Why is Marco Rubio Against Anti-Corruption in Guatemala?

Posted by Mike Phillips
Posted in Guatemala, USA

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about why U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and a number of other prominent lawmakers have become so vocally critical of the anti-corruption commission in Guatemala (CICIG). Yes, there is the unfortunate handling of the Bitkov family, which looks like a classic case of the Russian government persecuting an opponent. But there is so much else positive that the CICIG is responsible for. Are some members of Guatemala’s ruling elite taking advantage of the situation?  Good piece in The Hill by Daniel Wilkinson of Human Rights Watch explains the very strange situation.

On May 4, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) announced a hold on $6 million in aid to the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a United Nations-sponsored body that works with local prosecutors to investigate organized crime and corruption. Rubio said he wanted answers to “serious questions” regarding “possible collusion” between the commission and the Russian government. He urged Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales to investigate.

Rubio is an outspoken advocate for the rule of law in Latin America and elsewhere. So it’s striking he would take a step that could sabotage what is widely seen as the most successful anti-corruption initiative in the region. Since 2007, CICIG has helped secure the arrest of scores of suspects once considered untouchable — including a reputed drug lord and three former presidents, one of whom was forced from office after the commission exposed a corruption ring run out of the presidential palace. (…)

In Guatemala, Rubio’s announcement was seen as a major victory for Morales. Not only did it mean that the commission might lose a substantial portion of its $21 million budget for 2018, but it also meant the commission no longer could count on a consensus in Washington to protect it from President Morales. On May 10, six former Guatemalan foreign ministers wrote the U.S. Congress, warning that withholding the funds would embolden the enemies of accountability. That same day, as if on cue, the Morales government told Sweden — the commission’s other major funder — to replace its ambassador, a vocal supporter of CICIG. The government since has warned that it will expel the ambassador if Sweden doesn’t voluntarily remove him.

Senator Rubio can’t possibly expect to rely on an investigation of CICIG by President Morales to provide credible results. Instead, Rubio and his congressional colleagues should press the U.S. State Department and intelligence agencies to provide any relevant information as soon as possible. And in the absence of evidence of collusion with the Kremlin, they should restore funding and reaffirm their bipartisan support for the commission without delay. It would be the height of folly to allow fears of a non-existent threat from Russia to feed the very real and growing threat that Guatemala’s own president poses for the country’s remarkable efforts — with CICIG’s help — to fight corruption and impunity.

Read the full article on The Hill.

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