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Los dramas electorales de Guatemala
Los dramas electorales de Guatemala
Undocumented Migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America
Undocumented Migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America
Guatemalan presidential candidate for National Convergence Front Jimmy Morales addresses the media at his campaign headquarters in Guatemala City, 6 September 2015. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

Los dramas electorales de Guatemala

En el marco de un drama político sin precedentes, los guatemaltecos votaron el pasado 6 de septiembre por un cambio sustancial en la primera ronda de las elecciones presidenciales. Le otorgaron la victoria – por ahora – a un actor cómico. Pero no queda claro si esto implicará una renovación política, o por el contrario hará borrón y cuenta nueva sobre las acusaciones de corrupción que hicieron caer al anterior presidente y vicepresidenta.

La votación estuvo acompañada de una extraordinaria movilización ciudadana e investigaciones judiciales sobre supuestos hechos de corrupción que resultaron, tan solo tres días antes de la votación, en la dimisión y posterior arresto del presidente del país. Un número record de guatemaltecos acudieron a las urnas, otorgando la mayoría a Jimmy Morales – un comediante con muy poca experiencia política. El segundo puesto fue para la ex primera dama Sandra Torres, quien superó por un estrecho margen al favorito, el empresario Manuel Baldizón. Ambos dirimirán la presidencia el 25 de octubre.

En las calles, en las conversaciones que se escuchan en los cafés y en las llamadas a los programas de televisión, los ciudadanos siguen exigiendo mayor transparencia, tanto en el gobierno como sobre los gastos de campaña. Saben que las investigaciones penales han debilitado, aunque no eliminado, el nexo entre la política y los negocios ilícitos. Sin embargo, para que los extraordinarios eventos de 2015 den paso a un proceso de reforma política más profunda, los reformistas deben transformar su movilización callejera en participación cívica organizada.

El Ministerio Público ha llevado a cabo una amplia campaña anticorrupción con la ayuda de la Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala (CICIG), un organismo híbrido creado en 2006 con la ayuda de Naciones Unidas para investigar y desmantelar los grupos ilícitos que operan dentro de las instituciones del Estado. Como señaló Crisis Group en abril, el escándalo estalló cuando quedó al descubierto una trama de corrupción conocida como “La Línea”, a través de la cual se habría producido un fraude al estado sobre aranceles aduaneros impagos a cambio de sobornos.

El caso implicó a la ex vicepresidenta Roxana Baldetti, quien dimitió en mayo, y más tarde al propio presidente Otto Pérez Molina, después que el Congreso votara unánimemente a favor de retirarle la inmunidad presidencial el 1 de septiembre. En un acontecimiento sin precedentes en la historia de Guatemala, el presidente y la vicepresidenta se encuentran detenidos y acusados de corrupción. El nuevo presidente provisional, Alejandro Maldonado, un veterano jurista nombrado para suceder a Baldetti, accedió al poder mediante los procedimientos legales establecidos, tal como exhortó Crisis Group, y presidió los comicios.

Jimmy Morales y Sandra Torres se enfrentarán en la segunda vuelta de las elecciones presidenciales el próximo 25 de octubre. Crisis Group/guatemalaelecciones.com

Morales, el ganador de la primera ronda, se benefició de su popularidad y del hecho de no pertenecer a la clase política que ha sido objeto de las protestas. Es un protestante evangélico conservador cuya campaña se basó en la de no ser “ni corrupto, ni un ladrón”. A sus detractores les preocupa su falta de experiencia, y el hecho que cuenta con el apoyo de grupos de veteranos militares decididos a impedir que se lleven a cabo nuevos juicios por abusos a los derechos humanos cometidos a lo largo de los 36 años del conflicto armado interno del país.

Sandra Torres es conocida por implementar programas sociales en zonas rurales durante el gobierno de su ex esposo Álvaro Colom (2008 – 2012). Sus detractores la tachan de radical, aunque Torres ha intentado acercarse al centro con el nombramiento como su compañero de fórmula de un empresario que mantiene estrechos lazos con los principales grupos empresariales del país. Cuenta con la ventaja de una sólida estructura partidaria a nivel nacional, aunque las autoridades electorales y la CICIG la han acusado de prácticas de campaña injustas y sus detractores señalan otras graves acusaciones.

Un manifestante trepa las columnas de la catedral metropolitana de Guatemala en la manifestación del 27 de agosto. Crisis Group/Arturo Matute

El ganador de la segunda vuelta el 25 de octubre tendrá que gobernar con un congreso dividido. Si bien Baldizón quedó fuera de la segunda ronda, su partido “Líder” cuenta con el mayor número de miembros de la legislatura nacional, con 37 escaños. El partido de Torres, la Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE), obtuvo 28 en la asamblea, lo que podría permitirle forjar alianzas con grupos potencialmente afines, como “Todos”, el partido del ex presidente Alfonso Portillo y otras agrupaciones menores.

Esto podría ayudar a la UNE a impulsar un programa de reformas, lo que según Torres es su objetivo. En respuesta a sus detractores y escépticos sobre el compromiso de la UNE con el cambio, Torres ha llamado al Congreso a aprobar las reformas antes de la nueva legislatura, aunque esto podría tratarse de una táctica de campaña para obtener el apoyo de la clase media urbana, que fue su punto débil en las elecciones . La segunda vuelta podría ser muy disputada. Se espera que Morales obtenga gran parte del voto urbano, mientras que Torres podría conseguir votos de ex partidarios de Baldizón en municipios predominantemente rurales. El ganador asumirá el poder el 14 de enero de 2016.

El presidente Maldonado se ha comprometido a responder a los reclamos de reforma política de los manifestantes instando al actual Congreso a que apruebe reformas a la ley electoral antes de la segunda vuelta. Su gobierno provisional enfrenta además una difícil situación fiscal, que requerirá una cuidadosa distribución de fondos entre instituciones públicas clave, especialmente hospitales, cárceles y la policía.

Cientos de guatemaltecos escribieron en un gigantesco mural desplegado en la principal plaza de la Ciudad de Guatemala en el que expresaron sus deseos y comentarios sobre la democracia en su país. Crisis Group/ Arturo Matute

El presidente presentó una lista de tres candidatos a la vicepresidencia, de entre los cuales el Congreso eligió a Alfonso Fuentes Soria, un ex rector de la universidad nacional y director de la Comisión Presidencial de Derechos Humanos durante el gobierno de Alfonso Portillo. No está claro si Maldonado, Soria y su recién nombrado gabinete cuentan con la destreza y peso político necesarios en el Congreso para impulsar las reformas.

Grupos de ciudadanos, asociaciones empresariales y activistas se han unido durante la crisis y han alcanzado un consenso básico sobre una agenda mínima de reformas que plantea la regulación más estricta de los partidos políticos y el financiamiento de campañas, el fortalecimiento de la Contraloría General de Cuentas para supervisar las transacciones públicas y brindar mayor transparencia en las contrataciones , el fomento de una administración pública basada en el mérito, el refuerzo de la independencia de los jueces y magistrados, y el fortalecimiento de la capacidad del Ministerio Público para investigar la corrupción.

Lamentablemente, la probabilidad que la mayoría de legisladores apoyen las reformas ha disminuido significativamente después de las elecciones pues ya no existe el incentivo de responder a las demandas electorales. No obstante, desatender la voluntad popular podría resultar imprudente. La sociedad guatemalteca ha madurado mucho más rápido que su sistema político, la ciudadanía se ha movilizado y se ha intensificado su capacidad de plantear demandas de cambio político.

Aún queda mucho por hacer para cumplir las promesas de los Acuerdos de Paz firmados en 1996, cuando se ofreció no solo poner fin a la guerra civil, sino también establecer en Guatemala una democracia mejor, basada en la transparencia, la rendición de cuentas y el fortalecimiento del Estado de derecho. Las manifestaciones pacíficas y la participación ciudadana, combinadas con un mayor control judicial, ya han demostrado ser un buen medio para obligar a los políticos a representar mejor el interés público.

Si estos mecanismos no resultan suficientes como para impulsar las reformas democráticas, aumentará la probabilidad de radicalización, prolongando la crisis y aumentando el riesgo de violencia. Los extraordinarios avances alcanzados durante 2015 son una oportunidad que Guatemala no debe perder.

Undocumented Migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America

The northward flow of undocumented migrants fleeing economic hardship and violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America exposes thousands of vulnerable people to mass victimisation. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – Third Update early warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to continue to pursue an approach grounded in supporting community violence prevention, institutional reform and poverty alleviation in the countries of origin while supporting transiting countries in managing the flow.

This commentary is part of our Watch List 2017 – Third Update.

Flows of undocumented migrants from Central America, through Mexico and toward the U.S. have given rise to a humanitarian emergency, albeit one that at present is largely treated by Washington as a national security menace and a justification for tougher border control. Originally driven by economic hardship, this northbound migration owes its intensity and longevity to multiple causes that make controlling or reducing it extremely hard. Mass victimisation of vulnerable migrants in transit has become the norm and could well be aggravated by Washington’s growing anti-immigration agenda. In this context, the European Union (EU) should adapt its current strategies in Central America to promote a more comprehensive approach to the protection of migrants.

Humanitarian impact

The flow of migrants from the countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA) – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – to the U.S. has become as much a flight from life-endangering violence as a search for economic opportunity. Surveys of migrants and refugees carried out by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Mexico showed 39.2 per cent cite attacks or threats to themselves or their families, extortion or forced recruitment into gangs as the main reasons for their flight.

Once on their journey north, undocumented migrants must chart a perilous path between the dual threats of law enforcement and criminal groups. Crisis Group’s 2016 report (Easy Prey: Criminal Violence and Central American Migration, 28 July 2016) describes how toughened law enforcement has diverted undocumented migration into more costly, circuitous and dangerous channels, where criminal gangs and corrupt officials benefit from policies that lead desperate people to pay increasing sums to avoid detention.

In the process, undocumented migrants are exposed to kidnappings, human trafficking, enforced disappearances, sexual violence, robbery and extortion. The most egregious cases include the 2010 and 2011 San Fernando massacres, in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, in which 265 migrants, most of them Central American, were killed by the Zetas drug trafficking cartel. Stuck in a legal limbo, migrants are doubly victimised: fearful of authorities, they are highly unlikely to report the crimes they suffer or gain access to medical care should they need it.

MSF has described undocumented migrants’ plight as “comparable to the conditions in conflict zones”. Two thirds of migrants reported being victims of violence during their transit toward the U.S.; nearly one third of women surveyed said they had been sexually abused during the journey. Among the migrants exposed to these risks are some of the most vulnerable groups in Central American society. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that asylum requests by unaccompanied NTCA minors in Mexico increased 416 per cent from 2013 to 2016.

U.S. policies

Fear of undocumented migration to the U.S. increasingly dominates political debate in that country. Although former President Obama stepped up border controls and continued a vigorous deportation policy – returning over five million people in total – his administration also welcomed legal migrants, acknowledged the humanitarian crisis posed by unaccompanied children arriving from Central America, and extended support to refugees around the world. President Trump, by contrast, was elected in part on a platform of clamping down on immigration, and some of his most influential supporters have made clear that their continued backing depends on implementation of stringent restrictive measures.

Undocumented entry into the U.S. already had become more difficult. 100,000 undocumented migrants made it into the U.S in 2016, compared to over 600,000 in 2006, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report.

Deepening Mexican collaboration with U.S. efforts to staunch the flow of Central Americans accounts for much of this reduction, and is likely to persist as Mexico strives to mitigate bilateral frictions with the Trump administration. In response to the 2014 crisis presented by migrant children arriving at the U.S. border, Mexican authorities boosted checkpoints, detentions and deportations of Northern Triangle nationals on its southern border with Guatemala. Mexico now deports more Central Americans than the U.S. (see graph).

Sources: Mexican Secretariat of Government http://politicamigratoria.gob.mx/es_mx/SEGOB/Boletines_Estadisticos and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) https://www.ice.gov/statistics

None of this has lessened the Trump administration’s determination to curb recent arrivals from Mexico and the Northern Triangle. The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – which benefits some 200,000 migrants who came to the U.S. following hurricane Mitch in Honduras in 1998 and an earthquake in El Salvador in 2001 – is at risk of termination in 2018.

Likewise, on 5 September, President Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created by the Obama administration to defer deportation and provide work permits to 800,000 undocumented migrants who entered the U.S. as minors. President Trump suggested that Congress should use the six-month wind-down period before the DACA work permits expire to create a legislative framework for the program. But, under pressure from some of the administration’s staunchest supporters, the White House has made clear that it will only support such legislation if Congress also enacts tough new immigration measures. How the legislative process will play out is not yet clear.

Although overall deportations by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) are reported to have fallen slightly – they reached 211,068 as of 9 September 2017, three weeks before the end of the fiscal year, as compared to 240,255 in FY 2016 – arrests of undocumented migrants have risen by 43 per cent since Trump took office, as compared to the same period the year before. Most strikingly, the number of migrants without a criminal record being detained has increased threefold since 2016.

Mexican and Central American responses

An increase in deportations – driven by arrests of undocumented migrants and expiry of the TPS and DACA – would place further strains on troubled social conditions in the Northern Triangle. Although the region has relatively robust legal frameworks to protect refugees, with Mexico at the forefront of international refugee and migrant protection efforts, they frequently are unable to provide what they preach.

For instance, asylum in Mexico can be a prolonged process. Out of 8,788 requests, only 5,954 were resolved in 2016, 3,076 of which were granted. Asylum-seekers must file requests within 30 days of crossing the border, and are kept in detention if arrested before applying. Many give up because of the detention centers’ cramped and insalubrious conditions, or because they have no right to work while their requests are being considered.

Overall, the [Northern Triangle] countries are not adequately equipped to receive new deportees.

Overall, the NTCA countries are not adequately equipped to receive new deportees. El Salvador’s preparations to receive them are almost entirely restricted to the monitoring of suspected gang activities. The National Assembly’s security commission has agreed on measures to track returnees accused of being street-gang members: over 500 suspected gang members have been sent back so far in 2017 to El Salvador, where high rates of violent crime and reported cases of extrajudicial execution of gang members complicate prospects of a return to peaceful civilian life.

Capacities to provide legal counsel, shelter, social reintegration or even transportation for returnees across the Northern Triangle are scant. Proposed legislation in Guatemala to strengthen the state’s readiness to protect migrants has stalled because of that country’s political crisis. In Honduras, the number of departing refugees and arriving deportees is the highest in the NTCA, but its government is concentrating on the president’s re-election campaign and on activating its own protocols against deported gang members.

Recommendations to the European Union and its member states

The more U.S. concerns about security and the economic effects of mass migration continue to drive a restrictive immigration policy, the more important it will be – from both a humanitarian and regional stability perspective – for the U.S. and its partners to help generate economic opportunities, better governance and broader social protection south of the U.S. border. That was the logic behind the “Alliance for Prosperity”, which the Obama administration established jointly with the NTCA governments and pursuant to which some $1.3 billion have been allocated to Central America in the 2017 and 2018 federal budgets. Today, that logic is at risk. A June 2017 high-level summit in Miami on prosperity and security in the NTCA, heralded a far stronger emphasis on security issues at the expense of recognition of the humanitarian emergency related to undocumented migration.

While the European Union (EU)’s role is limited due to the U.S.’s overwhelming influence in the region, it nonetheless could strengthen humanitarian responses and press for a more informed, integral approach to the protection of migrants, especially women and children. Migration forms a significant part of the EU’s cooperation with Latin America. The 2015 EU-CELAC Action Plan as well as the 2014-2020 Multiannual Indicative Regional Programme for Latin America include migration management and the protection of migrant rights as action points. So far, the EU’s initiatives in this field have focused on Latin America as a whole. However, the evolving migration dynamics in the NTCA call for a more targeted response. The EU should adapt its priorities in Central America and promote migration policies that focus on the protection and integration of migrants.

Technical assistance and capacity-building support for the under-resourced Central American consulates situated on the migrant route through Mexico would help ensure better protection for those in transit.

The EU should support Mexican and Northern Triangle authorities in their efforts to strengthen oversight of security agencies and state institutions working on migrant issues. Technical assistance and capacity-building support for the under-resourced Central American consulates situated on the migrant route through Mexico would help ensure better protection for those in transit. The initiative MIgration EU eXpertise (MIEUX), a peer-to-peer experts’ facility that supports partner countries to better manage migration through tailor-made assistance, can be a useful platform and starting point for the exchange of expertise and best practices.

The EU could also boost technical support to expand refugee processing of NTCA nationals in neighbouring countries (mainly Belize and Costa Rica), particularly minors, and ensure regional governments and NGOs provide adequate shelter to those awaiting decisions. Financial and logistical support to neighbouring countries such as Panama and Costa Rica, as well as to other Latin American countries that agree to take a share of refugees, would help cushion the impact of increasingly forbidding U.S. immigration policies.

All in all, the EU should continue to pursue an approach to Central America grounded in supporting community violence prevention, institutional reform and poverty alleviation. Perhaps most urgently, it should assist the three Northern Triangle countries in developing new programs to help them reintegrate deportees, including through initiatives to help them access health care, training, employment and psychosocial support when necessary.