Saturday, October 15, 2011

Justice in Central America

Parachuting in the prosecutors

Two failing states in Latin America have turned to outsiders for help. We report first from Guatemala, on a UN effort to fight organised crime

AFTER years of frustration over its rotten security forces and judiciary, Guatemala’s government decided in 2006 to call for outside help. “Asking the justice system to reform itself was like tying up a dog with a string of sausages,” says Eduardo Stein, the then vice-president. The government invited the United Nations to establish a unit of foreign prosecutors to fight the infiltration of Guatemala’s institutions by corruption and organised crime. The experiment, known as the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), completed four turbulent years last month.

The commission’s main targets are clandestine networks of soldiers and policemen created during a 36-year civil war between military dictators and left-wing guerrillas. These outfits went freelance after a 1996 peace deal, selling their services to drug traffickers from Mexico and Colombia. Largely because of the drug mobs and their allies, Central America’s “northern triangle” of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador “has become probably the deadliest zone in the world” outside active theatres of war, General Douglas Fraser, head of the United States’ Southern Command, said in March.

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