What the CICIG Taught Guatemala

Irma A. Velasquez Nimatuj writes on the Americas Program website about the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG by its acronym in Spanish). It is a timely piece, as President Morales is about to step down from his role and, possibly, scurry off to PARLACEN, the Central America Parliament, where he hopes to enjoy immunity from any possible criminal charges.

Speaking of the CICIG, the piece opens with Morales’s announcement that he was not going to renew the CICIG mandate and so put an end to its work. It sets out the strength of its work in, for example, bringing those ‘formerly untouchable’ to court and the powers ranged against it, namely the Guatemalan millionaire elite. How the dire poverty of nine million Guatemalans is a ‘consequence of the co-optation of the Guatemalan state by legal and illegal political-economic elites that have become an institution and reduced the country to a bounty for its own enrichment’. Morales, himself, was charged with illicit financing for his campaign.

This takeover of all three branches of government—the executive, legislative and judicial—by political and economic elites of Guatemala has helped bring about the beginning of a mass exodus of people of all ages, especially from Guatemala, but also from El Salvador and Honduras due to similar rapacious elites.

The excessive concentration of wealth, in Guatemala in 2010, showed that 10% of the population obtained 43.4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while the poorest 20% survived with 2.9%, rising to 45% in 2014. Poverty continues to rise, with extreme poverty rising from 15.3% to 23.4% between 2006 and 2015.

In the face of this, and other, outrages, CICIG revealed massive tax fraud among by the highest echelons of the State, including the then President and vice-President. By 2013, CICIG revealed more than 60 complex criminal networks operating in Guatemala.

However, corruption facilitated by the elite is not new and is woven into the governing fabric of the State. During the armed conflict, this corruption was backed by ferocious violence. Effectively, ‘the murder of two generations of women and men, leaders, intellectuals, professors, politicians prepared the stage for the spread of networks of corruption that through abuse of power, bribes and manipulation, took power over the public university and the rest of the institutions of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches’.

It is a grim and depressing tale of corruption at every level, from the lowly functionary, to receive services you are entitled to, to the highest level, sometimes controlled by political parties which are, themselves, so fluid as to be meaningless once the deal is done.

The writer has expanded on many themes in this piece and is very well worth the time to read and, despite everything ends somewhat hopefully.

‘The CICIG taught Central America and the world that there are no untouchables in any sector, and that economic and political networks – lawful and illegal – are really responsible for the poverty, extreme poverty and unstoppable migration that Guatemala faces today.’

You can read the full article, here, on the Americas Program website.

Categories: Genocide, Guatemala, Human Rights, Justice, Legal, Migration, Military, Poverty, Solidarity in Action, Violence

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