On Wednesday, February 25, the head of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), presented a report of the Commission’s eight years in Guatemala. Commissioner Ivan Velasquez presented the report to the executive commission charged with evaluating CICIG’s work and making a recommendation to President Otto Pérez Molina concerning CICIG’s continuation beyond September 2015.
CICIG’s mandate has been renewed twice and will end this year absent another extension. The executive commission, formally known as the Coordinating Instance for the Modernization of the Justice Sector (Instancia Coordinadora de la Modernización del Sector Justicia), is due to issue a recommendation in early April. The executive commission includes the Supreme Court President, the Interior Minister, the Attorney General, and the Director of the Public Defense Institution.
Foreign donors have expressed their willingness to continue to support the work of CICIG, but the ultimate decision regarding whether or not CICIG will continue depends on a request by President Pérez Molina to the United Nations. Pérez Molina previously expressed hesitation to invite CICIG to remain in Guatemala after this year but established the executive commission to evaluate the question.
On Wednesday, government, diplomatic, media, and civil society representatives appeared in large numbers at the Supreme Court to hear what was originally announced as public testimony but was converted to a private hearing.
Commissioner Velasquez analyzed CICIG’s work in light of its 2007 mandate, highlighting how the Commission’s investigations and criminal cases aimed to dismantle criminal structures in Guatemala. Velasquez also detailed CICIG’s contribution to legislative changes which improved the capacity of Guatemalan institutions to prosecute organized crime.
Civil society organizations and Guatemala’s Ombudsman also declared that Guatemala does not have the capacity to cope with criminal groups operating in the country and urged that CICIG continue beyond this year in Guatemala. Various opposition parties – Compromiso, Renovación y Orden (CREO), Encuentro por Guatemala (EG), TODOS, Libertad Democrática Renovada (LIDER), and Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE) – also recently expressed their support for CICIG’s continuation.
CICIG has been cited as a potential model for other countries facing complex criminal structures. U.S. government officials recently suggested such a model in Honduras and El Salvador. U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden is due to visit Guatemala this week and the issue of CICIG is reportedly on his agenda.