Giuliani in Central America: a Rebuttal to Fundesa’s Response

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On March 18, InSight Crime published an article analyzing the implications of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s consultancy work in Central America. Juan Zapata, the Executive Director of Fundesa, an organization that hired Giuliani to perform consultancy work in Guatemala, responded to InSight Crime’s article here. Below is InSight Crime writer and researcher Michael Lohmuller’s response to Mr. Zapata commentary.

On behalf of InSight Crime, I would like to thank Juan Carlos Zapata for his input on my recent article on Giuliani’s security consulting work in Central America. Yet, in his response, Mr. Zapata seems to have missed the crux of my argument. That is, he never fully addresses the core question of whether or not Giuliani’s “broken windows” represents an opportunity for Central America to improve citizen security.

Additionally, it is difficult to clarify any assumptions in my article — of which Mr. Zapata’s asserts there are many — that may be misleading to the reader, as he also never fully articulates what those assumptions exactly are.

Initially, it would appear Mr. Zapata takes issue with how my article was sourced. And Mr. Zapata is correct: I used an article from a Salvadoran newspaper as a reference for Rudy Giuliani’s visit to Guatemala; an article that does indeed state an “empresa privada” (which could be translated as “private company”) in Guatemala hired Giuliani.

My linking to this article apparently highlights what Mr. Zapata calls “the poor references used” since, as he adroitly points out, Fundesa is not a “private company,” but a “private, non-profit organization.”

Semantics aside, it seems Mr. Zapata takes issue more with the fact I did not link to a Guatemalan newspaper than with the quality of the source, and leaps to the conclusion that “not even an effort was made to contact a Guatemalan newspaper.”

In an attempt to be transparent (since I do not want to assume Mr. Zapata has any knowledge whatsoever of the actual work that went into writing the article) multiple sources and news articles discussing Giuliani’s work in Central America were consulted. But, to be fair, Mr. Zapata is right in that no Guatemalan newspapers were directly contacted — though it is somewhat perplexing why this should have been done. However, several US-based experts on policing in New York City were contacted; people whose extensive level of experience hardly qualifies them as “poor references.”

Indeed, the point of my article was to serve as a complement to previous coverage InSight Crime has published from Plaza Publica (a Guatemala-based journalism group) covering Giuliani in Central America. These articles — which are written by a Guatemalan journalist and are as equally skeptical of Giuliani as my article — do take more of the Guatemalan perspective that I believe Mr. Zapata is seeking.

Additionally, the Plaza Publica articles elaborate upon the role of Fundesa — whose activities Mr. Zapata seems most interested in summarizing and advertising — providing more of “the context of the work done by the private sector” in Guatemala that Mr. Zapata invites us all to investigate. Nevertheless, in retrospect, perhaps my error lay in not explicitly spelling out for the reader the purpose of my article, which was to provide voice to US-based experts on the effectiveness of Giuliani’s policies in New York City; not revisit previous coverage already published by InSight Crime.

In contrast, Mr. Zapata makes a few misleading statements of his own. For instance, he states Guatemalan companies pay more income tax relative to GDP than their counterparts in European or OECD countries. While this may be true to an extent, he neglects to mention Guatemala has one of the lowest overall tax burden rates in all of Latin America.

Regardless, discussion of such information is somewhat tangential to the central topic at hand: whether or not Giuliani’s security policies from his time as New York City mayor will help Central America control spiraling violence. However, Mr. Zapata never fully arrives at answering this question.

Furthermore, his statement that I was “mistaken in assuming that Central America needs help from outsiders” left me completely flabbergasted. If anything, Mr. Zapata and I are in full agreement that Central America’s problems are best solved by Central Americans. Indeed, such a comment makes me question the extent to which Mr. Zapata comprehended my overall argument, as that was exactly the main point I was driving towards: Rudy Giuliani (and his attendant crime-reduction theories) has extremely little to offer Central America.

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