Guatemala’s CICIG Takes Aim at Political Corruption

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The new head of Guatemala’s international anti-impunity body has announced its final target will be political campaign financing, a declaration of war against the establishment which will face major challenges achieving its goals.

Ivan Velasquez, a Colombian former judge and prosecutor appointed to head the United Nation’s International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), said he had decided to investigate donations by criminal organizations to political parties after receiving repeated requests, reported Siglo 21. The CICIG will attempt to clarify the extent of links between politicians and criminal groups, starting with information provided during two months of meetings held by Velasquez with civil society representatives, businessmen, judges and other officials.

The anti-impunity body will also take aim at corruption within customs offices, investigating the flow of contraband.  

InSight Crime Analysis

Velasquez has an extremely tough job ahead of him. The financing of political parties and campaigns by criminal groups, and wider ties between politics and the underworld, is a major issue in Guatemala, but one that no one has really dared touch. The embedded nature of corruption and lack of political will to tackle it could make it near impossible for the CICIG to make serious headway. It has no real teeth and is running on borrowed time, with President Otto Perez declaring its mandate will not be extended past 2015 and urging it to focus on the transfer of its responsibilities to the judicial system.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

A report by Mirador Electoral, an umbrella group of NGOs, found the amount of money spent by political parties during the 2011 presidential election had a “direct correlation” with how well they did in the polls; and that there was reason to believe much of that funding came from “illicit sources.” There was little coherent ideology or loyalty in political parties and their members, it said, meaning candidates tended to be led by their financial backers above all else. Allegations of criminal ties reach as high up as President Otto Perez, though he has outwardly made tackling corruption a priority.

The fact that Velasquez is at the helm of the CICIG provides at least some cause for optimism — he has a proven track record in this area, facing down extreme hostility and threats to play a key role uncovering Colombia’s “parapolitics” scandal.

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