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.
Tensions continued over govt’s campaign to expel International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which has been preparing case and possible charges against President Morales and others for illicit electoral financing. Constitutional Court (CC) 28 Sept rejected three out of eight appeals from govt against its ruling to allow CICIG chief Velásquez to re-enter country; army announced it would abide by CC ruling but govt 3 Oct reiterated its demands for UN to appoint new chief and deputy for CICIG, with Morales refusing to recognise Velásquez. Foreign ministry 16 Oct revoked visas for three CICIG officials and denied renewal to eight; in response, congress members filed appeals to CC. Chief prosecutor for electoral crimes 1 Oct passed case against Morales to congressional committee of inquiry; following committee’s report, congress 16 Oct refused to remove president’s immunity and passed new law reducing punishment for illicit electoral financing 18 Oct. Court 9 Oct sentenced former VP Roxana Baldetti to fifteen years in prison on charges of fraud, influence trafficking and unlawful association, in first of four corruption cases against her following CICIG investigation. President Trump 16 and 22 Oct threatened to suspend funding to region if migrant caravan from Honduras is not stopped (see Honduras). General Directorate for Migration 8 Oct revealed U.S. deportations of Guatemalans in 2018 already at 38,296, compared with 22,241 total in 2017.
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
Originally published in Semana