent crime.
Central American gangs are responsible for brutal acts of violence, abuse of women and forced displacement of thousands. Governments must go beyond punitive measures and address the social and economic roots of gang culture, tackle extortion schemes and invest in communities.
Dramatic changes upended Guatemalan politics in 2015. Forcing the pace were international prosecutors, bolstered in their fight against corruption and impunity by a great wave of support from ordinary citizens. If Guatemala’s national reforms continue when outside help leaves, it can become a true role model for the region.
Ending bloodshed in this neglected border region requires more than task forces: credible institutions, access to state services and continuing security are also needed.
Ensuring a prompt and fair retrial of former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt is crucial to finally bringing justice to victims of the armed conflict and to reconciling a fragile democracy with its citizens.
The killing of protestors last October was a tragedy foretold by those who have long warned against Guatemala’s use of the armed forces to maintain domestic peace.
Guatemala struggles to adhere to the rule of law. Criminal actors have ways of influencing government decisions that do not produce good conditions for investment or for economic activity in general.
A year after the election of would-be reformer Jimmy Morales as president, corruption investigations are casting a shadow over his inner circle. Recent appointments bring youth and oxygen to his faltering administration, but much still stands in the way of political renewal.
Originally published in Los Angeles Times
Originally published in Miami Herald