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UN Commission to Guatemala Is Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

By: Guest Contributor - Apr 10, 2017, 7:37 pm
The UN-appointed commissioner, Iván Velásquez of the CICIG, has played political favorites in Guatemala. (<a href="https://flic.kr/p/RxRHv4" target="_blank">US Embassy Guatemala</a>)
The UN-appointed commissioner, Iván Velásquez of the CICIG, has played political favorites in Guatemala. (US Embassy Guatemala)

By Armando De La Torre

The UN Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala has unfortunately proved to be the harmful artifact that many people (including myself) anticipated, right from the moment it was first proposed under the name of the CICIACS (Commission for the Investigation of Illegal Groups and Clandestine Security Apparatus).

The Guatemalan Congress approved it on August 1, 2007, with the acronym CICIG.

This experiment is the only case of collective and voluntary renunciation of national sovereignty on the planet, and it has come to be seen as a resounding failure. Neither the judiciary has been improved, nor have any of the most basic human rights been respected.

Almost everything related to the CICIG is interspersed with despicable partisan politicking. Just take into account the definitive disappearance of the LIDER and Patriotic parties, and the unabated survival of the National Unity for Hope (UNE).

Moreover, its activities are plagued by violations of the most basic ethics of the rule of law, stated in Article Four of the Constitution: “In Guatemala, all human beings are free and equal in dignity and rights. Men and women, whatever their civil status, have equal opportunities and responsibilities.” Oh, the irony.

In other words, the CICIG has been an additional gangrene for the already exhausted judicial branch of Guatemala.

Logically, no other outcome should have been expected, even though some of the sympathizers of such a utopia had occasionally manifested themselves as men and women of good will. As the famous saying goes,”the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

The CICIG project has been entirely utopian since its inception. How could we have hoped to strengthen our local justice system from abroad?

The appropriate course of action, therefore, is to cut all the accumulated losses and close such a failed spectacle once and for all. Its blows to the institution of a true rule of law in our country have become increasingly severe.

Many of those who still justify the presence of the CICIG, from their homes and in comfortable armchairs, do not take into account the real suffering of those who are sent to a hypothetically preventative detention.

They know nothing of the pain that members of separated families suffer, similar to that of exiles — which I know from personal experience — let alone the wounds to the honor of the people deprived of their freedom. Even worse, they cannot imagine the weight of undeserved loneliness, and the daily twinge of having a foreigner and his servile collaborators treat them unjustly in their own country.

Nor do they understand the stifling uncertainty that these people face day by day, month after month, year after year, about their own future and that of their loved ones. This was already frequent before the arrival of CICIG, but why would we accelerate it?

In addition, there is always the lacerating impairment that charlatans who talk about “human rights” provoke — while they do not understand and much less respect them.

CICIG commissioner Iván Velásquez, following the prevailing style of Colombian politics under President Juan Manuel Santos, has decided to choose them as scapegoats.

Far above all these particular cases, the immense precedent accumulated during CICIG’s trajectory to the establishment of a genuine rule of law in this country weighs heavily.

In this vein, we must remember that the CICIG, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and their indiscreet and crude sponsor, US Ambassador Todd Robinson, have repeatedly violated preeminent constitutional articles:

Article 4, for example, states that “No person can be subjected to servitude or other condition that undermines his dignity.”

Similarly, Article 12 establishes that “The defense of the person and his rights are inviolable. No one can be sentenced or deprived of his rights without being summoned, heard, and tried in a legal procedure before a judge or a competent and pre-established court.”

Article 13: “A warrant cannot be filed without previous information on the perpetration of a crime and without the presentation of a sufficient rational motive to believe that the detained person has committed the crime or participated in it. The police authorities will not be able to present routinely before the media of social communication a person who has not been previously indicted by a competent court.”

Finally, Article 14 reads: “Any person is innocent as long as he has not been declared to be judicially responsible in a sentence duly issued.”

Violations of the rule of law have been, and remain, palpable and unbearably brazen, before the shameful silence of the judicial authorities of the country.

Colonel Juan Chiroy Sal, for instance, accused of a breach of duties, has far exceeded the terms of the punishment he would have received if found guilty by a competent judge. But there has not been, at any time, any competent judge, due process of law, or human-rights defender that has mediated in his case.

The complicit attitude of the Constitutional Court is repugnant, as well as that of the Supreme Court, the attorney general, and the human-rights prosecutor, who do deserve to be brought to trial for breach of their duties in the short and medium terms.

I would also like to remind my readers once more of the sad case of Casimiro Pérez, a neighbor of the village of Nuevo San Francisco, in the municipality of San Pablo, in the Department of San Marcos.

A group of local criminals, who dare to pretend to be defenders of the environment and human rights, kidnapped, beat, and humiliated him, accusing him of being a traitor — all this because he refused to join the group of violent people who planned to forcibly damage a local hydroelectric project. He had been previously deprived of his freedom in an infamous local prison, and had been forced to drag heavy stones for eight days.

And the family that was entirely burned in the village of Los Pajoques, San Pedro Sacatepéquez, following the instigation of the leader Daniel Pascual, still await the CICIG to take care of their posthumous justice.

And what about the brutal murder of Byron Lima within the Pavón prison, right in front of numerous frightened “witnesses”? Has the Public Prosecutor’s Office investigated anything about this, or has the CICIG initiated an investigation into the case through its special prosecutor’s office?

Moreover, how many criminal lawyers have been murdered in broad daylight during the years of the CICIG’s presence in Guatemala without the completion of criminal proceedings against any of its intellectual authors with a final sentence?

In the end, what has CICIG improved in the application of justice for ordinary citizens, as opposed to the limited cases of high political impact?

In this regard, commissioner Velásquez and prosecutor Thelma Aldana opportunistically jumped on the bandwagon of protests that led to the resignation of Vice President Roxana Baldetti and President Otto Pérez Molina. The achievement was of Guatemalan citizens, not so much of them.

I have therefore concluded with sadness that both in the judiciary and in the executive branch there has been a lack of manliness towards enforcing the Constitution and laws.

Apparently, the timid mood has subdued the highest state officials, a terrible example for all their modest subordinates in the public sector. In this regard, I regret once again the total absence of preparatory courses in professional ethics at the University of San Carlos, from which the overwhelming majority of the officials of the three sovereign powers of the state come from.

In conclusion, the sooner Guatemala does away with the useless obstacle that the CICIG has become, the more possible a real rule of law will finally be built through Guatemalan means.

One last thought: the successive experiences of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity party, the Contadora Group, the “firm and lasting peace,” MINUGUA and CICIG, have all answered to simplistic mindsets of political games, if not deadly ambushes, ignorant of the basic facts of social life, even if they believe that they actually know something.

In a word, they suffer from an outdated ideological infantilism.

This article first appeared in El Periódico. Translated by Rebeca Morla.

Armando De La Torre is dean of the Graduate School of Social Sciences at Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala City, Guatemala. He is a US citizen of Cuban origin and a former Jesuit priest, and he holds masters degrees in philosophy and theology and a PhD in philosophy from the University of Munich, Germany.