Too Much Success? The Legacy and Lessons of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala

106 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2020

See all articles by Charles Call

Charles Call

American University - Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS); American University - School of International Service

Jeffrey Hallock

American University, School of International Service

Date Written: January 1, 2020

Abstract

The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) represents an innovative effort to curb criminal threats to democratic rule and to strengthen state capacity that diverged from the dominant mode of technical assistance. Working through treaty-based international authority, this “hybrid” U.N.-backed mission combined international and national capacities working through Guatemalan laws and courts. The Commission successfully investigated and helped prosecute multiple high-ranking Guatemalan officials, ex-military officers and business elites. Those investigations precipitated anti-corruption protests that ousted the sitting president and vice president in the “Guatemalan Spring” of 2015. CICIG investigations led to 1,540 indictments in 120 cases involving over 70 illicit networks. The mission showed Guatemalans that the rule of law can be applied even to the most powerful, had far-reaching political impact, and contributed to the effectiveness of the Attorney-General’s office.

Yet by the time the mission closed in 2019 after twelve years of operation, a cloud hung over its legacy. As CICIG’s cases ensnared an expanding array of top businessmen, officials and political parties, economic and political elites launched an anti-CICIG media campaign and hired lobbyists to undermine what had been strong bipartisan support for the mission’s biggest financial backer, the United States. President Jimmy Morales, elected on an anti-corruption platform in 2015, turned against the Commission after his brother and son were indicted. Morales and his allies won some support from the Trump administration in decrying the Commission as a violation of national sovereignty. Yet during its final years, CICIG’s support in public opinion polls never fell below 70%.

Leaving behind a complex legacy, CICIG both inspired a jaded Guatemalan citizenry to stand up to corrupt officials and galvanized former political enemies around the common perceived threat of the Commission. This report evaluates the history of CICIG to analyze its impact on Guatemalan political life and to draw lessons for future hybrid anti-impunity missions.

Keywords: CICIG, Guatemala, Corruption, Impunity, Justice

Suggested Citation

Call, Charles and Hallock, Jeffrey, Too Much Success? The Legacy and Lessons of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (January 1, 2020). CLALS Working Paper Series No. 24, January 2020. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3526865 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3526865

Charles Call (Contact Author)

American University - Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

American University - School of International Service ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

Jeffrey Hallock

American University, School of International Service ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
21
Abstract Views
158
PlumX Metrics