Supporters of Guatemala’s Anti-Impunity Commission Speak Out

In the next few weeks President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala will issue a final decision on whether or not he will seek another two year mandate for the UN-backed  International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (known by its Spanish acronym, CICIG).  An executive committee set up by the president is expected to give him recommendations in early April; in the meantime, CICIG’s supporters have been making the case for a continuation of its mandate.

This included, on March 24, a bipartisan group of four members of the foreign affairs committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, who addressed a letter to President Molina urging him to renew CICIG’s mandate. In Washington DC, Francisco Palmieri, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary for Central America and the Caribbean, reaffirmed the administration’s view of the importance of CICIG for the fight against corruption and organized crime in Guatemala, in a hearing before the homeland security and governmental affairs committee.

The United States is considering a $1 billion dollar Plan for Prosperity to support security and economic development in the so-called Northern Triangle region of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. In early March, in a visit to Guatemala, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden recognized the renewal of CICIG’s mandate would demonstrate Guatemala’s commitment to fighting corruption and organized crime.

President Pérez Molina maintains that he will not accept external pressure to decide whether or not CICIG’s mandate shall be renewed.

In Guatemala itself, on March 22, a consortium of 24 Guatemalan civil society organizations published an “alternative report”, highlighting CICIG’s accomplishments in emblematic cases and endorsing the renewal of its mandate. Last week, the so-called “Group of 4” – the national human rights ombudsman, the dean of the national university, the head of the evangelical alliance and the head of the Catholic church – also officially endorsed CICIG’s continuation. Guatemala’s former vice president Eduardo Stein also endorsed the continuation of CICIG during a presentation at an international forum in Guatemala City.

In other international expressions of support for the commission, the Washington Office for Latin America (WOLA) published a 40-page report on March 26, considering the lessons learned since CICIG’s establishment in 2007 and the relevance of its work as Guatemala continues to struggles with organized crime and networks of corruption. The Open Society Justice Initiative also published a report earlier this month characterizing CICIG as an “indispensable partner” in Guatemala’s efforts at justice sector reform.

In other news last week, the UN High Commission for Human Rights in Guatemala presented its annual report, which included criticizing the delay in establishing a new trial for former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, convicted in 2013 for genocide and crimes against humanity before the conviction was annulled in a divided ruling by the constitutional court. The report emphasized the obligation of the state to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of gross human rights violations. The UN rights commission also complained of threats to judicial independence, highlighting irregularities in the 2014 appointments of higher court judges.