Guatemala is still reeling from last week’s sudden resignation of Carlos Castresana, the Spanish judge who headed the UN Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Castresana’s announcement precipitated four decapitations in the nation’s capital on Wednesday, in addition to the ousting of an attorney general with ties to organised crime.
Though he had lead CICIG since its inception in 2008, Castresana said he could no longer work with Guatemalan authorities who refused to comply with the panel’s recommendations.
“There are government officials and figures that have notoriously shown that they don’t defend the interest of the Guatemalans,” he said during a press conference.
Though Castresana stated his intention to stay on until the panel’s mandate expires in August of 2011 as recently as late April, he said the appointment of Conrado Reyes as attorney general on 25th May was the last straw. He accused Reyes of being associated with organised crime networks that deal in drug trafficking and illegal adoption rings.
Castresana’s resignation came as a shock to many Guatemalans who had hoped that CICIG would help lead their country out of a dark era of violent organised crime. The commission had begun work on high profile corruption cases, including an investigation into the assassination of attorney Rodrigo Rosenberg and the recent arrest of former President Alfonso Portillo on money laundering charges.
Two days after Castresana’s announcement, four decapitated heads were discovered in prominent locations across Guatemala City, all marked with threatening messages against the government. Authorities said the act was likely a reaction by criminal networks to the government’s recent efforts to crackdown on leaders of juvenile prison gangs.
After the decapitations, political tensions continued to mount midweek. Though Reyes adamantly denied involvement with organised crime, on Thursday the country’s constitutional court invalidated his appointment as attorney general. The court ruling made no specific references to Castresana’s allegations, but court president Roberto Molina Barreto said the decision was made in response to a “true institutional crisis”.
President Álvaro Colom claimed he knew nothing of Reyes’ allegedly dubious connections when he appointed him. He said he was satisfied with the decision and believed that “the country deserves a chance to correct things”.
Since Reyes was forced out, Castresana has continued his campaign to prove the former attorney general’s corruption. Earlier today, he released a series of recorded telephone conversations showing that members of a prominent narcotics ring helped orchestrate Reyes’ appointment.
The scandal comes at a trying time for President Colom, who announced today that reconstruction efforts after last month’s deadly flooding will cost the small Central American country more than US$250m.