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Guatemala's international justice watchdog quits in frustration

June 8, 2010 | 12:05 pm

Carlos2For 2 1/2 years, Carlos Castresana, a well-respected Spanish jurist, has headed the commission formed to repair Guatemala's notoriously flawed justice system. He was tasked by the United Nations with the gargantuan job of cleaning up Guatemala's corrupt police force, reforming ineffective courts and challenging rampant organized crime -- all part of the Central American nation's recovery from devastating civil war.

Castresana finally gave up. He resigned on Monday, citing what he described as broken promises by the Guatemalan government and, in especially blunt terms, accusing the new attorney general, Conrado Reyes, of having criminal ties.

"I feel I cannot do anything more for Guatemala," he said at a news conference.

Under Castresana, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala provided an important boost for human rights. It was widely credited with the prosecution, against all odds, of dozens of corrupt police and government officials.

A former federal prosecutor in Spain, Castresana was well-known in international justice circles. He told The Times when he assumed the Guatemalan post that he was prepared to take on a wide range of formidable adversaries.

"Democracy is based on the principle that the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, those in government and those outside of government, should all be equal in the eyes of the law," Castresana said at the time. "Sadly, that hasn't been the reality in Guatemala."

-- Tracy Wilkinson in Mexico City

Photo: Carlos Castresana in Guatemala City. Credit: Prensa Libre