Thousands of citizens took to the streets on January 12 in Guatemala City to reject the government’s decision to terminate the mandate of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The CICIG is a UN-backed anti-corruption panel aimed at supporting the country’s judicial institutions in the fight against corruption and impunity. On January 7, Guatemalan president Jimmy Morales decided to unilaterally terminate the agreement with the CICIG and demanded the departure of the officials from the country. The Constitutional Court reversed the measure, terming it arbitrary. Morales’ administration has been under investigation by the CICIG for months. The following article analyzes the current political crisis in Guatemala in this context.
The current political crisis in Guatemala shows us how the dreams of democracy we had in the 90s have become a long nightmare. Authoritarianism is back (or never left) and is supported and financed by the same old culprit: the oligarchy.
This is part of the dominant bloc that currently seeks a rupture of the constitution and the closure of democratic spaces, using terror as a tool of control and repression. It is their immediate response to ensure that everything stays as always, for their own benefit. Advances in the fight against corruption, justice and impunity – also of the crimes committed during the war –, the restitution of ancestral lands and the defense of natural resources, land and territory, do not suit them at all.
From this point of view, the corporate media has promoted for years the false idea that the population is being attacked, rebuilding the figure of an internal enemy, which is manipulated and financed by an external subject (embodied in the CICIG), in this case, commissioner Iván Velásquez and the international cooperation. They practise double standards by exacerbating conservatism, religion, misogyny, homophobia, racism and nationalism to hide their intentions and get the common people to support them.
What is the goal of the pact of corrupts?
With all this, they make the necessary rearrangements to continue controlling the state and to continue with their businesses, which range between the legal and the illegal. For this, they need to reverse the progress in the fight against corruption and impunity, weakening the incipient democracy after 36 years of war, agreed upon in the peace agreements. The frontal attack on the courts, judges, magistrates and prosecutors at this time is a clear example of this strategy. The contempt of the resolutions issued by the Supreme Court on constitutional matters and the unilateral termination of the agreement that gives life to the CICIG with the United Nations is another indication of its null respect for international conventions, including country’s internal rules and laws.
The actions of the executive, accompanied by the legislature (an entity governed by the majority of the promoters of the “Pact of Corrupts”), are an example of how they are an instrument of groups above the state. The support that the organized business sector has shown to the rejoicing of impunity of the state, confirms who are the puppets and who are the puppeteers.
Within this power dispute, what role does the population play?
Since the fall of the government of Otto Perez Molina, the former president of Guatemala, the dispute within the dominant bloc was very clear – the bloc which is made up of the rich and “owners” of the country, parallel powers, military, extractive industry, churches, as well as parts of the interests of the United States and other countries. A fictitious division is established between legal and illegal enrichment. Fictitious because if the “lawful” rich were not indirectly benefited – or directly, in some cases – by illegal forms, a war against the latter would have already been waged. Some of these sectors are committed to strengthening democracy and the State (mainly the United States, as a matter of geo-strategic control, in so-called migratory containment), but never for the benefit of most people, or always intentionally insufficient.
The dispute we witnessed puts life itself at risk, by not only being a part of a fight against CICIG, but an offensive against the resistance of communities throughout the country. The vast majority of the population remains in the midst of this dispute and, in some way, being victims of manipulation.
The chaos they seek to provoke with contempt of the resolutions of the Constitutional Court – through the anti-trails of judges –, the attacks against the human rights prosecutor and the possible loss of constitutional guarantees, put at risk the human rights of the entire population and, within them, freedom of expression, particularly of many of the community and indigenous journalists.
The role of the international community
The president’s behavior is a small example of the rot within those who pull the threads of corruption. During 2015, we witnessed the active role of the American embassy behind the fall of the government of Otto Perez Molina. The current scenario seems to matter little to the Trump administration, though United States members of congress did pay attention. Democrats and Republicans repudiated the actions of the Guatemalan government; a clear example is congresswoman Norma Torres and others. But for Trump’s interests and Israeli capital, this crisis seems to benefit them, as in Honduras, where they support a criminal dictatorship with strong ties to the dominant groups, and in rest of the Central America. Perhaps, this is the new stage of the Alliance for Prosperity Plan (a US-backed initiative to encourage social and economic development in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in order to curb immigration to the US).
The UN should not only pay attention to the future of CICIG in Guatemala, but to the imminent offensive of national and transnational corporations in the territories where the rulers, entrepreneurs and oligarchs have interests, as well as of the transnational and multilateral organizations, international funds and banks, that are all invested in megaprojects.
The root of all our ills
The moment we are living is an expression of the continuity of the use and abuse of power that the ruling class has accumulated. The privileges they enjoy from their own conformation have been built on the basis of extreme violence, plundering, looting, and pillage: impunity and corruption. The nation-state since its birth has been at its service and been prepared for its interests.
The dominant class in its essence is corrupt. It is made up of a small group of families that control the country, headed by Creole men (people with mostly European ancestry), who have a way of doing politics that has become tradition. The capital they have accumulated, they have done so by reconfiguring the territory, using, abusing and displacing entire populations whom they consider inferior, especially indigenous people and women. They use the State to control and strengthen their economic and political power. They have served the army and other security forces, using even genocidal violence in order to perpetuate their accumulation of resources.
Corruption, as a category, has been used in the dominant narrative in recent years, to refer to officials who instead of serving the people have been dedicated to stealing, defrauding and enriching illicitly from the state coffers. In fact, in Guatemala, the most forceful investigations have focused on the smuggling and tax fraud, corruption in the public sector, the financing of political parties and electoral campaigns, judicial corruption, drug trafficking and asset laundering.
Of course, the fight against corruption has been important, but it has focused only on the pointing and imprisonment of some of its executors. This sadly only contributes to a superficial part of the problem, to the extent that we do not see changes in the structure of the system in its political, legal, economic and historical part. The problem remains the same and the corrupt politicians multiply; it is a never-ending process. Corruption is just one of the symptoms of capitalism which created it and manages it. In some way, corruption justifies a dispute between the traditional dominant bloc and the emerging bloc, by hoarding and control of business.
Other forms of corruption are less visible, less investigated and less persecuted; they happen where there is less control: at community, municipality and departmental level. Economic corruption has also been expressed in the appropriation of third party asserts by deceit and violence, as what happens where the interests of the extractive industry are involved.
People have constantly denounced how economic powers are organized at local, regional, national and transnational level to deprive them of natural resources, land and life, based on efficient structures that are rooted in war. Entrepreneurs, landowners and oligarchs gave continuity to complicity with transnational capitals and the State to impose their projects. These criminal structures are still pending the investigation of the judicial system. There are hundreds of complaints about these cases in the Office of Attorney General.
It is precisely the community stakeholders, peasants, indigenous and women who have questioned the country from other central problems, confronting the extractive capitalist model and extreme conservatism.
In recent years social discontent has increased in Guatemala because the government’s responses to the demands of diverse collectives has been in a violent way in many cases. The arrests and prison, threats and disappearances, deaths and massacres, are part of a way of doing politics that is not new, but seemed to be in the process of overcoming.
Some of the most impacted groups, for being the most active, are indigenous people, poor Mestizos and rural communities that have opposed the plundering of extractive activities and the neoliberal policies that support the activities.
The control of the State is also seen in security services that it provides to the companies, using state resources to protect mining, cement, hydroelectric companies, electrification networks, telecommunication towers and farms, through violent evictions, state of siege and militarization of territories. We see how public officials facilitate the granting of licenses, the opacity of the tax burden on these companies and the protection of identity of the true owners or capital involved in these businesses.
When Jimmy Morales announced that he ended agreement with the CICIG, he implicitly supported mining, hydroelectric projects and other extractive sectors, whether they are “legal” or illegal. He indeed supported impunity.