Reactions, Clarifications, Corrections: Elites, Organized Crime and the CICIG

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(*This story was updated September 9.) InSight Crime has received numerous letters following the September 1 publication of its investigation “Elites and Organized Crime: CICIG.” In the interest of fairness and accuracy, we offer you some of the reactions, as well as our corrections and clarifications.

On September 3, InSight Crime received an email from Adela Camacho de Torrebiarte, which, in part, said the following:

Allow me to clarify that I have never had the position of Vice Minister of the Interior Ministry as you say, and I was never part of the team that worked in that ministry in 2004. 

I was tapped to be the interior minister on March 27, 2007, by Government Accord Number 28 of the Presidential Secretary, following the case known as “Parlacen.” During my ten months as interior minister — as the first Guatemalan woman to hold this post, which I assumed during a moment of crisis in the country — there was no one single riot, murder or escape from the penitentiary system in the country.

What’s more, among the activities that I should mention that we carried out: we developed two detention centers; we installed metal detectors in 14 prisons; surveillance cameras in nearly all the jails and a sterile entrance to the Escuintla prison. We developed and implemented the organization of administrative jobs and salaries of the Interior Ministry. I should also point out that, recognizing the importance of the management of information and the utility of it to prevent crime, I founded the Office of Civilian Intelligence (Direccion General de la Inteligencia Civil – DIGICI); we strengthened the internal controls of the Internal Affairs Bureau, and I promoted the purging of the National Civil Police (more than 2,000 police were purged from the police, and we passed any corresponding investigations to the Attorney General’s Office.) 

Your publication is dedicated to investigation and the accusations seriously harm me and my work as a public servant. The information that you publish should be corroborated and verified with responsibility and professionalism.” 

(See full text of Camacho de Torrebiarte’s response – pdf)

In response, InSight Crime issued the following correction: 

Correction: September 3, 2016

An earlier version of this story mistakenly said that Adela de Torrebiarte was a vice minister under Carlos Vielman before becoming interior minister in 2007. She was the first woman to ever hold the job and led an effort to purge the police during her ten months in office. InSight Crime regrets the error.

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On September 4, InSight Crime received a letter from Pedro Trujillo, which, in part, stated the following: 

1. You say: ‘Phone intercepts implicated others, including the academic Pedro Trujillo.’ At no time did the CICIG/AG’s Office publicly offer any of these conversations. They were also not part of my former or current knowledge (of the case). Due to this, this information is false and the fact that you publish it shows a willful intent or responds to interests of someone who says something that happened that is never corroborated. It is not okay, in this instance, to allude to a confidential source. Otherwise, any false commentary would be possible. 

2. Then, the following statement from the referenced report reads: ‘…Díaz-Durán, Trujillo and several others eventually sued the CICIG.’ This statement is also false. I have never sued the CICIG. What we, as a group of people, did was to sue a journalist who did an unfortunate “investigation” to show that we were behind an absurd conspiracy. This journalist was named by the then-governing UNE (party) and was under orders, and under the influence, of the then-presidential spokesperson. Indeed, before the lawsuit, I wrote an opinion article, which you can consult at: https://miradorprensa.blogspot.com/2011/01/el-perito.html

It’s sad, and very unprofessional, to use false arguments and distort statements, especially in reports that mix, in a way that is deliberate and concerted, elites (or individuals) and organized crime. Which is why I ask you to include this clarification in your report or modify it, a mistake and a petition that is not for myself but also for others affected by certain sections of the report as well.

This clarification is sent to Steven Dudley and Jeremy McDermott. Also to Mr. Edgar Gutiérrez who you include — along with the Fundación DESC — as the coordinator of the investigation in Guatemala, although before you say that he had refrained from writing “this case study” because his responsibilities compromised his ability to be impartial in this investigation.

(See full text of Trujillo’s response – pdf)

In response, InSight Crime issued the following correction: 

Correction: September 5, 2016

An earlier version of this story said that Pedro Trujillo was mentioned in the phone intercepts related to the smear campaign case against Carlos Castresana. Castresana, in a press conference on June 14, 2010, hinted that Trujillo was mentioned (see press conference clip — minute 5:18 — here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WAo5o9GHaM), but Castresana never mentioned Trujillo by name. The earlier version also incorrectly stated that Trujillo and others sued the CICIG. They did not sue the CICIG, but rather sued a government investigator who had realized an analysis of the press coverage related to the alleged smear campaign that he gave to the Attorney General’s Office and the CICIG. (See a copy of his investigation here:https://www.libertopolis.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Dictamen-Pericial-I.pdf) InSight Crime regrets the error.

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On September 5, InSight Crime received a letter from Dionisio Gutiérrez entitled “Reclamo a InSight Crime,” which, in part, said the following:

I protest and complain to InSight Crime and to Edgar Gutiérrez for the accusations and false statements that they have made about me to develop their “investigation” in which it is obvious that they are arranging assumptions, rumors and gossip to construct what I consider a bad novel. 

I categorically reject these cowardly insinuations, and the way they try to connect me to activities that are against the law. 

I never met Victor Rivera nor did I have a relationship like the one described with Carlos Castresana. These stories are just false and malicious.

If Edgar Gutiérrez has a formal complaint against me, he should present it to the Attorney General’s Office and the CICIG instead of throwing stones and hiding his hand like he has always done.

It is unfortunate that you undermine a part of the work that highlights known cases of drug trafficking, corruption and organized crime by losing journalistic and investigative rigor.

As far as I am concerned, the investigation by InSight Crime is tendentious, twisted and infused with ideology, and it promotes confrontation and division in Guatemalan society. This is the same thing that Edgar Gutiérrez did in the years that was in the government. Truth be told, he is one of the most questioned and accused for corruption and incompetence.

Edgar Gutiérrez presents himself as a person who is concerned about the social problems of Guatemala but in the government for which he was a central figure, poverty remained the same and corruption went up; the worst part about this cynicism is that organized crime got stronger and institutional deterioration became evident.

To develop a country and pull it out of poverty requires everything but spending paper and ink to poison society. It is sad that they try to relate crime to anything that sounds like a business. This is how one makes a living out of peril, myths and ignorance.

Of course there are criminals in all sectors of the country. This is what makes the presence of the CICIG in Guatemala so important and the work of the Attorney General’s Office so necessary. We hope they continue to investigate and to pursue former governments and people from any sector who have committed crimes.

I have spent 37 years in civic life in our country, and for 20, I directed Open Encounter, showing my face and confronting governments like the one which Edgar Gutiérrez served.

If InSight Crime wants to be a serious information service, it has to improve its investigative methods.

(See full text of Gutiérrez’s response – pdf)

In an interview with InSight Crime on October 13, 2015, when asked about Victor Rivera, Gutiérrez replied: “Me, I knew Victor Rivera many years after he arrived in Guatemala. He was Colombian, or Venezuelan. I don’t remember.”

In the same interview, when asked about his relationship with Castresana, Gutiérrez said: “Well, we have to differentiate from the myths that they manufactured, the lies, obviously, that were quite a few. And well, I am not sure if it was an embassy where I met him. And later we had lunch at my house, in a meeting in which the US Ambassador [Stephen] McFarland, who had just arrived at that time to Guatemala. I think McFarland came… And what I did was introduce them so they would know each other and that was the last time I saw him. Me, in all the years Castresana was in Guatemala, I probably saw him two or three times and I never discussed absolutely anything more than general things about the serious work that an institution like the CICIG had in Guatemala. It’s very simple.”

As is stated in the footnotes and the end of the investigation, Edgar Gutiérrez — who served as the head of an intelligence branch and the Foreign Chancellor under President Alfonso Portillo — coordinated research for the Guatemala part of the Elites and Organized Crime study. As is also stated, by mutual agreement, he stopped doing the case study related to the CICIG, specifically that which was related to the Carlos Vielman case, which was his proposed topic of study. It is also stated clearly in the text that Gutiérrez’s affiliation with the Portillo administration may have impacted his view of the CICIG, in one instance referring to him as “a loyal backer of ex-President Portillo.”

To do this study, Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: the CICIG, InSight Crime interviewed more than 40 people, including more than a half-dozen ex-CICIG investigators and employees, as well as more than 20 ex-government investigators, officials, diplomats and others who worked directly with the commission. We spent many hours over a period of more than a year reviewing hundreds of official documents and reports from the press and interested organizations. InSight Crime has closely followed CICIG?s development for the past 6 years. Our team included investigators with up to 35 years of experience, and at least 15, investigating organized crime in Guatemala and the region.

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On September 6, Dionisio Gutiérrez sent a second letter to InSight Crime, which, in part, said the following:

InSight Crime insists on distorting reality. In the interview that I gave to Steven Dudley I was very clear in stating that I did not have any relation with Víctor Rivera and that I never spoke to him about anything. Any other statement is false, distorts the facts and the truth.

And as to my relationship with Carlos Castresana, as I told Dudley, it was three meetings, one in which Ambassador McFarland was present, and the other two for interviews on Open Encounter, the television program that I ran for 20 years. Everything else is conspiracy and invention. If his experts informed him of anything else, they lied, and if not, than show the proof of the absurdity that they claim to be true.

Let me reiterate that an outlet that considers itself serious should not go to countries to disparage and to discredit people based on rumors, gossip and political agendas, and including them in “investigations” full of people connected to organized crime. That is defamation.

If what InSight Crime is seeking is to strengthen democracy and rule of law in countries like Guatemala, it seems to me that it is doing a poor job.   

(See full text of Gutiérrez’s reponse – pdf)

In response, InSight Crime issued the following correction:

Correction: September 7, 2016

An earlier version of this story said that Dionisio Gutíerrez Mayorga and Juan Luis Bosch worked with Victor Rivera Azuaje, a Venezuelan national who helped the private sector in kidnapping cases. Although Rivera Azuaje did have an office in a building that the businessmen control, there is nothing to establish any working relationship between them.

In the article, InSight Crime also states: 

No investigation or government document that InSight Crime found establishes any connection between [Victor] Rivera Azuaje?s alleged criminal activities and Gutiérrez Mayorga or his businesses. In the interview with InSight Crime, Gutiérrez Mayorga said he barely knew Rivera, and even said he did not recall his nationality.

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On September 8, 2016, InSight Crime recieved an email from Dionisio Gutiérrez entitled New clarification to InSight Crime, which, in part, said the following:

You have been misinformed again. We do not control the Centro Empresarial towers in Zone 10. We built them and sold them in the early 1990?s to dozens of third parties and independent companies. Our company kept the two upper floors in each tower for our offices. The rest was sold as I said, and we do not have control over that at all. You could have verified that information in the public records kept by the Office of Real Estate Records. It was that simple. I?d like to take this opportunity to request the publication of all the clarifications I have sent as part of your report, as well as all the other clarifications that have been sent to you.

(See full text of Gutiérrez’s response – pdf)

In response, InSight Crime updated the following correction:

Correction: September 7, 2016

An earlier version of this story said that Dionisio Gutíerrez Mayorga and Juan Luis Bosch worked with Victor Rivera Azuaje, a Venezuelan national who helped the private sector in kidnapping cases. Although Rivera Azuaje did have an office in a building where the family company also has an office, there is nothing to establish any working relationship between them.  

It also updated the story to include access to the full text of all the relevant responses we have received, which led to corrections.   

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