Ivan Velasquez, director of Guatemala’s UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) says he’s “surprised and concerned” at Luis Almagro’s request via Twitter to the commission to “not influence” Guatemala’s June presidential elections. Velasco made the statement in response to a Monday tweet by secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, in which Almagro calls for “transparent” Guatemalan elections “without influences or external factors, including from CICIG.”
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Velasquez, who was temporarily banned from Guatemala by President Jimmy Morales as the commission got closer to investigating the head of state strongly linked to corruption allegations, sent a letter to Almagro Monday saying: "I am writing to you in order to express our surprise and concern about the statement issued today via Twitter."
Talking with presidential candidates @partidoune @SandraTorresGUA y @CarlosRaulGt about the importance of garaunteeing transparent #Elecciones2019 with political and judicial certainty that allow the @TSEGuatemala to work without influences from external factor, including @CICIGgt
Almagro, tweeted a statement on Monday about the “importance of guaranteeing transparent elections, with legal and political certainty, that allows the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to work without the influence of external factors, including CICIG," seemingly insinuating the anti-corruption commission would somehow meddle in Guatemala’s June 16 presidential polls.
The statement was compounded by the fact that it captioned a photograph of Almagro posing with Sandra Torres in his Washington, D.C. office. Torres is a 2019 presidential candidate and was a 2015 presidential candidate as well as being Guatemala’s first lady between 2008 and 2011. She is being investigated by CICIG and the federal prosecutor’s office for illicit electoral financing, unregistered electoral financing and illicit association. The top lawyers say Torres’ party, National Unity of Hope (UNE) failed to report over US$ 2.85 million in funds to the TSE during her 2015 bid for the presidency.
Guatemala’s Supreme Court threw out the case in March.
Velasquez said in his letter to Almagro that illicit electoral financing is “of a highly complex and serious" nature adding that "the commission has addressed the issue comprehensively through the presentation of a thematic report, legal reform recommendations, and institutional strengthening activities … to investigate criminal cases."
The CICIG director says his organization will continue to support the prosecutor's office, and that “together with international aid workers and social organizations in Guatemala,” his commission has supported the TSE to create oversight instruments, protocols and training to the personnel of the new Specialized Unit of Control and Fiscalization of the Finances of the Political Parties.
The CICIG director said he’s at the “disposal” of the OAS to report on the commission’s “achievements” and is dedicated to the CICIG mandate to strengthen the TSE.
Velasquez said in the letter he shared Almagro's "concern" and the "desire" to develop "free (and) transparent elections in Guatemala" and congratulated the OAS for “the important role it has played” in previous polls. “We trust that this will be the case in the next electoral process," concluded the Colombian lawyer.