CIACS, which stands for Cuerpos Ilegales y Aparatos Clandestinos de Serguridad or the Illegal Clandestine Security Apparatuses in English, is a group of criminal organizations based in Guatemala. Many of these groups were created after the incredibly violent 36-year long civil war, that took place in Guatemala from 1960-1996. During the war many high level intelligence and security personnel were trained in the government. One of these particularly infamous groups was the EMP, a group created to protect the president and his family. The EMP ended up often misusing their power to arrest and interrogate opposition and had strong and sinister ties to death squads. During the Civil War many of these intelligence, security and military groups ended up coming into contact with criminal groups. After the end of the Civil War many of these groups were disbanded, leaving high-ranking officials without jobs. Criminal groups then recruited many of these officials, with whom many they already had ties, creating groups with strong connections to government intelligence and security. Many of these groups then fought to prevent trials of war crimes, involving former military and officials.
These criminal groups or CIACS today are elusive and involved in a host of illegal activities including contraband, drugs, illegal adoptions and the creation of fake passports. They have become a sort of parallel government, using their skills and connections to corrupt the Guatemalan government, in particular their judicial system.
Some CIACS have a legal status but commit illegal acts and operate in secrecy. Other CIACS are embedded in complicated structures with political or business related goals and act as the intelligence or military department. While other CIACS join and break apart easily to complete certain tasks. The CIACS with the most power are those with their own private corporations or the ones involved with organized crime groups. The groups involved with organized crime tend to be heavily involved in local governments whereas, corporations have more ties to the federal government. Like the Sicilian mafia CIACS relies on weakness of state institutions, providing security, intelligence and elimination of competition for legal and illegal businesses. Their main task is to keep their impunity by having a malleable government that defies attempts of reform or modernization.
One of the ways CIACS maintains their impunity is through corruption of the judicial system. La Oficinita is one of the particular CIACS that operates within the Attorney General’s office. They have stopped cases from going to trial and their roles within security establishments had created an almost complete impunity. Famous examples have included former president Alfonso Portillo, who had strong connections to CIACS. Portillo was charged with embezzling money from the Defense Ministry’s pension funds but was suspiciously found innocent. Members of CIACS have been known to use their connections to get particular judges hired. One example is Terna X or three people, with strong connections to various CIACS, on the postulation committee for the Supreme Court. Terna X had tampered with the voting to get four judges elected, that were found “unsuitable” by the CICIG, or the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala.
Today the CIACS main threat to impunity is CICIG. CICIG is a commission started by the United Nations and the Guatemalan government to strengthen the government and justice in Guatemala while making CIACS accountable for their crimes. CICIG has had some trouble prosecuting elusive members of CIACS but in general they have raised awareness and have been able to reveal how widespread some of the criminal connections are. Raising hope among Guatemalans that CIACS involvement will soon dissipate.