WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
27 Jul 2007 | News

U.S. Senator Underscores Importance of CICIG for Guatemala

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy has urged the Guatemalan Congress to approve the creation of the special commission to investigate impunity in that country and suggested he would oppose future security assistance to Guatemala if the initiative were not approved.

Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, maintained that "[t]here is little point" in trying to work with Guatemala's government if it does not demonstrate a commitment to putting an end to the impunity and organized crime groups that have infiltrated the Guatemalan state.

The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was announced last December by the United Nations and the Guatemalan government.  Nevertheless, it cannot begin its work until it receives the green light from Guatemala's legislature, which up until now has not approved the commission.  The proposal is scheduled to be discussed on August 1.

"CICIG is nothing less than a choice between the past and the future," said Leahy.  Rejecting this historic initiative – an outcome most Americans would find inexplicable – would signal that the Guatemalan Congress is more interested in protecting the forces of evil, and in covering up the truth, than in ending the lawlessness that is taking Guatemala backwards," Leahy said in a speech on the floor of the Senate on July 26.

The Washington Office on Latin America has also strongly supported the creation of the commission, which would begin the task of clarifying the extent to which illicit groups have infiltrated the Guatemalan state and their dismantling.

"I would be reluctant to support assistance for Guatemala to take part in any regional security initiative with the United States, unless CICIG is approved and supported.  There is little point in trying to work with a government that fails to demonstrate a strong commitment to ending impunity and to combating gang violence and corruption, which have infiltrated the very institutions that would participate in such a strategy," he added.