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Wikileaks Guatemala: “Criminal Penetration of the State’s Rule of Law and Security Institutions Is Generalized”

April 15, 2011

Newly released Wikileaks cables continue to reveal information about citizen insecurity in Guatemala. The cables, released to Spain’s El País on Wednesday, 14 April, detail conversations between US Ambassador McFarland and General Otto Pérez Molina and Roxana Baldetti of the right-wing Partido Patriota (Patriot Party, PP).

08GUATEMALA1163, dated 16 September 2008, covers a range of issues, though the focus is on the high and increasing levels of insecurity in the country. All three lamented the extent to which criminal organizations had infiltrated both the Policía Nacional Civil (National Civil Police, PNC) and the country in general, and agreed on the need for a concerted, non-partisan effort to pass rule of law reform bills and create “a common security vision and strategy to confront this national exigency.” McFarland also commented to the State Department on the need for increased political will in Guatemala to effectively combat insecurity and crime.

Pérez Molina and Baldetti, the PP’s presidential and vice-presidential candidates, respectively, also suggested that narcotraffickers had been able to increase their numbers and gain strength in Guatemala during the administration of Oscar Berger (2003-2007). Colom, they argued, had not been able to reverse this trend, nor had he been able to increase citizen security. Baldetti commented that the ever-deteriorating security situation in the country could, in the end, work for Pérez Molina if he ran for president in 2011 since much of his platform focuses on security. Baldetti did, however, recognize that the price would be high.

Pérez Molina and Baldetti also commented on their views of some of the rule of law legislation and reform that would be required to improve citizen security. They told McFarland that “all state rule of law organs had been thoroughly penetrated by narcotraffickers and other organized criminals,” including the PNC. McFarland echoed this in his comments to the State Department, stating that “criminal penetration of the state’s rule of law and security institutions is generalized.” The PP’s solution to this will involve outside actors. Police reform and the cleansing of corrupt officers are necessary, but the police should not cleanse themselves.

Continuing in this vein, Pérez Molina stated that investigative bodies were insufficient, lacked training, and were thoroughly penetrated by criminal groups. These factors contributed to the high levels of crime in Guatemala. Pérez Molina pointed specifically to the PNC’s División de Investigación Criminal (Directorate for Criminal Investigations, DINC), which he stated was involved in crime in general, as well as in the assassinations of three PARLACEN deputies in February 2007. The PP, however, had worked with the governing party, the UNE (Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza, National Unity of Hope), to draft a bill to reform law enforcement. One of the key aspects of the bill, which the Embassy opposed, was to create a new investigative body within the Attorney General’s office, and not under the PNC. Since the show of bi-partisan cooperation in drafting the bill, Pérez Molina stated that the UNE seems to have withdrawn its support, without which the bill will likely not pass.

Instead of supporting this reform bill, Pérez Molina and Baldetti commented that President Colom was making an effort to ease Guatemalans’ concerns about security by increasing the size of the army, from 15,500 to 25,000, by the end of 2010. This decision is based on the relative lack of corruption in the army, compared to the PNC, and the higher levels of citizen trust in the institution, as McFarland stated in his comments to the State Department. The PP representatives did not state their opinion about the expansion of the army and limited their remarks to how it would lead to criticism from human rights NGOs and other members of the international community. They also commented that, since the Colom administration’s 2009 budget failed to include financial support for this plan, they believed that this move was “mere rhetoric.” Embassy staff also failed to locate where the money for this expansion was included in the budget. Additionally, Guatemala’s Chief of the Army Joint Staff told Embassy staff he was unaware of Colom’s plan.

The cable clearly reveals US and PP concerns about security in Guatemala and sheds additional light on what policy decisions might be made if Pérez Molina were to win the 2011 elections.

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