Saturday, November 19, 2011

Carlos Castresana responds to the Economist

Carlos Castresana, the former head of the United Nations-mandated Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala (CICIG) - the body charged with investigating clandestine organisations and exposing their relation to the Guatemalan state - responded this week to what I thought was a fairly awful article in the Economist about Guatemala last month.

The Economist piece, titled "Parachuting in the prosecutors," repeated pretty much every slur and innuendo against Castresana that the UN bureaucrats who served as nearly as great a hurdle to CICIG's success as Guatemala's criminals have ever whispered about the Spanish prosecutor in their sleek halls along the East River.

Given what I believe is the important role that CICIG may still play in the fight against the criminal oligarchy whose power is pointed like a dagger at the heart of Guatemala democracy, I thought it worth re-printing Castresana's response in full here.

For my views on that oligarchy, readers can look at my 2008 piece,
"Drugs Vs. Democracy in Guatemala," first published in the World Policy Jounal, or my Op-Ed last year in the Guardian, "Guatemala's lonely battle against corruption."


Carlos Castresana

SIR – I want to express my surprise and disappointment at the remarks you made about me in your article on the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which I headed until June 2010 (“Parachuting in the prosecutors”, October 15th). Your description of me as a “clever, cavalier and publicity-seeking Spanish prosecutor” was unfair to say the least. My team and I did our best during three years, risking our families, lives and careers.

I was also offended by your statement that I left CICIG in June 2010 after allegations about my private life. I refer you to a complete and balanced explanation of the circumstances of my resignation in your own pages from an article at the time (“Kamikaze mission”, June 19th 2010).

But more disturbing was your observation that “there was little oversight of Mr Castresana, causing discomfort in New York about how CICIG was operating”. In fact, CICIG was permanently supervised and its accounts audited by the United Nations Development Programme, as that was the agency which managed the donor countries’ trust fund. All substantive matters were exhaustively controlled by the UN Department of Political Affairs and supervised by the secretary-general himself. I sent 314 cables to the UN and reported daily by telephone, and in person in New York every couple of months, as well as filing ten quarterly reports to the secretary-general throughout the three years of my mandate.

Furthermore, while you were publishing your biased report a selection process was under way for an international judicial position for which I was included as a candidate. You might not have been aware of that ongoing process, but surely some of your sources were. I am persuaded that those who made the decision were not influenced at all by your publication, but the fact is that your article appeared just after the interviews, when a decision was being made.

I made many enemies in Guatemala. I am not worried about that, it comes with the job of prosecutor. But on future occasions, before you publish such disinformation, please call me and give me the opportunity to defend my name and my professional work in advance. That way you might get a better and complete story.

Carlos Castresana
Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Spain

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