HomeNewsAnalysisHead of Guatemala’s CICIG Goes on Offensive Amid Smear Campaign
ANALYSIS

Head of Guatemala’s CICIG Goes on Offensive Amid Smear Campaign

ELITES AND CRIME / 14 FEB 2017 BY TRISTAN CLAVEL AND DAVID GAGNE EN

The head of Guatemala's CICIG has responded to a smear campaign directed against him by saying that recently dismantled criminal networks are attempting to discredit the work of the highly-regarded international anti-impunity commission. 

Due to increasing rumors on social media denigrating the head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG), Iván Velásquez gave an interview to CNN en Español on February 10 in which he denounced the ongoing attacks against him.

According to the head of the commission, the campaign began in 2015 but has intensified over the past few weeks. Velásquez said false rumors have circulated that there is a warrant out for his arrest in Colombia, his native country. Another rumor being spread on social media is that Velásquez has been removed as commissioner of the CICIG, according to La Hora. The Secretery General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, denied that claim and publicly supported the work of Velásquez and the commission. 

The US Embassy in Guatemala also showed its support for Velásquez.

"We add ourselves to the honest Guatemalans that recognize [the] successful work of CICIG and Commissioner Ivan Velásquez," the Embassy wrote on Twitter, adding the hashtag #ISupportIván (#ApoyoAIván).

It appears that institutional support, however, has not yet extended to representatives of the Guatemalan government.

"There is no official voice condemning this smear campaign," Velásquez told CNN.

During a recent press conference, Velásquez said the same illicit networks that the CICIG has been investigating are responsible for the malicious attempts to damage his reputation. 

"The people behind the campaigns are criminals who are part of these criminal structures," he said.

Velásquez' comments followed those by the president of the Foundation against Terrorism (Fundación contra el Terrorismo - FCT), Ricardo Méndez Ruiz, who argued that the CICIG was overstepping its mandate during an interview with CNN en Español on February 9.

The FCT, an organization that was created to support former military officers and to "avoid the distortion of past events," had filed an official complaint against Iván Velásquez in August 2016, according to the EFE press agency. The foundation has asked Jimmy Morales to lift Velásquez' diplomatic immunity.

The complaint argues that the CICIG had overstepped its mandate by participating in the investigation against 18 former military officers for possible war crimes committed during the country's civil conflict. According to the FCT, the CICIG's actions did not relate to corruption cases and were thus in violation of its mandate.

Méndez said that he supported the CICIG's efforts to fight against corruption and impunity, but that this could not be done if the CICIG itself acted outside legal boundaries.

InSight Crime Analysis

There are powerful reasons to believe Velásquez's assertion that the criminal networks currently under siege are behind the campaign to deligitimize him. In the past two years, CICIG and the Attorney General's Office has uncovered numerous corruption schemes run within the government, which have landed former President Otto Pérez Molina, his Vice President Roxana Baldetti and a host of his cabinet officials in jail. 

And it now appears CICIG is targeting the judiciary, perhaps the most important institution and last frontier for dismantling what remains of Guatemala's mafia state. The commission announced the arrest last week of Supreme Court magistrate Blanca Aída Stalling Dávila, who allegedly pressured a judge overseeing a case involving her son. 

SEE ALSO: Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

The CICIG's success has made it immensely popular among Guatemalans and the international community. The Washington Office on Latin America noted that the #ISupportIván hashtag was among the most used in Guatemala on February 9, and a 2015 survey by La Prensa Libre found that 95 percent of respondents who knew about the CICIG approved of its work. The commission is the most trusted institution in the country, according to a June 2016 survey.

It would therefore be unthinkable for Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales not to renew CICIG's mandate, which has to be extended every two years and is set to expire in September 2017. Morales, a political upstart who ran for president on an anti-corruption platform, asked the UN in April 2016 to renew its mandate until 2019. 

The only thing that could prevent the CICIG from continuing its work would be a major scandal, or successful attempts to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of the Guatemalan population about Velásquez's credibility. This appears to be precisely the intention of the recent smear campaign against CICIG and its commissioner. The attacks have been directed "apparently with the purpose of removing the commission" from the country, Velásquez told CNN.

The silence on the part of the Guatemalan government suggests its support for CICIG may not be as unwavering as Morales has previously indicated. The president's brother and son were arrested on corruption charges in January, and his political party was founded by ex-military personnel.

But as long as CICIG remains unassailable with the Guatemalan population, any action that Morales takes against the commission would amount to political suicide. It is hardly surprising, then, that Velásquez made his appeal directly to the Guatemalan people.

"What is the decision of the Guatemalan society?" Velásquez asked in a February 8 message posted on Twitter. "The fight against corruption and impunity, or the restoration of the status quo without punishment for abuses, criminality, bribes and corruption?"

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ELITES AND CRIME / 5 NOV 2021

A package of controversial legislative reforms became law in Honduras this week, further sinking any lingering efforts to combat corruption…

BRAZIL / 21 JUN 2022

Sergio Roberto de Carvalho, known as the "Brazilian Pablo Escobar," has been arrested in Hungary.

ELITES AND CRIME / 15 JUL 2021

In the process of expanding their influence, criminal groups often develop close ties with elites in an effort to gain…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…