A Setback for the U.N. in Central America

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By Dr. Pedro Villegas

Recently, Guatemala’s Minister of Foreign Affairs announced their withdrawal from the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) after escalating tensions between the government and CICIG. The United Nations-backed CICIG was created in 2006 in response to a request by the government to combat the high incidences of impunity from crime. During the past three years, CICIG has been investigating high level government officials.

The expulsion of the CICIG have weakened Guatemala’s efforts to improve the rule of law in a country with very high levels of corruption. Morales decides to end the mandate of CICIG arguing that it has violated human rights in Guatemala through selective and partial justice.

After more than ten years, the Morales administration announced in that it would not allow CICIG to continue with its mandate to pursue criminal investigations which ends in September 2019.

During a Press conference, President Morales explained that the CICIG has infringed Guatemalan Laws, International Laws, the United Nations Charter of Human Rights and all International Human Rights Treaties.

The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said that The United Nations has been exchanging constructively with the Government of Guatemala at several levels over the past sixteen months, in accordance with Article 12 of the Agreement establishing CICIG.

In the statement issued by Guterres, he calls for respect for international commitments to ensure the protection of both international and national staff of CICIG. Concerning the issue, the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations (CACIF) stated that the decision of the Government of Guatemala is within the framework of its competencies, but that the term must be followed by effective measures to ensure the fight against corruption and impunity.

Morales said that he always acted in good faith but that he has exhausted all diplomatic processes because he has not seen any good faith on the part of CICIG. The controversial decision by the Guatemalan Government is based on the idea that after 12 years of work by CICIG, the time has come to transfer its capabilities over to the State, according to Morales.

Morales said that had notified the UN last year of concerns that Guatemala had regarding the irresponsible actions of many members of the commission. The violation of national laws, inducing people and institutions to participate in their witch hunting. Selective justice has been used to intimidate and terrorize the citizenry, the judicial independence has been violated, aiming to manipulate justice, actions that threaten the presumption of innocence and due process, human guarantees protected by our law and international law’, added the president.

Morales’ position comes a year after the Public Ministry and (CICIG) presented a request for a preliminary hearing against the President for alleged illicit electoral financing even though this is not the first time that he has attempted to remove the CICIG and its representatives from the country. In 2017, the president ordered the removal of Iván Velásquez, from the country, but the Constitutional Court immediately suspended the president’s order.

David Casasola, a consultant with the Center for National Economic Research (CIEN), said that the country risk rating has been based mainly on macroeconomic stability, and the warnings are for social conflict and political instability. This will depend on what level the political instability arises will urge Moody’s to decide and modify the rating for Guatemala.
Although the CICIG has made significant progress in uncovering entrenched criminal networks within the state, corruption remains widespread in the country and institutions are not strong. The latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (2018) ranks Guatemala at 143 out of 180 countries and Worldwide Governance Indicators for Guatemala are among the lowest of all countries worldwide. The Withdrawal of CICIG represents a significant setback for the country, weakening efforts to strengthen institutions and improve the rule of law.

This week US Congressman Marco Rubio commended Guatemalan President por such decisions. This joined to the support that US and Israel governments have been bringing to Guatemala must be carefully analyzed since, in my opinion, they may be biased in their support for Guatemala during the expected ICJ ruling.

These decisions shall be analyzed by Belizeans when we go to ICJ Referendum on April 10, as example of disrespect of Guatemalan Government for a United Nations institutions. This is a setback for Guatemala because corruption is still widespread and government institutions are still fragile in that country. If Guatemala cannot respect CICIG and the United Nations, how could we expect them to respect Belize or the ICJ? They have already demonstrated that they do not respect the process of a juridical solution by strong-arming the Sarstoon from Belize. Their lawlessness and disrespect for the rule of law should not be countenanced.
You can reach your own conclusions.
God bless Belize!
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