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.
President Morales’ approval of Law of Acceptance of Charges, and Congress’s continued actions to delegitimise dismantled anti-corruption body International Commission against Impunity (CICIG), point to increasing impunity despite pushback from opposition and civil society groups. Truth Commission created in Oct for people who consider themselves to be victims of CICIG concluded its last public hearing 27 Nov, with final report due to be presented 10 Jan to Congress, donor govts of CICIG, UN and Organization of American States. Morales 16 Dec sanctioned controversial reform that reduces sentences up to 50% for those involved in corruption cases who accept their guilt, despite protests against it by civil society groups, who also rejected planned budget cuts for health and education. After President Morales met with U.S. President Trump 17 Dec, the Wall Street Journal reported 20 Dec Guatemala is set to start accepting migrants from Brazil and Mexico, under Asylum Cooperation Agreement signed in July 2019.
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