The Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Guatemala

Conference panelists pictured from left to right: Ana Gabriela Contreas, CICIG's Commissioner Special Assistant; Anja Maria Dahl, Director of the German International Cooperation (GIZ) in Guatemala; Dr. Michael Grewe, Head of Cooperation for Development of the German Embassy in Guatemala; Loreto Ferrer, CICIG Chief of Staff; Rony López, Secretary General of the Attorney General's Office; Alberto Mora, ABA Executive Director of Global Programs; and Nerea Aparicio, Director of ABA ROLI's Latin America & Caribbean Division.

The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) recently co-sponsored an international conference with the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) in Guatemala City. The conference was the final event of a series of dialogues conducted in Quiche, Quetzaltenango, and Zacapa on the culture of lawfulness and the status of justice in Guatemala. At the conference, CICIG and GIZ launched the campaign #YoNoMePresto to increase citizen awareness of the consequences of participating in small corruption and its implications in Guatemala.
A vibrant civil society and judicial actors, including several judges, prosecutors, and lawyers, contributed to Guatemala’s progress in the past decade, notably in accountability and transparency. In particular, Fiscalía Especial Contra la Impunidad (FECI) or Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity, with the support of the CICIG, conducted investigations that revealed that government officials were and are involved in corruption. Several of these officials are now subject to criminal processes.
Since 2007, CICIG assisted in investigating crimes committed by members of illegal groups created during Guatemala’s internal conflict. Additionally, CICIG provides assistance to Guatemala in combating transnational crime, which is one of the drivers of migration. As of 2018, the Attorney General’s Office, with support from CICIG, prosecuted more than 1,000 individuals involved in illegal security groups and corruption. Due to these revelations, the ABA and several other organizations have expressed serious concern about President Jimmy Morales’ decision to terminate the CICIG mandate in 2019. This decision will undermine the commission’s current efforts to investigate and adjudicate complex crimes undertaken by national prosecutors, high-risk judges, and the police. CICIG has continually provided support to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, authorities, and other relevant bodies.

Ambassador Luis E. Arreaga (left) and CICIG Chief of Staff Loreto Ferrer attended the conference, "Comparative Experiences on Combating Corruption and Impunity," on November 27, 2018 in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Guatemala now stands at a crucial turning point in the fight against corruption and impunity. Next year, the elections of the President, the Supreme Court, and the Public Defender could either present opportunities to strengthen the rule of law in Guatemala or weaken the fight against corruption. Persistent threats could escalate without CICIG, the international watchdog. Prosecutors, judges, journalists, and human rights defenders are the targets of these threats because of their work on organized crime and human rights cases. These threats include disinformation campaigns, criminal allegations, misuse of the disciplinary regime, and serious death threats.

The conference, “Comparative Experiences on Combating Corruption and Impunity,” was designed to incite discussion about regional and national comparative experiences and best practices in the realm of anti-corruption work. It also served to as an act of solidarity in the fight against corruption.

Alberto Mora, ABA Executive Director of Global Programs spoke at the conference on November 27, 2018 in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Furthermore, Dr. Michael Grewe, the Head of Cooperation for Development of the German Embassy in Guatemala, and Alberto Mora, ABA Executive Director for Global Programs, started the conference with opening remarks. Iván Velázquez, the United Nations Commissioner, also spoke at the event via video conference. Moreover, the day-long event centered around four panel discussions, respectively on the role civil society, the judiciary, the media, and the legal profession have in combating corruption in Guatemala. Judge Susana Ynes Castañeda, the National Anti-Corruption System’s Coordinator for Public Officials in Peru, and other international and regional experts, attended the conference.

During the opening panel, Mr. Mora joined experts from non-profit organizations and the private sector to discuss ways in which civil society and bar associations can contribute to anti-corruption measures, such as technical cooperation done by ABA ROLI. Mr. Mora took the opportunity to call attention to the adverse impact corruption has on sustainable development and human rights around the world. Furthermore, he applauded the recent strides that Guatemala took, and will continue to make, to combat corruption through CICIG. Mr. Mora described corruption as an, “Impediment to sustainable development [which] weakens governance and democratic institutions, foments impunity, undermines rule of law, and exacerbates inequality.” Thus, ABA ROLI’s efforts in Latin America align with the organizations mission, “to promote justice, economic opportunity, and human dignity through the rule of law.”
Read more about the conference and related-content in the following Guatemalan newspapers El Periódico, La Hora, and Prensa Libre.
Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Latin America & the Caribbean.