Impunity is Question of Resources: CICIG’s Velasquez

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The head of the United Nations’ anti-impunity commission in Guatemala, Ivan Velasquez, said impunity will only fall when the government applies the resources needed to drop the murder rates.

Speaking to the press on November 27, Velasquez, the Colombian judge who heads the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comision Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG), said that the current levels of funding will only permit a small amount of improvement with regards to clearances and convictions in homicide cases. 

“In the current conditions, we will only have positive results in, on average, 10 percent of the homicide cases,” he said.

Velasquez added that the formula is straight forward: more prosecutors, judges and courts. 

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

“For Guatemala to reach impunity levels on a par with rest of the Americas, we would have to wait 10 years; 20 years to achieve levels of Asia and the rest of the world, and 50 years to get to European levels,” he said, referring to the current slow rate of progress that the CICIG and the Attorney General’s Office, called the Public Ministry in Guatemala, is making. 

Guatemala currently has 34 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, down from 42 per 100,000 inhabitants four years ago. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Velasquez’s assessment is a cold splash of water on the incoming administration of Jimmy Morales. The CICIG, a UN-backed assistant to the Attorney General’s Office, was established to lower impunity, but Velasquez’s frigid assessment illustrates that the commission can only do so much. The bulk of the work is in Guatemala’s hands.

That leaves Morales, a comedian by trade with no political experience, with a huge task ahead. But he will inherit a government in January that has few resources and little leverage with the political and economic elites who could change that equation. 

Morales’ party, the National Convergence Front (Frente de Convergencia Nacional – FCN), has 11 congressional representatives out of a total of 158 in the country’s uni-cameral system. And he was backed by some of the most powerful economic forces, who strongly oppose raising taxes or tariffs.  

These factors will make it near impossible for Morales to increase the country’s tax revenues — which are already some of the lowest as a percentage of the GDP in the world, according to the World Bank — so that he can dedicate more resources to the judicial system. 

Morales will also have to contend with strong underworld figures, including current and former members of the military who have systematically siphoned money from the government agencies, such as customs and border enforcement, for decades. Even though the president-elect denies having ties to the army’s hard-right factions, Morales’ FCN party was founded by ex-military personnel. 

All of this assumes that Morales himself wants to increase spending in the justice system to lower impunity. The president-elect has given little indication of what his priorities are, and he has yet to announce his cabinet.  

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