HomeNewsBriefGuatemala President Fires Security Service Chiefs Accused of Spying
BRIEF

Guatemala President Fires Security Service Chiefs Accused of Spying

CIACS / 6 SEP 2016 BY MIKE LASUSA EN

The president of Guatemala has fired the two highest-ranking officials in the executive’s security service after they were accused of illegal surveillance, illustrating the persistence of clandestine networks of security officials seeking influence in Guatemalan politics.

On September 5, President Jimmy Morales dismissed the head of the Secretary of Administrative and Security Matters of the President (Secretaría de Asuntos Administrativos y de Seguridad de la Presidencia – SAAS), Jorge López Jiménez, and his deputy César Sagastume, elPeriódico reported.

In a press release, the president said that he had fired the two men because the Attorney General’s Office is investigating their suspected involvement in illegally spying on journalists, human rights defenders, business owners and politicians.

The statement said the president would offer “any element that would contribute to the investigation and the search for the truth.”

Members of congress belonging to the opposition party National Unity of Hope (Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza – UNE) denounced the alleged surveillance in August, and accused President Morales’ confidant Herbert Armando Melgar Padilla of being behind the operations.

Melgar Padilla has a long history of involvement in Guatemalan politics. But his most recent foray into the political realm came around the time UNE raised questions about the alleged spying at SAAS; soon thereafter, a sitting congressman abruptly stepped down and Melgar Padilla took his place.

Morales responded to speculation that the move was meant to help Melgar Padilla attain parliamentary immunity by saying that his administration would “never protect anyone.”

Melgar Padilla served as Morales’ security chief during his campaign and subsequently became an advisor to the president. Citing “officials close to the presidency,” elPeriódico reported that López Jiménez was the public face of the SAAS, but Melgar Padilla was the one who actually controlled the agency. The journal also reported that Melgar Padilla’s name appears in a criminal complaint filed with the Attorney General’s Office, but he continues to serve in congress and has not been formally charged.

InSight Crime Analysis

It would come as little surprise if it were proven that members of Guatemala’s presidential security service were engaged in illegal spying operations. Such activities have a historical precedence stretching at least back to the civil war that wracked the country from the 1960s to the 1990s. During that time, the presidential security and intelligence service known as the Estado Mayor Presidencial (EMP) surveilled and even tortured, disappeared and killed political opponents.

Although the EMP was abolished in 2003, similar underground structures, known as Illegal Clandestine Security Apparatuses (Cuerpos Ilegales y Aparatos Clandestinos de Seguridad – CIACS), continued to exert influence in Guatemalan politics. These CIACS often maintained ties with criminal organizations that sought to benefit from close relationships to powerful political actors.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of CIACS

It is an encouraging sign that Morales has removed López Jiménez and Sagastume from their positions, and that the president has expressed a willingness to cooperate with the ongoing investigation into allegations of illegal surveillance by SAAS. Rooting out such networks is essential to avoiding a repetition of the abuses of the past. However, Morales has remained ambivalent about Melgar Padilla’s possible involvement in illegal spying, and it remains to be seen whether the president’s attitude toward the investigations changes as they progress.

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Related Content

CONTRABAND / 25 AUG 2014

Cattle-running groups have reportedly illegally transported 22,000 heads of cattle from eastern Nicaragua to Honduras in three months, highlighting the…

ELITES AND CRIME / 19 JUN 2018

Panama is seeking to clean up its image as a financial crimes haven by passing new regulations but the process…

BRAZIL / 10 MAY 2018

New witness testimony suggests the high-profile assassination of a city councilwoman and her driver in Brazil was a coordinated plot…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…