Guatemala’s struggle against impunity, and a glimpse into the diplomatic black box

I helped write two pieces of analysis that have recently been published by the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala. In the article Impunity Shadows Progress for Justice and Accountability in Guatemala, we offer an overview of important developments in key legal cases and institutions during the first months of 2011, including analysis of the impact of the new Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, a recognized human rights lawyer; the role of national and international bodies such as the Constitutional Court and the U.N.’s International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG); and updates on important struggles for justice including the Guatemalan genocide cases, the Dos Erres massacre, and the forced disappearance of Efraín Bámaca.  The introduction of the article follows, and you can read the rest on NISGUA’s website:

In Guatemala, the year 2010 closed with a social climate of nascent hope and looming despair. By any account it had been a difficult twelve months, with nearly 1 billion dollars of economic damage caused by climate and geological disasters and an unabated tide of violence that led to more than 6,500 violent deaths, many linked to the territorial and institutional advance of organized crime. The year also ended with the government’s declaration of a State of Siege in the department of Alta Verapaz, suspending civil liberties and establishing military authority in the department with the stated intent of combating drug trafficking, particularly the brutal Mexican paramilitary cartel known as the Zetas that has gained ground as cartels seek to consolidate territory in Guatemala in the wake of crackdowns in Mexico and on ocean trafficking routes. As concerning as 2010 statistics were, Guatemalans approached 2011 in anticipation of the official inauguration of the national elections process, which human rights experts predict will be highly contentious and associated with an increase in political violence.

“One often wonders how much more violence Guatemala can take as the rate of violence has already reached wartime levels with an estimated 52 murders per 100,000 people in the country; for Guatemala City and surrounding areas, the figure may be as high as 100 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.  94% of crimes that are investigated do not lead to convictions, a sign of the prevalence of impunity in the Guatemalan justice system.  In this case, impunity means not just the lack of political will or institutional capacity to advance justice, but also a complex web of institutional corruption, which actively impedes investigations and other processes for justice and accountability.

“Despite the deeply troubling trends, a few key shifts in 2010 and 2011 have presented an ever so slightly more hopeful panorama for advances in the justice system, the dismantling of certain criminal networks, and progress in cases of crimes committed during Guatemala’s 36-year internal armed conflict.” Keep reading…

The second article focuses on the U.S. Embassy cables that have been released via WikiLeaks, summarizing the majority of the Guatemala-themed cables published up to mid April, with topics ranging from narcotrafficking and organized crime to analyses of prominent political candidates, and you can read it on NISGUA’s website: WikiLeaks: What the Guatemala Diplomatic Cables Tell Us.  The cables reveal the preoccupations and perspectives of the U.S. diplomatic corps, as well as of the media outlets which have had free access to more than a thousand cables sent between the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala and the State Department in Washington, D.C.  To date only a handful of these cables have been published.  Since the publication of this article, several more interesting cables have been released, and the National Security Archive has been providing characteristically excellent analysis on their Unredacted blog. Both focus on conversations between the U.S. Ambassador and presidential hopefuls General Otto Pérez Molina (who implemented the Guatemalan military’s genocidal counterinsurgency strategy in the Quiché region in the early 1980s) and Roxanna Baldetti of the right-wing Patriot Party:

Thank you for reading and please let me know in the comments if there are any themes you would like to hear more about in future articles or blog posts!  I also hope to post some personal correspondence soon, thanks to everyone who has been in touch in recent weeks and months.

National Palace, Guatemala, 2008

National Palace, Guatemala, 2008

About cascadiasolidaria

Human rights and solidarity activist from Cascadia, North America, writing about issues of justice and security in Guatemala and Central America from a perspective of solidarity with human rights and social movements.
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