Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ebal Diaz: "We Didn't Invent the Numbers"-- Except He Did

In a previous post, we quoted Ebal Diaz, an adviser to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez as saying the CICIG (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala), a UN backed commission formed to combat corruption in Guatemala, was ineffective.

He used this argument to turn aside the request of the Torchlight Marchers that Honduras ask for a similar International Commission Against Impunity (known as CICIH , its initials in Spanish).

The problem is, nothing he said is true.

Diaz is quoted as having said:
"The case of Guatemala,  How long did it take Guatemala to create the structure?  At least 7 years.  How much did it cost Guatemala? $150 million dollars.  How many cases did it resolve? Four."

A little bit later in the same article he said:
"Is this an alternative for the country?  There are the numbers; they're not something we invented.  So the Honduran people need justice...When?  In three years?  In 5 years? or now?  We're looking for solutions now by strengthening our [government] institutions."

Except the numbers do seem to be invented.  None of his statements are even remotely true.

Lets start with the easiest claim to debunk, the money.

Diaz claims the CICIG has cost Guatemala $150 million.  We're not sure where he got that number, but in fact, the CICIG has cost Guatemala nothing.  Its budget of $20 million annually is paid by a diverse international community, including the United States, Spain, the Netherlands, and several Scandinavian countries.  As the CICIG told the press in March of this year, It has not asked for or received any economic support from the government of Guatemala.

The only form of support it receives from the Guatemalan government is the assignment of members of the National Police for the purpose of security and investigation.  Even if you count their salaries as a cost of the CICIG, the amount would would be less than $2 million for a full eight years of support, based on online sources for National Police salaries in Guatemala.

Then there's the matter of timeline.

Diaz claimed it took Guatemala seven years to create the structure for the CICIG. In fact, the CICIG was created out of an agreement between the Government of Guatemala and the United Nations signed in December 2006 and ratified by the Guatemalan Congress in August 2007.  It took legal effect in September 2007.  Its first year of actual operation was 2008.  Thus, it has been in existence for eight years after a process that at most one could say took a little more than a year to initiate.

And then there is Diaz' claim that the CICIG has been ineffective.

The CICIG annual reports document that from the beginning, it has been extremely productive.  By the end of its first year of existence, it had hired 109 people from 24 different countries, 73% of its projected personnel.  It had negotiated its budgetary support through 2009 from 13 separate countries, and launched 15 investigations of high level corruption, including opening prosecution on two of those cases.  Some cases it investigated along with the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor's office, and some it investigated on its own.

Investigating cases wasn't the only thing the CICIG did. In the first year it also analyzed Guatemalan law and identified bottlenecks leading to a paralysis of the Guatemalan legal system.  It trained investigators in financial crimes.  It established a number of agreements with different parts of the Guatemalan government for bilateral cooperation.  It began recommending legislative changes to enhance accountability.

By the end of its second year of operation, the CICIG had opened 39 investigations.  The Public Prosecutor's office had set up the Special Prosecutor's office within its own structure so the CICIG and Ministerio Publico of Guatemala could cooperate on investigations and prosecutions.  By the third year they had reached a staff of 196 from 23 nations, ironically, including Honduras. It had opened 56 investigations from about 1800 cases presented to it, and closed a further 189 cases.

I could continue but the record is exhaustive and speaks of many accomplishments.

As the WOLA report on the CICIG notes, by 2013 the CICIG had investigated more than 150 cases on its own, and joined with the Public Prosecutor's office in investigating a further 50 cases.  WOLA notes that the Guatemalan Congress is the only group that has been slow to adopt CICIG suggestions, with it only passing 4 of 15 suggested legal code changes.

Diaz's allegation that the CICIG has only prosecuted four cases is especially disingenuous.

The CICIG website lists more than 20 cases in which they participated that resulted in convictions. The CICIG was set up to cooperate with the Public Prosecutor's office and support their investigations and prosecution wherever and whenever that was possible.  It was only when the Public Prosecutor's office refused to investigate or take up a case that the CICIG was authorized to proceed on its own.

To discredit the Torchlight Marchers and their demand for a similar commission for Honduras, Ebal Diaz made up his facts and fed them to the Honduran press, hoping that no one in Honduras would fact check him.

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