For decades, impunity has reined in
Since the Peace Accords brought
Not only have Guatemalan voters lost faith in democratic government’s ability to bring economic development and alleviate massive poverty, but vast swaths of the citizenry have come to believe that the laws simply do not apply to the powerful. As the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) has shown, perceptions of corruption and insecurity negatively affect democratic values in Guatemala. Compared with other Latin American countries, it is unsurprising that
Since the Peace Accords, two international institutions in particular have worked to support the rule of law in
Second, the apprehension of ex-President Portillo could send a strong signal that Guatemalan authorities will target even political elites. Portillo, who became president as the standard-bearer of Efraín Ríos Montt’s—who took power via a coup in the 1982 and led much of the state-sponsored genocide—FRG, oversaw an era of rampant corruption in Guatemalan politics. This week, after avoiding simultaneous raids at four different houses, authorities captured Portillo as he allegedly sought to flee to Belize (Portillo had twice in the past avoided attempts for his capture). He now faces the prospect of extradition to the U.S., where he faces federal charges of money laundering. Of course, Portillo’s conviction is far from being a fait accompli. His capture, however, augurs well for the rule of the law in
This week, it has become clear that no one will face prosecution for ousting Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. Earlier this month, the Honduran Supreme Court began proceedings against military officials responsible for removing President Zelaya from the country (not for removing Zelaya from power, deemed legal by the Court and the Congress). Predictably, the president of the pro-Micheletti Supreme Court, Jorge Rivera Avilez, dismissed these charges on Tuesday. And, while prosecutors said they would appeal the decision, Porfirio Lobo’s declaration last week that he would offer amnesty to all involved in the coup (in addition to safe passage out of the country for Manuel Zelaya) confirmed these suspicions. The Congress will approve this measure today, to coincide with Lobo’s inauguration.
To make matters worse, the Honduran Congress declared two weeks ago that it would grant Roberto Micheletti a congressional salary-for-life in honor of what they deemed his defense of Honduran democracy and sovereignty since June 28, 2009. This reward for Micheletti—which followed the Congress’s landslide vote rejecting Zelaya’s proposed reinstatement in December—has added insult to injury for defenders of the rule of law in
This has been a month of highs and lows for the rule of law in
*Daniel Altschuler is a contributing blogger to americasquarterly.org conducting research in
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
San Salvador, El Salvador
Julio Rank Wright
Christian Gómez, Jr.
Johanna Mendelson Forman