Torres Statement on Guatemalan Government’s Unilateral Termination of CICIG Agreement
WASHINGTON, DC — Today, U.S. Representative Norma J. Torres (D-CA) released the following statement on the Guatemalan government’s unilateral termination of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) agreement:
“CICIG’s abrupt departure would be a major setback for Guatemala’s fight against corruption. Complex cases involving organized crime, drug trafficking, and human smuggling would fall apart. Powerful criminals and the corrupt politicians would get away with serious crimes. Honest judges and prosecutors who relied on CICIG’s assistance and support would face growing political pressure to avoid high-profile cases. Unfortunately, Guatemala’s justice sector still lacks the resources, personnel, and political independence to operate effectively without international assistance.
“Jimmy Morales’ presidency has set the country back years, if not decades. When he took office in 2016, Morales had a historic opportunity to give Guatemalans the transparent and effective government that they deserve. Instead, when faced with the prospect of criminal investigation by CICIG and the public ministry, he chose to destroy the rule of law in order to protect himself. He has engaged in a pattern of behavior that has undermined Guatemala’s justice system and brought the country to the brink of a constitutional crisis. Over the weekend, the government attempted to deny entry to a CICIG investigator, in open defiance of a ruling from Guatemala’s Constitutional Court.
“Morales joined forces with Members of Guatemala’s Congress, many of whom are also under investigation. Guatemala’s Congress has passed legislation to allow violent criminals to get out of prison by paying fines, and it is currently trying to remove key magistrates from the Constitutional Court.
“The Trump Administration also bears responsibility for this dark day. For many years, the United States supported CICIG and encouraged the fight against corruption on a bipartisan basis. But this administration has abandoned the Guatemalan people at the moment when they needed us most.
“What happens next depends on Guatemalan society. The upcoming elections are an important opportunity to restore the rule of law by electing politicians who are honest, courageous, and committed to a bringing prosperity and security to all Guatemalans.
“As a member of the United States House of Representatives, I will continue to support the Guatemalan people in their struggle for justice, and I will do everything in my power to ensure accountability for those corrupt government officials who have sold out their country. In one month, as a result of legislation I sponsored last year, the State Department must report to Congress about senior Central American politicians involved in corruption and drug trafficking. That report, which should be followed by sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, is needed now more than ever.”
Torres is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Rules Committee. In December, she introduced the Guatemala Rule of Law Accountability Act, which would require the U.S. President to impose sanctions on individuals who have undermined the rule of law in Guatemala. The sanctions would include asset blocking and the denial of visas. Last year, she introduced H.R. 5501, the End Corruption in the Northern Triangle Act. A portion of that bill requires the Secretary of State to send Congress a list of corrupt officials in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala; the list requirement was adopted as Section 1287 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, which President Trump signed into law on August 13, 2018.
The bipartisan resolution she introduced with Rep. John R. Moolenaar (R-MI) to reaffirm the United States Congress’s commitment to fighting corruption in Central America was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives in 2017. The resolution states that efforts to fight corruption must remain at the center of U.S. policy in Central America, that the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) and CICIG are important contributions to these efforts, and that the governments of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador should cooperate with MACCIH and CICIG and the Attorneys General of the region.