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When UN Interventionism Goes Wrong, the Case of Guatemala

By: Carlos Sabino - @Sabino2324 - Jul 14, 2017, 1:15 pm
(FEE)
Guatemalan personalities promoted the creation of CICIG, thinking they could overcome the serious problems that exist in that nation’s judicial system. But the remedy, unfortunately, has been worse than the disease. (FEE)

EspañolTwo pieces of judicial news that came out July 12 have attracted my attention.

The first, shocking no doubt, is that the former President of Brazil Luis Inacio Lula da Silva has been sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison for his involvement in the “Lava Jato” corruption case — a multi-billion-dollar scheme that has already cost Dilma Rousseff the presidency. The case demonstrates how to combat corruption in Latin America, and how we can move toward a more transparent method of conducting politics.

The second piece of news, which will surely have gone unnoticed by most of my readers, is that the Swiss federal court overturned the life sentence of Guatemala-Switzerland citizen Edwin Sperisen.

Sperisen was the Director of the National Police in Guatemala during an operation to retake control of a prison that had fallen into the hands of a group of criminals incarcerated there. During the operation, seven inmates died in the confusion and Sperisen was accused of murder, among other charges.

What does all this have to do with the United Nations? The relationship between the events is actually quite straightforward. It just so happens that the International Commission for the Fight against Impunity in Guatemala is operated through the UN. CICIG played a substantial role in the investigation that led to the trial of Sperisen, the interior minister, the chief of the prisons and other officials deemed to have planned a massacre for the sake of “social cleansing.”

The accusation was unsustainable: What occurred during the raid of the prison did not coincide with Sperisen or others’ desires. Not to mention that the raid was widely publicized, meaning no illicit action could have been carried out so easily. Nevertheless, CICIG made use of testimonies from false witnesses and ultimately prompted a number of accusations against the alleged suspects.

CICIG wanted convictions that would make a high impact, communicate significance and, perhaps, improve the image of the commission as a whole. Perhaps there were other motives beyond our understanding. What we do know, however, is that the allegations were unjust, as demonstrated by the events of recent days: Sperisen and others was declared innocent.

This is not, it should be noted, an isolated incident. CICIG also unjustly accused other people in the well-known Rosenberg case. They were finally released after it was determined no crime had been committed. CICIG commissioners, including Ivan Velásquz, have not hesitated to intervene in local politics, even promoting a change of the constitution despite that being an obvious overreach of their duties.

They have gathered information that led to charges against former President Otto Pérez Molina, his Vice President and various Ministers, among other high-ranking officials. That has allowed the commission to regain some of its lost prestige, but a problem still remains: it is not yet known if there will be enough valid evidence to lead to their convictions.

Somewhat naively, several Guatemalan personalities promoted the creation of CICIG, thinking they could overcome the serious problems that exist in that nation’s judicial system. But the remedy, unfortunately, has been worse than the disease: guided by ideological considerations or the personal interests of those who run it, CICIG has been even more partial than the court system. It intimidates some and leaves in the dark the crimes of others. It only contributes to making the justice system even more unreliable. The solution, therefore, is not to call on the United Nations to intervene in our affairs, but rather to ask citizens to effectively pursue it themselves.

Carlos Sabino Carlos Sabino

Sociologist, writer, and university professor, Sabino is director of the masters and doctoral programs in history at the University of Francisco Marroquín, Guatemala. Follow him @Sabino2324

Trump Backtracks, Says Wall with Mexico Doesn’t Have to Cover Entire Border

By: Elena Toledo - @NenaToledo - Jul 14, 2017, 11:44 am
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EspañolUnited States President Donald Trump said the wall he plans to build on the Mexican border doesn't need to cover the entire border because there are already natural obstacles in many places. "You have mountains. You have some rivers that are violent and vicious," Trump said durning his flight from Washington to Paris this Thursday, July 13. "You have some areas that are so far away that you don't really have people crossing. So you don't need that. You'll need anywhere from 700 to 900 miles." Trump said it was important that border agents can see through the wall so as to be alert of the dangers present on the other side. "As horrible as it sounds, when the big bags of drugs are thrown, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you do not see them. Did they hit you in the head with 60 pounds of stuff?" the President said. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1459522593195-0'); });   One of Trump's most controversial and talked-about campaign promises during his campaign involved the construction of a border wall to prevent illegal immigrants from entering with weapons and drugs. He continues to claim that Mexico will pay for its construction, though the Mexican government continues to disagree. Read More: Trump Doubles Down on Plan to Make Mexico Pay for Border Wall during G20 Meeting Read More: Trump Right to Renegotiate, not Rescind, US Participation in NAFTA Faced with Mexico's strong stance on the wall's financing, Trump has said he will find a different way for the country to reimburse the United States; in the meantime, US tax payers will have to finance it first. Six months after his presidency, Trump has only asked Congress for $1.6 billion for the project, which estimates claim will ultimately cost around $20 billion. Source: Reuters

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