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.
Political tensions and manoeuvring intensified ahead of June general elections, with Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) revoking presidential candidacy of former attorney general and candidate for Movimiento Semilla party Thelma Aldana over investigations into alleged fraud and cronyism, widely believed to be politically motivated. Judge from Femicide Tribunal forbade prosecutors from approaching second presidential contender Sandra Torres, candidate of Unidad Nacional de La Esperanza (UNE), who is under investigation for illicit electoral financing in 2015, despite Constitutional Court 1 April ruling that her immunity should be lifted – prompting speculation over institutional effort to block challenges against her. International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) continued to face political hostility despite high public approval; Sec Gen of Organization of American States Luis Almagro 8 April met Torres and discussed need for transparent elections with TSE working without interference from bodies such as CICIG, drawing criticism from CICIG chief Iván Velásquez.
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