CICIG has established itself as an indispensable instrument in the fight against corruption and impunity in Guatemala. Hundreds of individuals, including several members of the political and economic elite, are awaiting trial or have already been convicted on various corruption charges. Those currently under investigation include President Jimmy Morales and members of his family and political party.
As a result, Morales and his allies have launched an all-out assault on CICIG. There is no reason to believe that Morales’ actions have been made in the best interests of the Guatemalan people.
You can read the rest of my answer and those of Mario Polanco, director of Grupo de Apoyo Mútuo in Guatemala City, Donald J. Planty, senior advisor to Albright Stonebridge Group in Washington and former U.S. ambassador to Guatemala, Adriana Beltrán, director for citizen security at the Washington Office on Latin America, and Helen Mack, founder and executive director of the Myrna Mack Foundation here.
Jacob Lesniewski explains how limited democratic progress in Guatemala that has coincided with CICIG's growing successes is threatened by President Morales' recent attacks against the independent body in From Anti-Corruption to Democracy in Guatemala.
The Morales administration’s seemingly (for now) successful campaign against CICIG is troubling for several reasons, not the least of which is that it threatens to turn back the clock on the past five years of expanding democratization in Guatemala that culminated in the 2015 protests and similar protests in 2017. A slow-rolling self-coup that retrenches the same corrupt elite and re-militarizes the Guatemalan government has all the potential to demobilize and demoralize the newly politicized young urban middle class “hijos de la plaza” (children of the central square) and the reinvigorated public university student union that has retaken its traditional position at the center of left politics in recent years.
These young people have been at the forefront of massive mobilization at the University of San Carlos, the public university in Guatemala that was a traditional site of left politics until the repression of the 1980s, a new political party that the most procedurally democratic and transparent one in recent memory, and the emergence of a broad progressive, democratic culture of political groups and debate in Guatemala City, the nation’s capital, and Quetaltenango (Xela), the largest city in the indigenous Western Highlands.
The current crisis reveals the limits of anti-corruption as a tool for social, political, and economic reform or liberation. Anti-corruption is not effective on its own in ensuring democratic control of politics, society, and economics. In a country like Guatemala, where the state and organized crime are co-opted and managed by a long-entrenched oligarchy that operates Guatemala as its own personal finca (plantation), CICIG’s anti-corruption efforts are valuable in that they open spaces for social movements to operate more freely. Its efforts to break the oligarchy’s grip on power by striking at illicit campaign financing has opened spaces for burgeoning social movements among indigenous and campesino communities.
These movements, which emerged from the (oftentimes literal) ashes of the violence of the civil war have coalesced around a radically democratic platform of constitutional reform that would move Guatemala away from a centralized republic to a pluri-national democracy, renationalization of privatized public goods like the electricity grid, and a ban on megaprojects like mines or hydroelectric dams without previous consultation with affected indigenous communities.
CICIG has not worked alone in Guatemala for the last ten years. They have had terrific partners in the Public Ministry and, at times, some other national institutions. The people of Guatemala have consistently demonstrated their approval of CICIG through public opinion polls and occupying public spaces when it has come under attack. The United States, Sweden, the European Union, and the international community more broadly have stood beside them. They have really been outspoken and threatening when they've had to be.
In recent weeks and months, the coalition that has worked with CICIG has shown serious signs of decay. Although she is now scheduled to speak later today, Attorney General Porras has been absent during this time of crisis. The United States has been diplomatic in its response to CICIG, which has been read by all as a sign of weakness. And while the Guatemalan people have mobilized once again in support of CICIG, it might not have done so in a way to raise the costs for the Morales administration.
Fortunately, the Constitutional Court has once again stood up to the unconstitutional orders of President Morales. They unanimously rejected Morales' effort to prevent Commissioner Velasquez from re-entering the country to complete his work as unconstitutional. However, that has not stopped Morales. AG Porras' speech to the nation today is critical to the future of democracy and CICIG in Guatemala.
centralamericanpolitics.blog.. | Fri, 14 Sep 2018 12:08:00 +0000
In case you are wondering what we are up to in Political Science at the University of Scranton, check out our fall 2018 newsletter. I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about our program. Just shoot me an email.
I just finished reviewing a bunch of time-sensitive applications so I hope to be back to commenting on Central American events next week.
On Friday, President Jimmy Morales announced that CICIG's mandate would not be renewed when it expires one year from now (September 2019). Even though CICIG has been instrumental in the fight against corruption and impunity in Guatemala, the decision not to renew its mandate was not unexpected. CICIG has been investigating President Morales and his family and allies for some time.
Various political and economic elites have found themselves in CICIG's cross-hairs and the Attorney General's Office. Morales spoke for them on Friday through his criticism of CICIG.
Morales accused the commission Friday of "violating our laws, inducing people and institutions to participate in acts of corruption and impunity," and "selective criminal prosecution with an ideological bias."
"Selective justice has been used to intimidate and terrorize the citizenry," he charged. "Judicial independence has been violated, with the intention of manipulating justice, actions that attack the presumption of innocence and due process."
Morales wanted to escape the situation that trapped his predecessor. Otto Perez Molina had no intention of renewing CICIG's mandate but was pressured into doing so by the people of Guatemala and international community. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested on corruption charges.
With one year to go in its mandate, Morales announced CICIG was over and that it should begin to transfer its resources and such to local authorities. However, he did so surrounded by dozens of police and military officials. He did so minutes after military jeeps took up positions outside CICIG's offices. He did so while telling local authorities that they must not obey "illegal orders," presumably those that involve investigations that touch Morales and his people.
Morales made it clear that from his perspective CICIG's work is done even if it remains physically present in the country for one more year.
centralamericanpolitics.blog.. | Thu, 30 Aug 2018 12:51:00 +0000
Jimmy McDonough has a smart piece on how the US should respond to El Salvador's decision to change recognition from Taiwan to China in the Global Americans with El Salvador: A pragmatic U.S. response should follow Chinese inroads. You should read the whole thing as the recommendations are pragmatic and likely to marginally improve conditions.
One recommendation is that the US not approach the region through ideological lenses.
Second, the U.S. cannot condition its assistance on the ideology of governing parties, as corruption is not confined to a single party or country. Castigating corruption in the left-leaning Salvadoran government while praising the similarly corruption-prone right-leaning Honduran government only emboldens corrupt conservatives. The U.S. must combat the pernicious notion that it only triumphs the rule of law as a way of weakening governments it opposes by demonstrating consistency in denouncing corruption throughout Central America.
The Obama administration made it a point to recognize our shared responsibility for conditions in the region and shared responsibility for bringing about reforms to improve them. The Obama administration also worked with the region's actors from across the political spectrum. Our relationship with parties of the left in El Salvador and Nicaragua and right in Guatemala and Honduras were never great but there was a clear shift away from the partisan nature of foreign policy that characterized the Bush administration.
Senator Marco Rubio has been outspoken against CICIG, which he alleges is a pawn of Guatemala's left and part of some international Russian conspiracy. He's also spoken out strongly against Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and the FMLN in El Salvador. The Trump administration has spoken out against Ortega and the FMLN as well, and while there have been rumors of what they might want to do to CICIG, they've been rather quiet about Guatemala overall. They've proposed some cuts to foreign assistance that appear to be more across the board rather than oriented towards ideological opponents. And it cancelled TPS for El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras - no favoritism there.
It's been less than two years since Trump took office and at this point it just seems that the administration is going day to day with the region without some clear indication that it has a strategy to favor parties of the right or a strategy to engage regardless of the ideological bent of those in power in the region. Perhaps how it has responded to government repression in Honduras and Nicaragua is indicative of such a strategy but I don't know yet. Honduras has always had a special place for the US.
centralamericanpolitics.blog.. | Wed, 29 Aug 2018 12:13:00 +0000
Christine Wade and I spoke to Parker Asmann yesterday about what will likely happen when Manuel Baldizon returns to Guatemala. Baldizon recently withdrew his request for asylum in the United States and will be returned to Guatemala where he will face charges related to the Odebrecht bribery scandal.
“Baldizón seems to have admitted enough wrongdoing publicly to lead one to believe that he might be open to cooperating with Guatemalan authorities about his case in return for a reduced sentence,” Mike Allison, the head of the political science department at the University of Scranton, told InSight Crime in an email.
If Baldizón has “political scores to settle,” his testimony could implicate a number of other business and political elites given the broad scope of the Odebrecht investigation, according to Christine Wade, a Central America expert and political science professor at Washington College.
However, Allison warned that the “greater likelihood is that Baldizón and his lawyers will put up roadblock after roadblock” to prevent a legal case from proceeding against him given the current battle being waged between prosecutors and the country’s elite class, including President Jimmy Morales himself.
centralamericanpolitics.blog.. | Sun, 26 Aug 2018 14:59:00 +0000
To no one's surprise, the Trump administration rejected the recommendations of career officials who advocated for a continuation of Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, and Hondurans. Conditions on the ground are bad and the termination of TPS would likely make things worse, but anti-immigrant Trump appointees were not impressed.
In a similar exchange, policy adviser Kathy Nuebel Kovarik asks her staff to address what she perceives as inconsistencies in the justification documents for ending TPS for El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.
"The problem is that it reads as though we'd recommend an extension b/c we talk so much about how bad it is, but there's not enough in there about positive steps that have been taken since its designation," she wrote.
Staffer Brandon Prelogar responded that "it IS bad there."
"We can comb through the country conditions to try to see what else there might be, but the basic problem is that it IS bad there (with regards to) all of the standard metrics," Prelogar wrote. "Our strongest argument for termination, we thought, is just that it is not bad in a way clearly linked to the initial disasters prompting the designations. We can work with RU to try to get more, and/or comb through the country conditions we have again looking for positive gems, but the conditions are what they are."
Terminating TPS will destroy families in the US, as some members are forced to leave or go into the shadows while others with legal status remain. Many will most likely be pushed into poverty.
How bad will conditions get in Central America should TPS be ended and several hundred thousand returned to the region? It'll make life miserable for many of those who spent twenty or more years in the US and who will be forced to leave for dangerous conditions in Central America. Billions of dollars in lost remittances. It's tough to say how much worse it will be given how many things are already going wrong. But it's clearly not in the US interest nor the interests of our partners in Central America.
centralamericanpolitics.blog.. | Fri, 24 Aug 2018 13:27:00 +0000
Jo-Marie Burt provides an important update on the Dos Erres trial of former Kaibil Santos López Alonzo which has been postponed three more years to May 2021.
López Alonzo is charged with crimes against humanity for his role in the Dos Erres massacre, in which more than 200 people were killed. He is also accused of falsifying the identity of and abusing Ramiro Osorio Cristales, who was five years old at the time his family was killed in the massacre and who was forced to live with López Alonzo until he turned 18.
There's sufficient evidence to begin the trial but authorities are having a difficult time scheduling the case with appropriate judges on appropriate high risk courts. Justice delayed.
Meanwhile in neighboring El Salvador, the slow wheels of justice are at work in the El Mozote trial. Follow Cristosal for updates.
centralamericanpolitics.blog.. | Tue, 21 Aug 2018 15:37:00 +0000
President Salvador Sanchez Ceren announced that El Salvador was severing ties with Taiwan and establishing diplomatic relation with China. When President Mauricio Funes was elected in 2009, he re-established the country's ties with Cuba. It wouldn't have been surprising for him to switch recognition from Taiwan to China but, instead, he did nothing and there was little change from ARENA to FMLN governance. Times have now changed.
According to Sanchez Ceren, “We are convinced this is a step in the right direction that corresponds to the principles of international law of international relations and the inevitable trends of our time.”
Taiwan on the other hand claims that El Salvador broke off relations with the country in part because they would not fund a large infrastructure project (Puerto de la Union) or the FMLN's presidential campaign.
EE.UU está analizando la decisión de #ElSalvador. Es preocupante por muchas razones, entre las que se incluye romper una relación de más de 80 años con #Taiwán. Sin duda, esto impactará nuestra relación con el gobierno. Seguimos apoyando al pueblo salvadoreño.
With approximately 90 percent of the world's countries having diplomatic relations with China, for some reason United States officials are taking this one personally and are gearing up to punish El Salvador for its sovereign decision. I'm not sure how successful the Alliance for Prosperity has been but threatening to cut funding for El Salvador because it recognized China seems to be counterproductive. The Alliance for Prosperity is designed, in theory, to reduce irregular immigration from El Salvador to the United States. Removing El Salvador from the partnership does nothing to advance our interests in the region. And I can't see El Salvador changing its mind about China because of the Alliance for Prosperity.
If you wanted to send a message to El Salvador, I would have probably connected sanctions to corruption scandals involving the last two presidents. Saca and Funes are alleged to have stolen $700 million or so as president. I'd also be more worried about the quid pro quo El Salvador was looking for from Taiwan rather than the act of switching diplomatic recognition itself.
centralamericanpolitics.blog.. | Wed, 15 Aug 2018 11:56:00 +0000
Stephanie Leutert has a really informative piece on the current coffee crisis in Guatemala for Time with Why Are So Many Migrants Leaving Guatemala? A Crisis in the Coffee Industry Is One Reason. Guatemalans have been coming to the United States for years to escape violence and to secure better economic prospects for their families. Unfortunately, la roya, climate change, and strong harvests in Brazil have only worsened the conditions of those Guatemalans employed in the coffee industry.
Guatemalan producers have tried to diversify their crops but expanded markets in bananas, plantains, and macadamia nuts do not offer as many employment opportunities as did coffee. Historically, underemployed or unemployed rural workers would move to the cities for work. While they still do, urban areas are unable to absorb the workers into their economies. If Guatemalans were not moving to the cities, they were often traveling north to the southern Mexican state of Chiapas to work on its coffee farms. Unfortunately, the devaluation of the Mexican peso has made that alternative less attractive financially.
Guatemalans will continue to leave their country and attempt to make it in the United States as long as their own country does not provide them with sufficient opportunities for dignified work. Given the ongoing discrimination against the country's indigenous people, corruption and accompanying state weakness, low rates of tax collection and spending, weak economic growth, and worsening climate conditions, the exodus of Guatemalans is unlikely to abate anytime soon.
centralamericanpolitics.blog.. | Tue, 14 Aug 2018 16:18:00 +0000
According to the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos – CONADEH), nearly twice as many Hondurans were forced to relocate within their country in 2017 compared to 2016. Like those who left the country and are not included in these figures, these Hondurans fled death threats, violence, extortion and gang recruitment.
José began by paying 2,000 lempiras (around $83) to the gang, but over the course of a year and a half that rose to 3,000 lempiras (around $125). A member of the gang collected the money every month, and the amount kept on rising.
“It eventually rose to 12,000 lempiras (just over $500) a month,” José said.
“’If you don’t pay it tomorrow at 9am,’ they told me one day, ‘we know where your children go to school, we know where you work, where you walk, where you live and your daily movements … we have where you walk every day very well-controlled, so if you want to live you’d better pay.’”
José says that he left the neighborhood with his family before dawn the next day, and returned to his former home in Santa Bárbara, abandoning his house in San Pedro Sula. He and his family took what they could fit in the car.
A global crisis of displacement is at hand, of which Latin America is just one small piece. There are no easy solutions to the conflicts in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Venezuela. Those who have fled their homes to relocated within their countries or across international boundaries are likely going to be displaced for years, if not decades. Unfortunately, the United States does not at all seem interested in attacking the root causes of displacement on its own or through international organizations such as the OAS.
This displacement has the potential to destabilize neighboring countries, such as Costa Rica and Colombia. Such diffusion might get the United States to act but, if it does, I hope that we are motivated to tackle the root causes of the problem rather than to respond by building a bigger wall.
Morales and other Guatemalan elites accused of corruption are likely thrilled that the previously solid US support for the CICIG is being dented by new opposition in both the White House and Congress. But among Guatemalans, the anti-corruption body is the country's most trusted institution.
If the Trump administration and the US Congress truly want to address gang violence and reduce the number of Central American migrants turning to the United States as a safe haven, ending corruption should be at the top of their agenda. If recent developments are any indication, it looks like that's unfortunately far from the case.
Much of the story is well-known to those following Guatemalan politics but @AAlbaladejo does a really nice job picking up on some of the connections among those people surrounding Morales and Trump that rarely make it into English-language coverage. The Guatemalan government hired a firm connected to Vice President Mike Pence to lobby on its behalf. Guatemalan officials traveled to Israel in a plane owned by Trump donor Sheldon Adelson.
centralamericanpolitics.blog.. | Thu, 09 Aug 2018 14:27:00 +0000
Sometimes you have to offer a plea deal but this just seems like a raw deal for the Salvadoran people. Former president Tony Saca of ARENA, subsequently GANA, was accused of embezzling over $300 million during his five years as president. He was arrested in late 2016 and faced up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
However, according to his lawyers this week, he agreed to plead guilty to charges of embezzlement and money laundering in return for a lighter sentence (10 years) and the seizure of some cash and properties ($25-35 million).
¿Ven el nombre "ARENA" en algún lado?
Es que quizá Saca desvió 300 millones mientras vendía tomates y no cuando fue presidente de @ARENAOFICIAL.
Los dos diarios de mayor circulación en El Salvador lo tapan a propósito.
Saca gets off relatively lightly. Even though they get a "win," prosecutors are still trying to find where the other $250 million embezzled funds went. There is speculation that the deal will guarantee ARENA support for the attorney general's re-election. Spanish and English media whitewash the fact that Saca was with ARENA during his presidency. And front-runner and former mayor of San Salvador for the FMLN, Nayib Bukele, is officially GANA's presidential candidate. I imagine that former president Mauricio Funes of the FMLN is now on the phone trying to get in touch with the attorney general for a similar deal. Can't make this stuff up.
centralamericanpolitics.blog.. | Mon, 06 Aug 2018 18:23:00 +0000
Franklin Foer goes into detail about How Trump Radicalized ICE for The Atlantic.
Under the current administration, many of the formal restraints on ICE have been removed. In the first eight months of the Trump presidency, ICE increased arrests by 42 percent. Immigration enforcement has been handed over to a small clique of militant anti-immigration wonks. This group has carefully studied the apparatus it now controls. It knows that the best strategy for accomplishing its goal of driving out undocumented immigrants is quite simply the cultivation of fear. And it knows that the latent power of ice, amassed with the tacit assent of both parties, has yet to be fully realized.
It's well worth the read. ICE is terrorizing largely immigrant communities in order to convince those in the country illegally to self-deport and to deter new immigrants from coming to the states.
centralamericanpolitics.blog.. | Sat, 04 Aug 2018 12:58:00 +0000
A bipartisan group in Congress has asked the Trump administration to investigate whether sanctions authorized through the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act should be leveled against six individuals from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico for their involvement in corruption and organized crime.
José Aquiles Enrique Rais López (Salvadoran Nationality) José Luis Merino (Salvadoran Nationality) Gustavo Adolfo Alejos Cambara (Guatemalan Nationality) Luis Alberto Mendizábal Barrutia (Guatemalan Nationality) Remigio Angel Gonzalez (Mexican Nationality – Crimes Committed in Guatemala) Oscar Ramón Nájera (Honduran Nationality)
Given how many years each of these individuals has been connected to corruption and organized crime, it's somewhat surprising that they hadn't been put on a US sanctions list some time ago. Especially with regard to Merino, I've been saying that the US needs to put up or shut up for quite some time. I do hope that these announcements are, to the extent possible, coordinated with our partners in Central America.
You can read about the crimes involving each individual by following the link above. Insight Crime also has the allegations in condensed form.
As of right now, former San Salvador Mayor Nayib Bukele remains the front-runner for next year's presidential election in El Salvador. According to a recent CID Gallup poll, Bukele has the support of 38% of all Salvadorans. He is followed by Carlos Calleja of ARENA with 24%. Hugo Martinez of the incumbent FMLN is in a distant third with an embarrassing 5%. Martinez' polling gives you a sense of how dissatisfied Salvadorans are of the FMLN after nearly three two terms of controlling the presidency.
The election is six months away, the margin of error +/- 3.5, and one-third of the respondents to the late July poll don't have a preference. It's not too late for the FMLN or ARENA to make some head way against Bukele. However, their strategy these last few weeks seems to have been to prevent Bukele from competing in the election. Lawsuits, the hindering of his political party from forming, the cancellation of the CD.
Bukele is now the candidate of Tony Saca's GANA. Running with GANA is worse than running with the CD but better than not running at all. Unfortunately, there are a lot of shadowy elements associated with GANA. To be honest, though, you can say the same about each of El Salvador's political parties.
I'm not entirely against a "blacklist" but I can't say that I am very confident that the inclusion / exclusion of certain individuals by United States will be fair.
On July 26, the US House and Senate approved a bill that will require the Secretary of State to share the identities of government officials in Central America’s Northern Triangle countries who are involved in corruption and drug trafficking with Congress.
The bill specifies that the secretary must submit a report that includes “the names of senior government officials in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador who are known to have committed or facilitated acts of grand corruption or narcotics trafficking.”
Will the United States share its intelligence with the public or with their Central American counterparts, or is it just providing a list of names with an accusation or two?
Also, as it is portrayed so far, it's another all stick, no carrot, policy. Is the United States preparing to support Central America with additional resources to investigate and, if evidence warrants it, prosecute these individuals? Is there a promise to increase assistance should prosecutors go after those on the list?
Couldn't this be a more collaborative initiative? I'd much rather a concerted effort on the part of the United States and its Central American partners to strengthen institutions and prosecute suspected corrupt officials and drug traffickers. A list? Eh. I'm not so sure.
After failing to have CICIG Commissioner Ivan Velasquez expelled from the country, the Guatemala government did not give up trying to neuter the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). As I mentioned in The Hill, it appears that President Morales is trying to use his country's decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem that had curried favor with the White House for assistance in renegotiating CICIG's mandate.
Another tool to weaken CICIG that I alluded to in the op-ed was the reassignment of police officers away from the hybrid entity. The officers were there for both protection and investigatory purposes. Their removal was ordered by Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart and appear to be part of a larger effort by the minister on behalf of sus padrinos mafiosos. El Periodico lays out a number of reasons to be concerned about Degenhart, while Hector Silva does the same for Insight Crime. Hector also looks at other government officials whose actions have undermined CICIG's work.
ProPublica published a flattering article on Degenhart two years ago in which he is portrayed as a hero in the country's immigration service. It's not really clear where the truth lies that would help us know when and if he went "bad." Probably not a coincidence but Degenhart was in charge of RENAP when illegal passports were issued - the sort of illegal passports that the Bitkov's purchased. The Bitkov saga is then what has driven Marco Rubio and Anastasia O'Grady to go after CICIG. Last I heard the US was "baffled" about what happened to their man Degenhart.
The only seemingly good news this week for the Guatemalan people, not necessarily the government, is that former US Ambassador to Guatemala Todd Robinson will be returning to Central America as an advisor to the State Department.
I think that I started three or four op-eds on Nicaragua this week but kept getting stumped. Ortega seems content to fight this latest battle out while the domestic opposition shows no signs of letting up. The international community has mustered a pretty strong consensus condemning events in the country (not including the Central American left), but it's not clear what more they can or will do. The United States is leveling additional sanctions against members of the regime engaged in perpetrating the violence, but it has little legitimacy or leverage in Nicaragua.
Nicaragua remains mired in a bit of a stalemate. In lieu of my thoughts, here are a few takes on the crisis in Nicaragua.
Several years ago I wasn't all that excited about the possibility of former attorney general Claudia Paz y Paz running for the presidency. There was something off-putting about someone moving directly from the country's top prosecutor position to the presidency. At the time, I thought that her political ambitions would do more to hurt the pursuit of justice than to help it. Instead, this remarkable woman is being underutilized.
Jump ahead a few years and now there is speculation that former attorney general Thelma Aldana could run for the presidency. Ximena Enriquez at Americas Quarterly discusses some of the difficulties confronting Aldana if she did indeed throw her hat into the ring. Aldana has no political party. She is not a politician. And she has a long list of powerful enemies. None of those challenges is insurmountable.
“I haven’t made up my mind yet. I don’t have money or a political party to run with. If there was an inclusive platform that was open to people from the left and the right, to women, to immigrants, to young people, to indigenous people, to the private sector – a platform that would open spaces that have been occupied by traditional politicians, I think many of us would be interested in running,” she said.
I'm all in this time around. There's no clear cut favorite for next year's presidential election. Neither Torres, Giammattei, nor Rios is inspiring. Renzo Rosal speculates that Nineth Montenegro's Encuentro por Guatemala (EG) could be Aldana's best political vehicle for arriving at the presidency, which makes sense.
EG was founded in 2007 and has had most of its electoral successful in urban areas. The party’s secretary general, Nineth Montenegro, has been a member of Congress for over 20 years and is known for holding power to account. Even then, there would be challenges. EG is small, and most of its members come from urban and suburban counties. The party has also lost some of its past influence in recent years. It does not have a strong national infrastructure that might help Aldana win the election. She and her team would have to do most of the work.
Montenegro said she had no information about Aldana’s potential candidacy, but that it would be great if a woman were to run. Despite Montenegro's statement, members of Aldana’s team and an EG party member both told AQ that negotiations were already underway.
Like the EG, Aldana's strength would most likely lie in the country's urban areas. Over the yeas, the EG has maintained cordial relations with certain members of the economic elite. As a centrist political party in a system with a great deal of ideological fluidity, the EG has gained the support of as well as alienated those on both the left and right. I don't place too much faith in individual politicians but Aldana is someone I could get behind. That is, unless Paz y Paz wanted to throw her hat into the ring.
I thought that Vice President Trump was rather disingenuous when he delivered his message of "If you can’t come legally, don’t come at all" to the people of Central America last month. His message was clearly directed at the thousands of Central Americans who are risking their lives and those of their children to make it to the United States.
As I wrote on Twitter earlier today, it would be nearly impossible for any of those crossing the US border with Mexico to get permission to come to the United States legally and that was before President Trump took office.
I usually say that there's a near zero chance any Central American who is trying to cross the US/Mexico border would be able to enter legally. Looks pretty accurate. What Are the Legal Pathways for Central Americans to Enter the U.S.? https://t.co/WJEzuUb6lv
Since Trump took office and Attorney General Sessions got to work, the challenge of coming to the US legally has gotten worse. They canceled the nascent refugee program that had the potential to allow a small number of Central Americans to apply for refugee status from their country of origin. They then made it more difficult for people not just to win asylum but to apply at all.
Anyway, if you want to know in greater detail why it is so difficult for people from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to come legally to the United States, I encourage you to check out this brief post from Stephanie Leutert and Caitlyn Yates at the Lawfare blog.
For most Central Americans, there are few options to bridge the gap between the factors driving migrants’ decisions to leave and the available visa options to the United States. While in more extreme cases, particularly for migrants fleeing violence, there are currently no immediate in-country options. This means that most Central Americans arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border are likely not skipping a U.S. immigration line, but rather finding that an applicable line may not even exist.
Four years ago, I argued in Al Jazeera that "More than four million people of Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran descent live in the US and an estimated 30 million in the Northern Triangle. We need to think long-term about policies that will make it safer and cheaper for Central Americans to move between their countries and the US, not more difficult." We clearly live in a different time today.
The CICIG has been one of the international community's most innovative tools available to tackle organized crime and corruption in Guatemala. While it is no magic bullet, the CICIG is a low-cost, win-win institution for the United States, international community, and people of Guatemala. With one year remaining in its mandate, now is the time to discuss the strengthening and extension of CICIG’s mandate, not to negotiate its death by a thousand cuts.
Ultimately, only an end to violence and negotiations that lead to regime change can resolve the crisis peacefully. At the moment, however, the prospects for such an outcome seem more remote than ever. Ortega, his wife, and their supporters seem adamant to remain in power by whatever means. The opposition does not seem to have the leverage necessary to push the regime to negotiate in good faith. The armed forces seem content to allow armed civilians to violently repress popular protests and to undermine domestic security. The police are actively involved in the repression. The international community is struggling to find an effective way of promoting a peaceful resolution. In the middle of this chaos are the Nicaraguan people, whose economy is deteriorating, whose security has been undermined, and whose dream of peace and democracy has turned into a nightmare.
Last night was another brutal one in Nicaragua as pro-government forces attacked the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua. Easier said than done but the only solution is for Ortega and his followers to leave power.
Investigating and prosecuting corruption in El Salvador is a difficult business. The country’s judicial institutions have been chronically underfunded since the end of its civil war in 1992. Those institutions are also overburdened. El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, at 64 murders per 100,000 people in 2017. In 2015, the rate of femicide there—the deliberate killing of women because of their gender—was the third-highest in the world. Approximately 95 percent of homicides in El Salvador go unpunished. This situation is the result not only of weak institutions, but also systemic corruption and a general culture of impunity that is the legacy of the brutal civil war.
Christine's book Captured Peace lays much of the blame for corruption, impunity, weak institutions, and violence on ARENA governance between 1989 and 2009. I think that many of us held out hope that a moderate Mauricio Funes presidency that had positioned itself between ARENA and the FMLN would reverse the damage done by previous ARENA administrations. However, that does not appear to have been the case. Mauricio and friends appear to have used state institutions for petty cash while FMLN officials got rich off ALBA Petroleos. The FMLN was more than happy to ally with Tony Saca to advance their partisan interests while El Salvador burned.
As an international relations expert who focuses on trade disputes, Trump’s anger at Harley’s announcement is understandable. He wants to promote Harley-Davidson for his “America First” agenda. The goal of this approach is to protect and create American manufacturing jobs. With Harley taking the production of its EU-bound bikes abroad, this does not look like a success for Trump.
But this got me to thinking, in a world that depends on global supply chains, what makes a product truly “made in America”? Is a Harley really an all-American bike? Who even cares?