In Guatemala and Nicaragua, the United Nations has proven a steady hand in the last few years. Working to mitigate a series of chronic social ills that afflict the two countries (with admirable success), the UN has now become a target of in the crosshairs of both Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and Nicaraguan President Danny Ortega.
“Three decades after the UN was guarantor of a sweeping deal to settle armed conflicts in the region, the presidents of Guatemala and Nicaragua have thumbed their noses at the world body.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has allied himself with the US while Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega is a longtime leftist foe of Washington. But both pose a dilemma for US President Donald Trump, who wants to stem migrant and drug flows but has himself lambasted the UN.
“Both [Mr Morales and Mr Ortega] feel they can act with impunity vis-à-vis the UN,” said Geoff Thale at the Washington Office on Latin America (Wola), a think-tank. “Does that follow the way Donald Trump has downplayed international institutions, the UN in particular?”
Mr Trump, who tweeted shortly before taking office that the UN was “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time”, has pulled Washington out of the UN Human Rights Council, withdrawn support for other UN agencies and complained that the US, the global body’s biggest donor, pays too much.
I’m concerned that people are seeing this as a local problem. It’s really a setback to global efforts to address corruption James Goldston, Open Society Justice Initiative However, Nikki Haley, Washington’s ambassador to the UN, who has assumed the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, summoned a meeting on the Nicaragua crisis on Wednesday, demanding “how many people have to die before it is a matter of peace and security?”
Mr Ortega blames the turmoil that has cost at least 300 and as many as 481 lives on coup-mongers. But the expelled UN team highlighted “patterns of human rights violations and abuses” and urged the government to disarm paramilitary mobs, halt repression and release detainees.
While Nicaraguan unrest rumbles on, the UN said it would continue monitoring the situation remotely and remain “a voice for the victims”.
The attacks on the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, known by its Spanish acronym Cicig, meanwhile, puts the US and other nations on the spot: should they sever funding to Guatemala?
“The US Administration should condition assistance on CICIG’s continued operation,” Joe Biden, former US vice-president, tweeted last week.
Mr Thale said Washington had invested $44.5m in Cicig since it was established a decade ago in a country whose stability was important to Washington as it was the largest source of illegal immigrants across the southern US border.
It had committed another $78.4m of US aid in fiscal 2017 for security, justice and human rights initiatives and $22.5m for defence and anti-narcotics efforts in Guatemala, Mr Thale said. “