US embassy cable - 03GUATEMALA139

THIRD ANNUAL CORRUPTION REPORT - GUATEMALA

Identifier: 03GUATEMALA139
Wikileaks: View 03GUATEMALA139 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Guatemala
Created: 2003-01-17 15:34:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: KCOR KCRM SNAR PREL PGOV GT
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GUATEMALA 000139 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR INL/C: RIGGS AND WERKSMAN, WHA/PPC: HAMANN, 
AND WHA/USOAS: STICKLES. 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: KCOR, KCRM, SNAR, PREL, PGOV, GT 
SUBJECT: THIRD ANNUAL CORRUPTION REPORT - GUATEMALA 
 
REF: 02 STATE 239506 
 
 1. Summary: Guatemala made limited progress in 2002 in 
implementing its commitments under the Inter-American 
Convention Against Corruption.  The primary obstacle to 
greater progress was the lack of effective leadership on the 
part of the Executive in fighting corruption, and the 
political polarization that heightened confrontation between 
the GOG and its growing number of critics. Transparency 
International rated Guatemala near the bottom (81st out of 
102 countries) of its annual review of public perceptions of 
corruption.  On October 10, 2002, then-WHA Assistant 
Secretary Otto Reich testified to the U.S. Congress that 
 
SIPDIS 
corruption has increased under the Portillo Administration 
and had become the primary impediment to the strengthening of 
democracy in Guatemala.  Guatemala's cooperation in the war 
on drugs also fell to historically low levels in 2002, in 
large part due to pervasive corruption.  End Summary. 
 
Accomplishments by the Government of Guatemala 
--------------------------------------------- - 
2. There were a limited number of successes in the GOG's 
efforts to control corruption in 2002.  Congress passed two 
important pieces of legislation which make it easier to 
prosecute government officials for corruption.  Both laws 
will come into force in early 2003.  Several other 
transparency measures were proposed in Congress, including 
whistle-blower protections and a mechanism for the 
participation of civil society auditing government 
expenditures, but Congress had not passed these bills by the 
end of the year.  One of the most concrete accomplishments in 
2002 was the implementation of currency declaration forms at 
the International Airport.  This initiative, which was 
intended to help implement new money laundering legislation, 
made it possible for the GOG to prosecute individuals who 
attempt to bring into the country or out of it more that 
10,000 USD without declaring the funds to customs officials. 
While there have been no convictions yet, numerous arrests 
have been made and several cases are going forward to 
prosecution.  The measure creates a significant disincentive 
for money laundering. 
 
3. A further potential accomplishment was the announcement by 
the Attorney General's Office that investigations had been 
opened into the activities of five former military officers 
who are believed to be involved in organized crime -- all of 
the individuals are believed to have ties to senior GOG 
officials.  The GOG also announced in 2002 the establishment 
of an ambitious National Anti-Corruption Plan which it 
drafted in coordination with World Bank experts.  This 
project has not yet advanced significantly.  Another 
accomplishment was the disbanding of the special 
counter-narcotics police (the DOAN) in the wake of 
extra-judicial killings and mounting evidence that the DOAN 
was engaged in selling seized drugs.  One of the most 
promising recent accomplishments was the GOG's naming of a 
blue-ribbon Transparency Commission composed of several 
respected members of civil society.  GOG efforts to 
manipulate the commission, however, have led to threats by 
several members to resign and have brought into question the 
efficacy of the commission. 
 
Accomplishments of Civil Society 
-------------------------------- 
 
4.  Civil society was an active player in the anti-corruption 
debate in Guatemala in 2002.  Some civil society actors were 
motivated by their focus on strengthening the democratic 
institutions and processes of the state, and others by a more 
partisan interest in discrediting a government whose levels 
of corruption have been higher than Guatemalans are used to. 
The primary accomplishment of civil society groups in 
anti-corruption efforts in 2002 has been to keep the issue of 
government corruption in public view, primarily through use 
of the news media.  This initiative has helped overcome 
traditionally high levels of apathy on the part of the 
general population.  Press coverage of corruption scandals 
was relentless.  In February, the "Foro Guatemala," a civil 
society organization encompassing representatives of most 
organized sectors of Guatemalan society, held a major 
conference on the effects of corruption.  The results of 
several studies were compiled and released with great 
fanfare.  The theme of the conference has not had the 
expected resonance among the population, however, and shortly 
after the conference a national opinion poll found that only 
41% of Guatemalans agreed that acts of corruption should be 
denounced when detected.  A banking scandal involving shell 
corporations in Panama established in the names of the 
President and Vice President, among others, resulted in the 
formation of a loose coalition of small political parties and 
civil society leaders known as the Civic Movement Aganist 
Corruption ("Moviemento Civico Contra la Corrupcion").  The 
movement did not take root, however, when they failed to 
mobilize significant participation in anti-corruption 
protests on the Presidential Palace to demand the resignation 
of the President and Vice President. 
Hamilton 

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