NGOs condemn “tyranny” in Guatemala and ask Biden for more firmness
Several US NGOs have asked President Joe Biden for a “stronger response” against Guatemala, saying the Central American country is headed toward “authoritarianism,” according to three reports published Thursday.
Guatemala will hold general elections in 2023 in a context marked by “the co-optation of state institutions by organized crime and corrupt elites,” as stated in the Guatemala Downward spiral.
The three investigations are the work of the Washington Office for Latin America (WOLA), the Task Force on Latin America, and the US/Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC).
The signatory organizations say: “There are many risks, including that political participation is limited and legitimate candidates cannot compete, further entrenching authoritarian rule.”
“Authoritarian practices are reflected in a lack of judicial independence, criminalization of justice workers, and assault on any dissenting voice. Criminal networks have infiltrated the political and judicial spheres, turning the government into a key ally,” said Ana Maria Mendes Dardón. Director of Central America WOLA.
NGOs say 25 judges and prosecutors have fled the country, and others remain imprisoned or forced to resign.
The United States has repeatedly criticized the arrest of anti-corruption prosecutors and the appointment of people accused of corruption to judicial positions.
“The political use of criminal justice to prosecute independent justice workers, human rights defenders, journalists and other critical voices is characterized by a high level of inter-institutional coordination,” says Ursula Indakuccia, of the Due Process Foundation (DPLF).
In another report, “Under Attack in Guatemala: Journalists, Human Rights Activists, and Indigenous Peoples,” NGOs assert that “corrupt networks” close civic space to protect their power, and “avoid historical responsibility for crimes” committed during the armed conflict from 1960 to 1996. Silencing voices that expose corruption.
In the third document, When the Dominoes Fall: Polarizing the Guatemalan Justice System, they state that dismissal of judges and prosecutors will have long-term consequences.
Lisa Haugard, co-director of the Latin American Working Group (LAWG), warned that the United States would not be able to address the causes of immigration because Guatemalan institutions were controlled by “corrupt elites”.
Guatemala is one of the Central American countries from which hundreds of thousands of immigrants trying to enter the United States come.
In this context, NGOs are urging Washington to review aid to financial institutions, to protect Guatemala’s civic space and increase financial consequences for corrupt leaders.
However, conservative Guatemalan President Alejandro Giamatti stressed the respect for human rights in his country and the absence of a “systematic violation of the independence of the judiciary”.
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