Francisco Dall'Anese, director of the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), has announced he will be leaving his post in September. While the news looked at first like the result of pressure from the administration of President Otto Perez, it turns out the UN may have been looking for a reason to dismiss Dall'Anese as well.
On May 28, Dall'Anese announced he would be leaving his position at the head of the lauded judicial reform commission in September. According to remarks he made to the press, he had asked the UN not to renew his contract in order to spend more time with his family in Costa Rica. However, newspaper El Periodico reported that the announcement came after the Perez administration met with UN officials to express concern about some of the CICIG director’s comments related to the Rios Montt genocide trial case. Specifically, the government was perturbed by an April CICIG press release which condemned a platform of opinion leaders who had come against the case as “an unjustifiable threat to the trial.”
This is not entirely surprising, as Perez is known to mistrust the CICIG. The president dodged questions about renewing the Commission’s mandate during his 2011 campaign, and his decision to do so in March 2012 came as a welcome surprise to many observers. He has also distanced himself from enterprising Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, raising questions about his commitment to cleaning up Guatemala’s notoriously corrupt judicial branch.
However, a report by Guatemala’s ContraPoder suggests this may not be whole story. Anonymous sources in the executive office and CICIG told the magazine that the UN had become increasingly dissatisfied with what it saw as Dall'Anese’s confrontational tactics. He allegedly lost access to key government partners, developed a reputation for failing to communicate with his superiors in New York, and had also become very close to El Periodico, a fact which particularly bothered Perez. An embarrassingly public dispute also broke out on his watch with two former employees, rasing allegations that CICIG was not complying with local labor laws.
According to an anonymous administration official, Perez’s statement of concern about Dall'Anese to the UN was “the straw the broke the camel's back.”
Hopefully Dall'Anese’s replacement will be able to establish better relations with the government, while continuing his penchant for openly confronting corrupt actors in the court system. CICIG is expected to finish its mandate in September 2015, meaning that it the next director will have just two years to consolidate gains made in strengthening the public prosecutor's office and other legal institutions.
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