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The armored jeeps were lined up distinct book forth a Guatemala Burghal artery on August 31 in an apocalyptic queue. By mid-morning, images began circulating of the jeeps alfresco the offices of a U.N.-backed anti-corruption agency that has played a key role in bringing bottomward base officials. Added jeeps were spotted in the about of the Civic Palace, forth with aggressive personnel. In a country with a not-so-distant accomplished of aggressive coups and massacres, the photographs and videos advance like wildfire, adopting anxiety as bodies accolade to acquisition out what was action on.

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To Feliciana Macario, the appearance of force evoked the affliction years of aggressive aphorism in Guatemala, during the 36-year armed battle amid the U.S.-backed aggressive and paramilitary armament and left-wing guerrilla groups. Macario is one of the civic coordinators of CONAVIGUA, a civic animal rights alignment founded by women whose husbands were asleep or abolished during the conflict.

“It creates the blackmail of a acknowledgment to the 1980s,” said Macario, an Indigenous Maya Kiche woman who works with victims and survivors of conflict-era accompaniment violence.

The armed battle larboard added than 200,000 bodies asleep and addition 45,000 disappeared. Added than 80 percent of victims were Indigenous Maya civilians, and the aggressive was the perpetrator in the cutting majority of cases. A U.N.-backed accuracy agency and now two Guatemalan courts accept bent that the aggressive committed genocide in the aboriginal 1980s. Peace Accords concluded the armed battle in 1996, but Macario said that Guatemala’s accepted president, Jimmy Morales, is actionable the terms.

“One of the Peace Accords that we highlight is the accordance on the role of the army aural society. It says that the army has to abate its numbers, its budget, and everything. But on the contrary, what Jimmy Morales is accomplishing is militarizing. He is accretion the army’s account and wants to remilitarize the country,” Macario told The Intercept.

Roughly two hours afterwards the jeeps were aboriginal spotted alfresco the offices of the All-embracing Agency Adjoin Dispensation in Guatemala — CICIG, by its Spanish acronym — Morales stood axial the Civic Palace belted by aggressive and badge admiral and appear that he would not renew CICIG’s mandate, sparking acknowledged challenges, protests, and an advancing political crisis. The deployment of the jeeps deepened apropos amid abounding Guatemalans about Morales  — all the added so back the U.S. Admiral in Guatemala appear that the cartage had been donated by the United States for use in bound regions, not the capital. Morales and his backers accept been allure the abutment of the Trump administering and Republican assembly adjoin CICIG, and there are signs that the U.S. government’s longstanding abutment for the agency is weakening.

Two months afterwards the jeeps lined the artery alfresco the CICIG offices, the official absolution for their use on August 31 is as black as ever. It was a accepted convoying to action bent activity, said the Minister of the Interior. It was to assure accessible institutions and buildings, according to badge documents. It was to avert accessible agitated protests, said the president. Nearly every time a government official makes a account or a new certificate comes to ablaze apropos the Jeep J8s, the adventure becomes a little bit — or a lot — different.

Regardless of the alive rationales, one affair is now clear: The Guatemalan government abandoned an acceding with the United States apropos the latter’s donation of Jeep J8s. Both the U.S. Department of Accompaniment and the Department of Aegis accepted to The Intercept that the cartage were donated for use by specific Guatemalan interagency assignment armament for counternarcotics operations in bound regions. Their alteration or use alfresco of those ambit would aggregate a abuse of the donation agreement, both departments adumbrated to The Intercept. However, Guatemalan badge abstracts acquired by The Intercept appearance a arrangement of such J8 transfers and use in the months arch up to and including the August 31 deployment in Guatemala City.

“They were donated by the United States to action biologic trafficking on the borders and they were acclimated [August 31] to alarm CICIG, actionable aggregate the acceding says,” said Guatemalan Animal Rights Ombudsman Jordán Rodas, who has challenged the August 31 deployment in Guatemala’s Built-in Court.

President Jimmy Morales announces that he will not renew the authorization of a UN anti-corruption mission in a columnist appointment in Guatemala Burghal Guatemala on Aug. 31, 2018.

Photo: Orlando Estrada/AFP/Getty Images

The accessible collision amid Morales and CICIG has been brewing for over a year. CICIG has operated alongside the Appointment of the Accessible Prosecutor for added than a decade, but its success with high-profile cases has soared over the accomplished few years, during the administration of arch abettor Iván Velásquez, a Colombian above prosecutor and judge. Thanks to their collective investigations, dozens of politicians, lawyers, and accumulated admiral are now abaft confined for corruption, including one above president.

Morales, a above television actor with awkward bourgeois aggressive backers, was adopted admiral in backward 2015 on a beachcomber of anti-corruption animation and promised to abutment CICIG throughout his presidency. Aural a year and a bisected of demography office, however, that affiance went out the window afterwards Morales, two of his relatives, and his political affair all became the capacity of bent investigations. In August 2017, Morales approved to belch Velásquez from the country, but was blocked by the built-in court. This time around, Morales acted while Velásquez was alfresco the country. His acknowledgment barring Velásquez has additionally been declared unconstitutional, but Morales and several associates of his chiffonier accept appear of actionable orders and all-embracing manipulation, and declared that they would not admittance Velásquez to return. The Ministry of Aegis and the army announced that they would account the cloister rulings, but Morales and his abutting allies abide in accessible affront of the Built-in Court. With U.N. support, Velásquez continues as CICIG arch abettor from abroad.

As political alternation and protests mounted, government officials’ belief about why the J8s were in advanced of CICIG anon afore Morales appear affairs to bang the agency shifted. At a columnist appointment aboriginal on, Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart, Adopted Relations Minister Sandra Jovel, and others claimed that the J8s were out on a accepted patrol, allotment of advancing operations to action crime. A Ministry of the Interior address fatigued up afterwards the actuality acquired by The Intercept shows affairs for Guatemala Burghal operations extending a ages above-mentioned to and afterwards August 31. However, the specific assignment appointed for August 30 and 31, according to the document, was altered from added days. The assignment was to adviser and assure government institutions and buildings. Admiral accent a adaptation of this acumen in afterwards statements.

Then, in an October 3 radio interview, Morales about contradicted his ministers — and letters from his own appointment acquired by The Intercept — and declared that the J8s had been beatific to CICIG in case of agitated protests.

Ministry of Aegis agent Oscar Pérez referred The Intercept to the Ministry of the Interior for all questions apropos the J8s, including a appeal for animadversion on the contradictions amid statements by added officials. Pérez again beneath to acknowledgment the catechism of whether any soldiers or army cadre were present in the August 31 operations involving the J8s. The jeeps and assignment armament are beneath noncombatant command, he said. Spokespeople for the Ministry of the Interior and Morales did not acknowledge to The Intercept’s again requests for comment.

The Accompaniment Department is carefully ecology the use of the U.S.-donated jeeps, a Accompaniment Department agent told The Intercept in an email, acquainted that the admiral bidding its affair in a accessible account back the jeeps aboriginal appeared. “The US government, including the Accompaniment Department, takes allegations of abusage of U.S.-donated cartage actively and will acknowledge appropriately already the assay into the declared abusage is complete,” according to the spokesperson.

According to addition Accompaniment Department spokesperson, the abstracts specify that the J8s are to be acclimated for counternarcotics operations. They additionally specify that the assignment armament focus on eliminating bent activity, abnormally biologic trafficking, on Guatemala’s borders, according to the official. The Department of Aegis accent the aforementioned point, but in added detail.

“The J8 Jeeps were provided amid 2013 and 2018 to abutment the operations of three Guatemalan Interagency Assignment Armament (IATFs), Tecun Uman, Chorti, and Xinca that are accumulated police, military, and tax ascendancy bound boycott units led by a chief badge administrator and beneath the ascendancy of Ministry of [the Interior],” Department of Aegis agent Johnny Michael told The Intercept in an email acknowledgment to a alternation of questions.

“The abstracts beneath which these cartage were donated specify that the IATFs focus on eliminating bent activity, in accurate narcotics trafficking, on Guatemala’s borders, and that the J8s are accepted to be acclimated in a address that prioritizes bound aegis and high-crime areas. The donation abstracts specify that the J8s are to be acclimated for counternarcotics operations,” wrote Michael.

The Guatemalan government has not notified the United States of any alteration or change in mission for the donated jeeps, but the Department of Aegis is investigating “comments civil an credible alteration for capricious uses of the Jeep J8s” and is consulting with the Accompaniment Department on any added actions, according to Michael.

There is no catechism that transfers occurred. The Intercept acquired added than 100 pages of civic badge and Ministry of the Interior abstracts and letters filed with the Built-in Cloister in accomplishment of a cloister adjustment acute the institutions to explain and absolve the attendance of Jeep J8s alfresco CICIG on August 31. According to badge reports, J8s were deployed in Guatemala Burghal alpha in April 2018 “with the ambition of abbreviation the abomination rate.” The alteration of four J8s anniversary from the Chorti and Xinca interagency assignment armament was ordered on April 23 for a two-day Guatemala Burghal aborigine aegis initiative. Badge admiral connected to alteration alike added Jeep J8s from the assignment armament to a array of badge initiatives and operations all over the basic over the advance of the abutting four months, arch up to August 31.

In fact, as the arrangement of transfers to and amid added basic burghal badge operations demonstrate, J8s accept been acclimated alfresco the ambit of anniversary of the three above credibility the Accompaniment Department and Department of Aegis highlight with attention to the donation documents: purpose (combat biologic trafficking), cartography (border regions), and ascendancy (interagency assignment forces).

Details on how the U.S. government monitors its donations to adopted aegis armament can be adamantine to appear by, according to Adam Isacson, administrator of the Washington Appointment on Latin America’s aegis blank program. Between 1990 and 2005, there was a absolute brake on U.S. government aid to Guatemala’s army due to accomplished animal rights violations.

Since then, according to Isacson, best aid to Guatemala’s army, including the accompany assignment forces, has appear from the Pentagon. “Specifically, one Aegis Department program. They acclimated to alarm it Section 1004 and now they alarm it Counterdrug and Counter-Transnational Organized Crime, and as the name implies, that aid can alone be acclimated for that,” Isacson said.

The Department of Aegis has beneath advertisement requirements than State, he added. Often the program’s alone advertisement alike to Congress is a alternate spreadsheet absolute aloof the country name and category, with no added capacity on the aid.

“We accept not apparent the end use ecology agreements. We never absolutely do. They accumulate those classified usually as a amount of course,” said Isacson. As a result, the specific after-effects of acceding violations are unknown. “Is it ‘three strikes you’re out’? Is it a benumb on approaching aid? We don’t know,” he said.

Demonstrators booty allotment in a beef adjoin Guatemala Admiral Jimmy Morales’ accommodation to not renew the authorization of the U.N.-backed anti-graft agency in Guatemala City, Guatemala Sept. 14, 2018.

Photo: Luis Echeverria/Reuters

On the afternoon of August 31, Rodrigo Batres, a researcher alive with the El Observador political assay and assay association, showed up to an ad-lib assemblage in the basic city’s axial capital aloof hours afterwards Morales’s announcement.

It was not the aboriginal time that citizens protested their government’s attempts to derail the anti-corruption commission, and some bodies had pro-CICIG signs accessible to go. Others were bouncing Guatemalan flags back the U.S. Admiral in Guatemala issued its account about the jeeps actuality donated by the United States. Earlier in the day, the admiral had responded to the account that CICIG’s authorization would not be renewed.

The U.S. was “aware” of the decision, the antecedent account said, acquainted that the U.S. government believes CICIG “is an able and important accomplice in angry impunity, convalescent governance, and captivation the base answerable in Guatemala.” But again the admiral declared that the U.S. “will abide to abutment Guatemala’s action adjoin bribery and impunity” and angle that action as an basic allotment of the mutual accord amid the two countries. For abounding Guatemalans, the abridgement of a bright accusation of Morales’s accommodation and the connected abutment for Guatemala’s efforts to action bribery — after CICIG — amounted to an endorsement of Morales.

“I anticipate that account is key. The account says [the U.S.] respects the government’s accommodation and that it will abide to abutment the attempt adjoin corruption. I anticipate it is a huge appearance of abutment for the government, and that the change happened back the government afflicted up there in the U.S.,” Batres told The Intercept.

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