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Spain judge orders release of Guatemala's former interior minister

A Spanish judge on Tuesday ordered the release of former Guatemalan interior minister Carlos Vielmann after authorities in Guatemala failed to request his extradition. Vielmann has been imprisoned in Spain [El Mundo report, in Spanish] since his arrest in Madrid last month, and was to be extradited on charges [AP report] that he ordered the extrajudicial execution of seven inmates at the Pavon prison near Guatemala City in 2006. The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) [official website, in Spanish] issued the warrant [JURIST report] for Vielmann's arrest in August, along with warrants for other former Guatemalan officials in its continued effort to end criminal impunity and dismantle illegal security groups there. Vielmann maintains that the inmates died in their attempt to fight against the invasion of thousands of police officers and soldiers seeking to regain control of the prison.

Official corruption has long been a problem in Guatemala, and there has been recent disagreement over whether CICIG is serving its purpose, with some arguing that it has overstepped its mandate [AP report]. However, the commission has been busy prosecuting alleged criminals. In June, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court [official website, in Spanish] removed Attorney General Conrado Reyes from office after the former head of CICIG, Carlos Castresana, accused him of ties to organized crime [JURIST reports]. In March, following an 11-month investigation with CICIG, Guatemalan authorities arrested two high-ranking police officials [JURIST report] tasked with leading the country's war on drugs on charges of corruption and drug trafficking. Also in March, the US State Department released its 2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report [text, PDF], which highlighted Guatemala as a key player in the Latin American drug trade. Corruption among high-ranking officials was cited as one of the country's biggest problems. The Guatemalan Congress voted to create CICIG [JURIST report] in 2007 in order to investigate organized crime and official corruption.

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