Despite Crackdown on Anti-Corruption Group, Guatemala Receives US Military Vehicle Donation

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Posted in Guatemala, USA

In August of this year, the head of UN anti-corruption body in Guatemala, Iván Velásquez, was barred from re-entering Guatemala by President Jimmy Morales. Unsurprisingly, this quickly raised concerns over Guatemala’s deteriorating rule of law amongst global civil society organizations and other observers. At the time the UN body, known as CICIG, derived at least a quarter of its funding and a great deal of political support from the United States. Nevertheless, President Morales has recently found himself in possession of a new fleet of military-grade vehicles.

The agreement providing the Jeeps to Guatemala had specified that they were to be used for counternarcotics operations, said Michael, the Pentagon spokesman.

“We are investigating the apparent misuse of the Jeep J8s on 31 Aug, and are working with the Guatemala Government,” he said in an emailed response to questions. “The U.S. Government takes allegations of misuse of U.S.-donated vehicles seriously and will respond appropriately” once the review is complete.

The Pentagon has insisted on new monitoring measures for the recently supplied Jeeps “to ensure the vehicles are not misused,” Michael said.

The Morales government has denied that it was threatening either the anti-corruption commission or the embassy. It has offered various explanations for the use of the Jeeps, with the interior minister sayingthey were on a routine anti-crime patrol and the president stating that they were to prevent “violent ­marches.” The Guatemalan presidential spokesman did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

Guatemala’s human rights ombudsman, Jordán Rodas, has criticized the deployment of the Jeeps. “They were donated by the United States to combat drug trafficking on the borders, and they were used to intimidate CICIG, violating everything the [bilateral] agreement says,” he told the news organization the Intercept.

Engel, the congressman, had asked Pompeo in October to freeze any further transfers of military equipment to Guatemala pending the outcome of the investigation. The State Department, which helps administer the program, did not respond Thursday to an email seeking reaction to Engel’s latest letter.

Read the full article from the Washington Post here.