El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras- The State of Justice and Democracy in the Turbulent Northern Triangle
April 11th, 2023 12:00PM -1:00PM
Every year, hundreds of thousands of residents of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador flee poverty and chronic violence, some risking everything to make their way north to the United States and the hope of safety and economic opportunity. Despite international cooperation and domestic efforts to promote development, implement tough-on-crime policies, and tackle the long-standing corruption that has been a persistent drag on the region’s economies, gains have been limited and fleeting. More recently all three states have seen a backslide towards authoritarian politics as the pandemic exacerbated many of the region’s persistent challenges, especially gender-based violence.
Join the World Affairs Council on April 11 at 12 PM for a virtual conversation with Arturo Aguilar of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Ana María Méndez Dardón of the Washington Office of Latin America (WOLA). These regional experts will discuss the complicated politics and economics of the Northern Triangle and what policies might bring meaningful change to the people of the Northern Triangle.
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About the Speakers
Arturo Aguilar serves as the Program Director for Central America for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and is a lawyer, investigator, and political strategist with over 20 years championing justice and democracy in Latin America.
His passion for service began while his home country of Guatemala was still at war. At just 18 years old, Arturo was instrumental to solving the murder of Bishop Gerardi in Guatemala—one of the post-civil war landmark cases. The case was immortalized by American novelist and New Yorker contributing writer Francisco Goldman in The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop? He spent the next four years working for the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations in Guatemala.
Aguilar was Secretary of Strategic and Private Affairs to Guatemala’s first woman Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz. A key member during her tenure, Aguilar built key alliances with regional governments in Latin America, Europe, and across all levels of the U.S. government. He was also instrumental in developing a large network of political contacts and allies across different sectors of society. The team made strides in reforming the Public Ministry and in the prosecution of organized crime, including war crimes, resulting in a significant drop in impunity rates, and prosecuted the first ever genocide case in a national court.
Aguilar served as Senior Political Officer to the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The commission has been a driving force in a series of investigations regarding state capture, corruption, money laundering, fraud, and organized crime in the public and private sector; it also helped develop profound legal and institutional reforms in the criminal justice system in Guatemala.
His previous post was as the Executive Director of Seattle International Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on democracy, rule of law, good governance, and women’s rights in Central America.
Ana María Méndez Dardón is the Director for Central America at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and has worked to strengthen access to justice and promote human rights in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, with a range of civil society organizations including think-tanks and grassroots groups, international bodies, and government institutions. In 2010, she worked for Instituto de Estudios Comparados en Ciencias Penales de Guatemala leading the implementation of training processes for judges on the recently created Law Against Femicide and other forms of violence against women. In 2012, as a project coordinator for Iniciativa Social para la Democracia in El Salvador, she created a Citizen Observatory on Access to Information for the Legislative Branch.
Member of the Latin-American roster for the Regional Hub of United Nations Development Program and consultant for UN Women in Honduras on access to justice and citizen security for women projects.
In 2013 Méndez Dardón was appointed as under-secretary of strategic and private affairs to Guatemala’s first female attorney general, Claudia Paz y Paz. During this time, many high-impact transitional justice cases of gross human rights violations were prosecuted. In addition, she has litigated strategic human rights cases before international bodies. As a volunteer for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights and The Consejo de Comunidades Étnicas Runujel Junam (CERJ), she has assisted with a forced disappearance case at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
She served as special projects officer to the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala in charge was in charge of the implementation of the UN-Peace Building Fund Project: Consolidation and Decentralization of Strategic Criminal Prosecution within the Public Prosecutor´s Office (MP) to transfer capacities from CICIG to the MP, particularly by establishing clear investigative models, training methodologies, and human resources/administrative systems that meet international standards and certifications.
A frequent contributor to El Periódico. Co-author of Mujeres Ante los Tribunales de Fuero Especial an examination of women who were illegally detained by military forces during the dictatorship of Efrain Rios Mont (Guatemala 1982-1983).
About the Moderator
Adriana Beltrán leads the SIF team, located in six countries, in its mission to promote good governance, equity, justice, the rule of law and the strengthening of civil society in Central America.
For more than twenty years, Adriana Beltrán has championed the promotion of policies and strategies to advance the rule of law and social justice in Central America. She has extensive experience addressing human rights, corruption, and governance related issues, and has worked closely with a wide range of civil society organizations, activists and networks in Central America, government officials, and multilateral entities.
Before joining SIF, Beltrán served as Director of the Citizen Security Program for the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a U.S.-based research and advocacy organization, where she monitored U.S.-Central America relations and promoted policies to address the drivers of migration, improve government accountability and transparency, and promote human rights in Central America. During her time at WOLA, she championed numerous advocacy initiatives, including for the establishment of a UN-sponsored commission to investigate and prosecute illicit networks linked to the state– an effort that culminated in the creation of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) in 2007. Most recently, she developed and oversaw a regional project to assess how the policies and strategies being implemented in Central America are contributing to the strengthening of the rule of law, improving transparency and accountability, and to reducing violence and insecurity.
She has written and co-authored various reports and articles on citizen security, corruption, governance, and democracy in Central America and on U.S. policy toward the region, including Protect and Serve? The Status of Police Reform, and Hidden Powers, a ground-breaking study documenting the rise and impact of illegal armed groups in post-conflict Guatemala. She has testified before U.S. Congress and is a frequent commentator in the media.
Beltrán was born and raised in Colombia and has traveled extensively in Central America and the region. She holds a Master’s degree in International Public Policy from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Studies from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.
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