WOLA’s work on these illegal armed groups began with the research for and publication of the report, Hidden Powers in Post-Conflict Guatemala, in 2003. This report examines the nature and impact of armed illegal security groups in Guatemala since the Peace Accords in 1996, arguing that clandestine groups act at the behest of members of an inter-connected set of powerful Guatemalans, commonly called the “hidden powers” or los poderes ocultos. These clandestine groups clearly target civil society actors and others involved in anti-impunity initiatives.
The work of WOLA’s counterparts in the region, in conjunction with the publication of Hidden Powers, generated a push for an international commission to combat and dismantle these clandestine security apparatuses. The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was signed by the United Nations and Guatemala in December 2006, and is scheduled to go before the Guatemalan Congress for approval this year.