Dear Dr. Sabelotodo,
Lately, I’ve been hearing the other kids at my school talk about some CICIG thing. What exactly is a CICIG?
Sincerely, Steven Glansberg
Well Steven, a CICIG isn’t just what a pirate smokes to get his nicotine fix (hey-o!) It also happens to be a novel political experiment cooked up by the UN and the Guatemalan government in order to fight corruption and organized crime in Guatemala. And it is currently the country’s most trusted institution, beating out both the Evangelical and Catholic churches (We reached out to God for comment, but haven’t received a response as of press time).
The genesis of CICIG (The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala) can be traced back to the pop-punk days of 2003, when a group of Guatemalan NGOs asked the UN to create an independent, internationally backed legal institution that would support the public prosecutor’s office in its fight against organized crime and corruption. Naturally, the Guatemalan ruling class, with its Trumpian commitment to national sovereignty, was opposed to foreigners encroaching on their perfectly functional kleptocracy. Thus it took four years of negotiations until CICIG was finally established in 2007 — just a small taste of the struggles to come.
CICIG hit the ground running under Spanish commissioner Carlos Castresana, who presumably arrived on the bow of a wooden ship while reading a royal denouncement of corruption from a giant scroll (just kidding). In its first few years, the organization prosecuted many high profile criminals that would have otherwise walked free, introduced important legal tools such as wiretapping and a witness protection program, helped place honest people in important government positions, and oversaw a 23% drop in the rate of impunity for violent crimes (Before CICIG, it was basically “The Purge” everyday with impunity for violent crimes at 95%). Then, in 2009, CICIG really put themselves on the map when they solved the internationally famous Rosenberg case and averted a would be catastrophic political crisis. The organization was a success.
But all that wasn’t enough to ensure CICIG’s survival. By 2015, CICIG was in decline as Guatemalan elites continued their attempts to delegitimize the organization. President Otto Perez Molina repeatedly asserted that he would let CICIG’s mandate expire that year, and that it should spend its energies focusing on the transition.
Then, just before the buzzer, CICIG smacked President Molina with a mano tan dura that it saved the organization and ended the Molina Presidency. A corruption scandal involving the Molina administration had exploded into the open, and after weeks of street protests and yet another thorough CICIG investigation, Molina was forced to step down and face trial.
Later that year, a rejuvenated and inspired Guatemalan population elected anti-corruption candidate Jimmy Morales to the presidency, and he promised that CICIG would be laying the smack down on crooks until at least 2020. CICIG had won. A new era of Guatemalan democracy and accountability had dawned and it would be led by Jimmy Morales with CICIG by his side. A better, more just Guatemala was finally emerging after centuries of oligarchic rule.
Don’t forget to turn to this month’s editorial page to find out just how revolutionary this new era has been.
Viva la CICIG!