Thu, Apr 22, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Progress in UN fight against Guatemala corruption


A UN commission tasked with battling corruption and crime in Guatemala has fired almost 2,000 police and sent 130 top government officials and others to jail since being established two-and-a-half years ago — but more work needs to be done, the commission’s chief said on Tuesday.

Carlos Castresana and leading Guatemalan figures including Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Manchu said criminals still have a strong hold on the Central American nation, and they want the commission’s mandate extended and strengthened to continue the crackdown on organized crime and drug trafficking and to build up the country’s legal and judicial systems.

Guatemala’s former vice president Eduardo Stein said the commission and the country are in “a colossal fight to save our institutions from the kidnapping of these dark forces of organized crime.”

Castresana said dismantling the illegal groups that arose during Guatemala’s civil war from 1960 to 1996 will take about 10 years.

But he said Guatemalans must follow through and “the question is how long the United Nations must help Guatemalans ... until they are able to take the responsibility alone.”

The UN created the independent International Commission Against Impunity in 2007 at the request of Guatemalan authorities overwhelmed by the scope of crime and corruption. The current mandate expires in September next year and Castresana said his recommendation is “to make a stronger commission with a broader mandate.”

Manchu said Guatemala is the only country in the world where the UN investigates government officials involved in organized crime, and she said it could serve as a model for other nations.

The Guatemalans held a news conference on Tuesday before meeting with representatives from donor nations funding the commission’s work.

Gonzalo Marroquin, director of the newspaper Prensa Libre and vice president of the Inter-American Press Association, said despite the commission’s successes “today in Guatemala impunity rules.”

Castresana said almost 2,000 police — about 15 percent of the national force — and one attorney general, three chief prosecutors and three Supreme Court justices have been dismissed.

He added that 130 individuals, including a former president, defense minister, finance minister and two acting directors of the national police have been prosecuted and imprisoned. He said this work showed the commission was making a difference.

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