Monday, May 27, 2024
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Your Taxpayer Dollars at the U.N.


The case of the Bitkovs gets more outrageous.

The head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Colombian Ivan Velasquez (C), attends the ceremony in Guatemala City, May 7. PHOTO: JOHAN ORDONEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

A United Nations prosecutor partly funded by the U.S. was supposed to be a cure for corruption in Guatemala. But the U.N. International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala—or CICIG by its Spanish initials—has had almost no oversight since it was established in 2006. Now it too is accused of corruption and politicizing the judiciary.

There’s nothing strange about absolute power run amuck. But it is weird that an army from the State Department, nonprofits and some business groups are resisting sunlight for a U.N. body that answers to no one.

The good news is that Republican Sens. Roger Wicker (Miss.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Mike Lee (Utah) and Rep. Chris Smith (R., N.J.) are more insistent. On Monday they sent a letter to the Chairman of the House subcommittee on state and foreign operations, Rep. Hal Rogers (R., Ky.), requesting a hold on a $6 million disbursement for CICIG until “Congress has conducted appropriate oversight.”

The signers are alarmed by the testimony of Guatemalan lawyers for the Russian family of Igor Bitkov at a Helsinki Commission hearing in Washington on April 27. The attorneys recounted the violations of civil liberties that the family has suffered at the hands of CICIG in cooperation with a Russian bank and the Guatemalan attorney general. CICIG refused to answer questions before the commission.

Guatemala’s constitutional court has upheld a ruling that the family are migrants and committed only administrative offenses. But rather than release them, on Wednesday a lower-court judge delivered a written order for a new trial for Mr. Bitkov.

CICIG is an unelected U.N. body and lead prosecutor Iván Velásquez has the power of a viceroy. He has cowed many locals into supporting him if they want to stay out of jail. Others are cheering him on as he threatens to bring down President Jimmy Morales. That’s something to keep in mind as CICIG advocates bombard Capitol Hill to defend CICIG’s unchecked authority.

Their best argument is that CICIG has done some good things. Yet that will come out in any investigation—as will abuses of power. If Republican chairmen with the authority over taxpayer money have any interest in stabilizing Central America, they will halt the CICIG financing and begin a review.