February 14, 2011
Source: Guatemala Sub-Group
The U.S. Congress has recently opened the door to consideration of an end to restrictions on direct military funding to Guatemala in FY2013. Guatemala, however, currently faces urgent threats to democratic civilian governance, including a resurgence of military control and entrenched clandestine crime structures in all levels of government. Judiciary independence and the rule of law, too, remain in constant peril.
President Otto Pérez Molina, inaugurated on January 14, 2012, has appointed numerous military and former military officials to run civilian institutions and plans to fight crime by militarizing citizen security. Furthermore, evidence has linked the President, a former army general, to involvement in crimes against humanity perpetrated during the internal armed conflict. Otto Pérez Molina’s problematic past raises questions and concerns about his administration’s commitment to critical justice reform initiatives.
We invite members of Congress to hear analysis about current challenges to Guatemala’s judicial sector and civil institutions in the context of the new administration.
Kelsey Alford-Jones, director of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, will provide an overview of Guatemala´s current political context and human rights challenges, including analysis of the current administration and recent policy initiatives.
Jennifer Harbury, Texas based immigration lawyer and international activist against torture, will describe the importance of emblematic human rights cases currently in the courts, and will share the most recent updates in the her 20-year battle for justice for the forced disappearance, torture, and presumed extrajudicial assassination of her husband Everardo Bámaca.
Annie Bird, co-Director of Rights Action, will discuss connections between the military and parallel power structures, as well as U.S. regional security policies.
Since the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996, Guatemala has struggled to create a stable, democratic and transparent government. In recent years, homicide rates have reached war-time levels, and violence is carried out with almost total impunity; organized crime networks have infiltrated the State and undermine justice administration. This is in many ways a legacy of the brutal military governments that dominated the nation in the 1970s and 1980s, engaging in –and protecting– crime networks.
The creation of a functioning and transparent judicial sector is perhaps Guatemala biggest institutional challenge. U.S. support over the past several years has been crucial to successful advances in judicial reforms, and provided important backing for the work of a UN-sponsored International Commission against Impunity (CICIG), a reformist Attorney General, and active engagement of Guatemalan civil society. In 2011 and 2012, authors of war crimes have been arrested, tried and convicted – something unthinkable only a few years ago. The incipient and fragile gains that Guatemala has made must be supported through the further strengthening of civil and judicial institutions, and the dismantling of criminal networks.
Elements of the Guatemalan military are responsible for having committed horrific crimes against the civilian population in the recent past, and have recently been linked to international organized crime structures. The military character of this administration and its security initiatives is a reason for concern, caution, and constant vigilance. We firmly believe that the reinstating of U.S. military aid in this current context will NOT advance the cause of justice and democracy in Guatemala
When: Tuesday, February 14th at 4:00pm
Where: 121 Cannon House Office Building
Sponsored by Representative Jim Moran