BY ISN STAFF | January 16, 2019
The Jesuit Province of Central America expressed “surprise, concern, and indignation” in the wake of news that the Guatemalan government has terminated a decade-long anti-corruption initiative which has been critical of President Jimmy Morales and his family regarding accusations of corruption.
Saying “there is no peace without mutual trust,” the Jesuits called on President Morales and other leaders to reconsider their decisions regarding the commission and seek actions that work toward the common good. “These decisions break the trust between Guatemalan citizens and our authorities, because State institutions are disregarded and our Constitution is ignored,” said their statement issued on the province website (English translation below) on January 10, 2019.
The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which was partially initiated by the United Nations, acts as an independent international body, and aims to investigate illegal security groups and clandestine security organizations in Guatemala – criminal groups believed to have infiltrated state institutions, fostering impunity and undermining democratic gains in Guatemala since the end of the country’s armed conflict in the 1990s. According to the United Nations (UN), it represents an innovative initiative by the UN, together with a Member State, to strengthen the rule of law in a post-conflict country.
CICIG’s Commissioner is appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Guatemala established an initial two-year mandate which was renewed in April 2009, in January 2011, in April 2015 and again in April 2016. The current mandate would have extended through September 2019 if it were not for the government’s termination.
In the U.S., human rights advocates and members of Congress were critical of the Morales decision. According to The Washington Post, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont and one of sixty-two Jesuit-school alumni in the 116th Congress, wrote that “President Morales, and those who have participated in or supported this flagrant abuse of power, have made their choice. It is a choice of self-interest over the public interest. Of impunity over justice.”
Mike Allison, Ph.D., a professor of political science who specializes in Central American politics at The University of Scranton, told The Guardian that the termination of the anti-corruption initiative was an effort “to stop CICIG investigating the political and economic elite in the country, including Morales.” In the article, Allison noted there was no immediate evidence the commission was “about to drop some bombshell against the president”. But it was clear Morales had grown uneasy that his political party, family members, and he himself were now in the group’s crosshairs, Allison added.
Translation of statement issued by the Jesuit Province of Central America on January 10, 2019: