A top US State Department official said it would be an "intelligent" move for El Salvador and Honduras to consider establishing anti-impunity commissions, similar to the model that has been implemented in Guatemala. The sentiment highlights growing fears that organized crime and impunity in the Northern Triangle are beyond the control and capacity of existing national institutions.
During a roundtable appearance in El Salvador, State Department Counselor Thomas Shannon said he thought it was wise of El Salvador and Honduras to consider support from the "international community" in their ongoing fight against impunity, reported La Prensa Grafica.
He went on to mention the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) as a possible model for such support, emphasizing that individual countries would need to make their own decisions about what type of model would work best for their national context.
Shannon's statements come amid reported record levels of violence in El Salvador and huge corruption scandals in Guatemala and, to a lesser extent, Honduras.
El Salvador's Constitutional Court has reportedly indicated there would be nothing unconstitutional about setting up a CICIG-like body in the country, according to La Prensa Grafica. While past administrations have floated the idea of an anti-impunity body as recently as 2010, the administration of current President Sanchez Ceren has made it clear that it does not think such a body is necessary.
The CICIG is an internationally-led commission that was established with the help of the United Nations in 2007. It has been used to fight impunity, corruption and organized criminal networks in Guatemala.
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This is not the first time that the question has arisen of whether a body like the CICIG could be set up elsewhere in Central America. In June, protestors in Honduras demanded anti-impunity measures similar to those found in Guatemala.
While the judicial systems of the Northern Triangle are badly in need of reform, there are legitimate questions about whether the CICIG model is truly sustainable over time. As InSight Crime has previously noted, internationally staffed commissions like CICIG are inherently expensive to operate, giving rise to questions of who would fund such a body in El Salvador and for how long.
The CICIG was originally proposed as a short-term measure to build local capacity and independent judicial institutions in Guatemala. But eight years later, there is little indication that Guatemala's judicial system is capable of carrying out investigations into the highest levels of power without the CICIG leading the way. In some ways, Guatemala has become dependent on the CICIG to carry out such probes. This doesn't take away from the CICIG's very real achievements, but it does mean that if this model should be replicated elsewhere, there should be more focus on strengthening existing judicial bodies.