Organized crime: part of the system in Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY – Tens of thousands of Guatemalans are going hungry and hundreds of thousands of children suffer from malnutrition and even die of hunger, thanks to a system that keeps them submerged in extreme poverty. Alejandro Giammatti, ex-presidential candidate of the GANA [“Grand National Alliance”] party, acts as a faithful representative of this system, primarly at the service of big financial capital, both foreign and domestic. Giammattei has recently made a fool of himself by going on a hunger-strike in an attention-seeking effort to evade justice. The National Commission against Impunity in Guatemala [CICIG] has submitted evidence not only of Giammattei’s involvement in criminal activities and human rights violations, but also of his links with gangs and organized crime, evidence that also suggests the involvement of an ex-government minister and of the ex-director of the National Civil Police (PNC).

Evidence has already been released detailing relationships between criminal gangs (here known as “maras”) operating from within the country’s prisons, and the highest government authorities in Guatemala. It is said that gangs pay a regular “quota” to all government officials, beginning at the cabinet level and including the chief of police and prison officials. It is alleged that individuals who were aware of these links have been systematically murdered, one by one, in order to erase any evidence of state involvement with organized crime under previous governments.

There are also allegations of criminal involvement on the part of powerful business leaders, members of the country’s oligarchic class who have been accused of both directing and benefitting from organized criminal gang activity in Guatemala. It is said that these are the ones who hire paid thugs (being those who can afford such luxuries!) in order to repress social and people’s movements, and who arrange the selective assassinations of the people’s bravest leaders, seeking to maintain power through terror and intimidation by neutralizing struggles for popular demands.

Everything indicates that this is part and parcel of a neoliberal effort to weaken the state as much as possible, leaving it powerless to act against domestic and international financial gangsters who launder their criminal profits through the system’s banks. These great tax-evaders oppose any fiscal reform that might allow the country to develop a social budget that might give the country modern hospitals that could save human lives and schools that could offer access to education to the entire population. They are the ones who will not allow the strengthening of public safety organizations, keeping them too weak to fight back against corruption and crime. They are the ones who oppose additional investment, seeking to avoid laying the foundation for economic and social development that might generate jobs, to fight unemployment and misery.

It is sad and even ridiculous that the same media outlets, columnists and institutions that have always called for the strengthening of a state of laws, for absolute respect for the law, and who have argued that each of us, without exception, ought to be subject to the rule of law, and that no individual is above the law, are now changing their tune. Now that representatives of a government that they were part of or felt part of are being investigated and/or jailed, they rush to defend the accused, spinning the facts and questioning the impartiality of a Supreme Court of Justice chosen in an electoral process that they, themselves promoted and watched over. Now they are even questioning the quality of the CICIG’s investigative work, when just recently they were offering it their total confidence and support when they saw it as an ideal instrument for bringing down their political opponents.
Guatemala, August 20, 2010

Pablo Monsanto is secretary general of the Alternative New Nation (ANN) Party, and signatory to the Guatemala Peace Accords. Republished from Alternativa Nueva Nacion, ANN with the author’s permission.

 Photo: A demonstrator carries a sign that reads in Spanish “Guatemala bleeds” during a protest against violence in Guatemala City, July 23. There are about 17 deaths per day in Guatemala City, a city of 2 million. (AP/Moises Castillo)