Washington, D.C.—Vice President Biden is in Guatemala today to meet with the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to discuss how the United States can help assist these governments in addressing epidemic levels of violence, poor governance, and lack of economic opportunities driving migration from the region.
Biden’s visit comes at a time when Guatemala is debating the future of one of the most important mechanisms fighting corruption and organized crime in that country. The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) is a U.N.-led independent agency that partners with the Guatemalan justice system to investigate and prosecute corrupt and criminal groups entrenched in Guatemalan state institutions. The CICIG’s investigations have demonstrated that the Guatemalan justice system can be made to work even against those once deemed untouchable. It has brought to trial a former president, a minister of interior, and many other high-profile individuals with ties to criminal networks.
During the visit, Vice President Biden will be discussing a proposed $1 billion aid package to address the underlying factors that have contributed to making Central America one of the most violent regions in the world. The ability of criminal groups to avoid arrest and prosecution is one of the main obstacles to improving citizen security and the rule of law in the “Northern Triangle” nations of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, as it facilitates the spread of organized crime and violence. Therefore, the success of the proposed aid package depends on partnering with those governments and organizations that are firmly committed to rooting out the deep-seated corruption, widespread impunity, and lack of accountability that has impeded progress.
The CICIG’s mandate is due to expire this September and its renewal is currently under debate. The extension of the Commission’s mandate would demonstrate that Guatemala is serious about rooting out corruption and combating the infiltration of criminal networks in state agencies.
As the Obama administration and the governments of the Northern Triangle discuss how they can work together to build more effective institutions and tackle corruption and criminal networks, the renewal of the CICIG’s mandate is timely, appropriate, and indeed necessary. It is a complementary and indispensable contribution to the fight against corruption and organized crime, which is one key goals of the proposed aid package.