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News > Latin America

Guatemala: CICIG Warns of Gov't Retaining Passport for 26 Workers

  • Guatemalans marched against government corruption on Sept. 20.

    Guatemalans marched against government corruption on Sept. 20. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 October 2018

The U.N.-backed antigraft body issued an alert over the fact that the passports of 26 of their workers are being retained by Guatemala's Foreign Affairs Ministry. 

The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), created in 2006 by the United Nations and the Guatemalan state, warned Monday that Guatemala’s Foreign Affairs Ministry continues to retain the passports of 26 CICIG workers since Aug. 28, when they requested visas.

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“Over a month ago the employees have not had their passports returned. Until today they’ve received no accurate information regarding when they will receive their passports or their courtesy visas” as international workers, Matias Ponce, CICIG spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Marta Larrea, responded saying they have “no new information” on the visas or passports. According to the CICIG spokesperson, the provision of visas by the Guatemalan government is stipulated in the agreement through which the CICIG was created.

Ponce warned that by retaining CICIG workers’ passports the government is undermining their right to freedom of movement. “They see their right to free movement and circulation affected, and they don’t have their official IDs, in this case, their passports.”

So far, the foreign affairs ministry has granted 16 visas to CICIG workers and eight to relatives, out of the 20 requested. 

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CICIG’s warning comes as the Guatemalan government, headed by President Jimmy Morales, has come under national and international scrutiny after it announced on Aug. 31 it will not renew the CICIG’s mandate after it expires in September 2019. Days later, Morales issued an order to ban Ivan Velasquez, head of the CICIG, from entering the country arguing he represents a threat to the country’s security.

His order was overturned by the Constitutional Court, but the executive has refused to adhere to the court’s ruling. This is the second time Morales, investigated by the CICIG along with relatives and close associates, has attempted to remove Velasquez as head of the CICIG. It is also the second time, the Constitutional Court has ruled against such actions. 

When Morales announced the decision he was flanked by members of the military, prompting fears among human rights defenders. However, last week Oscar Perez, spokesperson for Guatemala’s Ministry of Defense confirmed the ministry will uphold the court’s order to refrain from any action that would ban Velasquez’s entry. “It is a judicial order of the highest court and that decision is respected,” Perez told the local press.

On Monday the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) requested the Guatemalan government authorize an “immediate” visit to the country to evaluate the CICIG’s role in the fight against corruption and impunity.

The Guatemalan government accused Velasquez of abusing power before the IACHR and assured the court that Guatemala’s institutions are ready to take over.

Guatemalans disagree. Since Morales announced his decision against the CICIG and its chief, Guatemalans have organized a series of protests demanding the CICIG to remain, and for Morales to step down.  

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