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.
Political tensions continued over work of former anti-corruption body International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), whose mandate ended in Sept, and migration agreement with U.S.. Constitutional Court 7 Oct ordered injunction to immediately halt commission of inquiry set up by Congress late-Sept to probe alleged illegal or arbitrary acts by CICIG on grounds that Congress was usurping functions of Attorney General’s Office; President-elect Giammattei late Sept made statement criticising commission as “political show”. Congress dropped inquiry commission but 14 Oct launched Truth Commission to hold public hearings for people to report alleged CICIG abuses. Giammattei 3 Oct reiterated concern over lack of information on “Safe Third Country” agreement with U.S. which allows U.S. to transfer asylum cases to Guatemala while their cases are reviewed, and did not rule out repealing it when he takes office in Jan. U.S. 15 Oct warned govt must maintain agreement to benefit from proposed regional development plans, next day resumed some aid, focused on law enforcement and security. President Morales 2 Oct extended state of emergency in 22 municipalities, imposed in Sept following killing of three soldiers; Peasant Development Committee 17 Oct organised several protests across country rejecting extension.
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