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Cable de EE UU en el que Castresana y el embajador de EE UU convencen al presidente de Guatemala de que apruebe una ley contra la impunidad

El diplomático norteamericano habla de la "pobre coordinación entre el Ejecutivo y el Legislativo"

ID: 225476
Date: 2009-09-16 18:01:00
Origin: 09GUATEMALA884
Source: Embassy Guatemala
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Dunno:
Destination: VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

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FM AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8070
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO PRIORITY 5242
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0295

C O N F I D E N T I A L GUATEMALA 000884

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT PLS PASS TO AID FOR LAC/CAM -SEIFERT

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/16/2019
TAGS: PGOV, SNAR, KCRM, GT
SUBJECT: WITH ENCOURAGEMENT FROM THE AMBASSADOR AND CICIG,
PRESIDENT COLOM APPROVES JUDICIAL REFORMS

REF: A. GUAT 780
B. GUAT 454
C. GUAT 394

Classified By: PolOff Gina M. Werth, reasons 1.4 (b)&(d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: On September 2, Guatemalan President Alvaro
Colom signed into law two important pieces of criminal
legislation that had been supported by the international
community. The two laws, one for plea-bargaining and one for
&high-impact8 courts with additional security measures,
would create new tools to help prosecutors successfully try
and convict criminals. Colom had hesitated to approve the
measures due to strong opposition from his General Counsel,
Carlos Larios Ochaita. However, a last minute meeting on
September 2 with the Ambassador and CICIG Commissioner
Carlos Castresana convinced Colom to sign the reform bills
into law. The entire episode speaks poorly of
Congressional-Executive coordination. That said, the
approval of the laws continues progress on judicial reform.
END SUMMARY.

2. (C) On August 4, the Guatemalan Congress passed two laws
designed to strengthen the rule of law. The &Law on Penal
Competence in High Risk Processes8 provides for
&high-impact8 courts where additional security measures
would mitigate the risks to judges, prosecutors, and
witnesses in narcotrafficking and other dangerous cases. The
second law, a reform of the Organized Crime Law, empowers
judges to reduce a witness,s sentence or suspend prosecution
entirely in exchange for witness cooperation i.e.
plea-bargaining. This creates a previously non-existent
incentive for witnesses to cooperate with the prosecution.
Both laws were strongly supported by the Embassy and CICIG
(Ref A).

3. (C) On September 1, the Embassy learned that President
Colom had told Canadian Ambassador McKechnie and CICIG
Commissioner Castresana that he would veto both laws due to
alleged drafting mistakes that made them
&unconstitutional8. During a September 2 call with Colom,
the Ambassador underscored the importance of the laws in
improving the administration of justice in Guatemala. (Note:
September 2 marked the end of the 15-day decision timeline.)
Colom initially hesitated, stating that the situation was
&complicated8, but later in the evening summoned the
Ambassador and Castresana to the Presidential Palace, where
they met together with Carlos Larios Ochaita, General Counsel
to the President. (Note: Larios, who was Supreme Court
President in 2003, has previously opposed legal reforms which
would improve transparency and threaten organized crime, Ref
B. End Note.) The President, clearly uncomfortable, said
that he was willing to sign the plea-bargaining law
(&colaboracion eficaz8), given Castresana,s explanation of
its legality. However, he asserted that the &high-impact8
courts bill had a drafting flaw that would permit the
opposition to sue him, thereby putting his presidency at
risk. Colom was therefore inclined to veto the bill or
return it, unsigned, to the Congress, for Congress to enact.

4. (C) Castresana pushed hard against the latter option,
saying that it would undermine the legitimacy of the bill.
The Ambassador told Colom that he did not believe any serious
The Ambassador told Colom that he did not believe any serious
politician would use the bill to bring a lawsuit against
Colom given that an overwhelming majority of Congress,
including all political parties, had voted for the bill; the
press supported it; private sector groups did not oppose it;
and civil society and the international community supported
it. The Ambassador and Castresana agreed that if the
President signed the bill, both the Ambassador and Castresana
would ask Congress President Roberto Alejos and party blocs
in Congress to amend the bill before it was implemented.
(Comment: While this is a workable solution, the timing is
uncertain.) Larios made clear he believed Colom was best
served by not signing the bill. Colom agreed with the
Ambassador and Castresana and signed the two bills in front
of them, which were published in the September 3 official
gazette.

5. (C) Comment: Colom,s strategy of summoning the
Ambassador and Castresana to the Presidential Palace to
discuss the legislation, rather than taking Larios, advice,
suggests that he felt the need to have their agreement, if
not their blessing, for his decision, and he may have wished
to have someone else,s opinion to justify overruling Larios.
It remains unclear what motivated Larios to wait until two
days before the end of the decision period before counseling
Colom that he should veto the laws, suggesting that Larios
may have had an ulterior motive for trying to quash these
important judicial reforms. The First Lady,s views were not
mentioned, although the Ambassador and Castresana believe
that she and Larios are aligned politically. The episode
speaks poorly of Congressional-Executive coordination on
bill-drafting; the Ambassador pressed Larios on this point,
and will suggest that future legislation be coordinated, at
least informally, with Larios to avoid any pretext for future
vetoes. (Note: CICIG has five laws in the pipeline.)

6. (C) The passage of the laws adds to the momentum
generated by CICIG investigations; some initial favorable
court decisions on impunity cases; the putting into operation
of the Attorney Generals, wiretapping unit (with
considerable USG assistance); and the renewal of CICIG,s
mandate for two more years. The next big challenge for
judicial reform is the ongoing process to select the new
judicial authorities.

McFarland