28/03/2019

Acceptance speech – Thelma Aldana

We have proven that public institutions can work for all citizens.

Guatemala is a country comprised of 24 linguistic groups and 4 communities: maya, garífuna, xinca and mestizo. It has been characterised by a historical exclusion of the indigenous communities, in general, and of women, in particular.  The access to basic services and formal financial services, healthcare and educational services is still limited. The interrelated territorial, ethnic and gender inequities intensify people’s limitations to achieve full participation and comprehensive human development. Racism and exclusion have generated different forms of violence and structural discrimination, legal and institutional, which are deepened in the case of indigenous women.

Guatemala’s history is a story that can be summarised in an armed internal conflict, of more than 30 years, which occurred between the years 1962 to 1996. It is a story of violence, racism, sexism and erosion of the social fabric.  This armed internal conflict, according to the Historical Clarification Commission, left a balance of over 200.000 deceased, 45.000 missing persons, and more than a million internally displaced people and refugees. Its root elements were structural injustice, closure of political spaces, racism, the deepening exclusionary and antidemocratic institutional practices, as well as the implementation of the national security doctrine.

On December 29th 1996, the signing of the peace agreements was conducted. These agreements introduced the necessary basis for a peaceful development and predicted a modern future for the country, but the lack of political goodwill has prevented its compliance and implementation for 20 years.

Illegal law enforcement agencies and clandestine security apparatuses embedded in the State have arisen as a result of that armed internal conflict.  In 2006, that reality – and in the presence of an exclusionary system which limited development possibilities, characterised by impunity and corruption – motivated the government of the Republic, under the administration of civil society, to request support to the United Nations in order to create an international mechanism that would help the country to dismantle these clandestine apparatuses and fight against impunity. Thus, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala emerges.

With the support of CICIG, the Public Ministry started to fight corruption and impunity, unprecedented in the history of the country and with such important effects. We have discovered that those clandestine security apparatuses and illegal law enforcement agencies have turned into illicit, political and economic networks embedded in the State. We have proven that public institutions can work for all citizens, and not only for those who have the support and protection of the politicians who happen to be in power, or for those who belong to powerful groups.

Guatemala was organised to enrich powerful actors, and that is what we have begun to defeat. Today in the country, it is known that, no matter who you are, justice can operate under the rule of law, as a key factor to strengthen the emerging democracy.

Now, our goal must be to turn that efficiency into standard practice for Guatemalan institutions, in order to comply with its commitment to the population.

Also, we have proven that Guatemalans together, both men and women, can achieve a different country. However, it has also become clear to us that, the past co-optation practices of the State, polarisation, discrediting campaigns and even physical threats towards those who have worked towards the fight against corruption and impunity, remain prevalent with the use of many economic and political resources.

Throughout this progress in Guatemala, I must recognise the role that civil society, attorneys and judges, and the international community have played in the anti-corruption effort. Civil society and the international community have been two partners that haven’t stopped walking beside our people in order to seek the transformation that we have initiated.  The mechanism of the United Nations International Commission against Impunity has proven successful by supporting institutions, such as the Public Ministry, committed to the basic principles of justice and integrity.

Certainly, within this alliance, we have made progress that highlights the breakdown of the political parties and the spheres of power, which would group together to gather the resources of a State which forgot to strengthen the public institutions and forgot its citizens.

In this context, being awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize is an incentive, not only personal, but also for the population, which is tired of inequity, poverty, hunger and lack of opportunities. It is with humility that I receive it, as a Guatemalan citizen that delivers it, in a symbolic manner, to a community which has greatly suffered.

The challenge ahead is great, but many Guatemalan, both men and women, have the clear and determined commitment to defeat the old practices of corruption and impunity, and to conduct politics in a manner that will turn the dramatic history of our country into a story of hope, development and social peace.