WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
21 Mar 2019 | Podcast

Guatemala’s Backlash Against Accountability

Jo-Marie Burt on “the pact of the corrupt” and upcoming elections

Only a few years ago, Guatemala was making historic gains in its fight against corruption and human rights abuse. Since then, the country has suffered a severe backlash. A “pact of the corrupt” in Guatemala’s ruling elite keeps pushing legislation that would terminate trials and investigations for war crimes and corruption. Members of Congress have made multiple attempts to pass a bill that would grant amnesty to perpetrators of grave war crimes and human rights abuses during the country’s armed conflict. While there has been a productive debate among civil society and justice sector actors about how to amend Guatemala’s problematic preventative prison system, a law being discussed by Congress would maliciously limit pre-trial detention to just one year, regardless of the nature of the crime and despite the fact that high impact cases often require more time to go to through the entire judicial process. In the executive, the Guatemalan government has spent most of its energy undermining the work of a U.S.-backed UN prosecutorial body, the CICIG. High-court rulings are being ignored.

All of this is happening on the cusp of new presidential, legislative, and municipal elections which officially began on Monday. On the same day that the official electoral authority approved early front-runner and former Attorney General Thelma Aldana as a presidential candidate, the public prosecutor’s office issued a warrant for her arrest. Aldana and the party she is representing deny that any crime was committed.

Things have gotten so bad that the U.S. government has suspended military aid. Democrats in the House and Senate introduced the Guatemala Rule of Law Accountability Act to attempt to sanction those engaging in corruption and defying Constitutional Court orders.

Incredibly, Guatemala has now surpassed Mexico as the number-one country of origin of undocumented migrants being apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Adam talks about the situation with WOLA Senior Fellow Jo-Marie Burt, who just returned from one of her frequent visits to the country. See more of Jo-Marie’s recent analysis at: