A banner left by Guatemalan prosecutors at a seized ranch owned by a now convicted politically connected drug trafficker reads “Evidence.” Guatemalan and foreign prosecutors in the Int’l Commission Against Impunity In Guatemala (CICIG) are investigating multiple Guatemalans politicians. (photo: Lorne Matalon)
GUATEMALA CITY—A constitutional standoff between the Guatemalan president and a United Nations-led commission prosecuting corruption is triggering a crisis that Guatemala’s Central Bank acknowledges may damage the country’s economy and spawn more illegal migration to the United States. Guatemalans in Vermont are among many within the Guatemalan diaspora in the United States dismayed by an attack on political reform but buoyed by the response of thousands of their countrymen and women inside Guatemala.
A banner left by Guatemalan prosecutors at a seized ranch owned by a now convicted politically connected drug trafficker reads "Evidence." Guatemalan and foreign prosecutors in the Int'l Commission Against Impunity In Guatemala (CICIG) are investigating multiple Guatemalans politicians. (photo: Lorne Matalon)
Guatemalan citizens carry an empty coffin in front of Guatemala’s National Palace. The coffin symbolizes what demonstrators called the death of democracy following their president’s attempt to expel the head of CICIG. (photo: Gabriel Wer)
In 2007, the UN helped establish the International Commission Against Impunity In Guatemala, known by its Spanish acronym, CICIG. The commission’s mandate is the targeting and prosecution of deep-rooted corruption, a corrosive force in Guatemala’s politics, economy and judicial system for generations. CICIG’s investigations helped force the resignation of a sitting Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina in 2015. He is currently in jail awaiting trial while his case proceeds after CICIG charged him and his former vice president Roxana Baldetti in a corruption case. The case is known as La Línea (The Line) in which the Guatemalan customs agency offered companies bringing goods into Guatemala reduced import duties in return for money that was shared among dozens of government officials.
Carlos Morales sits under a picture of Che Guevara in Santa Cruz, Alta Verapaz. Morales heads the Union of Peasant Organizations. He believes the state of siege is a pretext for suppressing agrarian reform in a region with a history of land disputes.
Juan Alberto Ortiz, alleged head of one of the leading drug cartels in Guatemala City is arrested after U.S. DEA operation in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. (Presidencia de la Republica, Guatemala)
Do people fear a brutal drug cartel or its own military?
For two months this year, the army laid siege to the province where the cartel — founded by former Mexican Army special forces soldiers who deserted — has been muscling in on trafficking routes, once controlled by Guatemalan cartels.
The offensive’s now been called down, but the military presence remains — and so do questions about its effectiveness.