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  • Since October, when the president tried to expel the head of the anti-corruption body, the judicial and executive branches have been in open confrontation.

    Since October, when the president tried to expel the head of the anti-corruption body, the judicial and executive branches have been in open confrontation. | Photo: Efe

Published 28 December 2018

The country's top court ordered the government of Jimmy Morales to renew the visas for 11 workers of the international anti-corruption body, CICIG.

The Constitutionality Court of Guatemala has rejected appeals presented by the country’s foreign affairs ministry, ordering the renovation of work visas for 11 lawyers and investigators of the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

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The Court’s decision is the latest in a long-standing dispute between the judiciary, which seeks to protect CICIG’s mandate and an executive that seeks to oust the international body.

On Wednesday, Guatemala’s Justice Department presented impeachment proceedings against three Constitutionality Court judges -Francisco de Mata, Boanerge Mejia, and Gloria Porras- before the Supreme Court.

The three are being accused of malfeasance, violating the Constitution, and abuse of power. According to the Attorney General Jorge Luis Donado, there have been “a series of resolutions by the Constitutionality Court, on the part of the three justices mentioned, that border arbitrariness and illegality.”

Donado argued their actions are “within what the law allows for … and in defense of the state’s interests.”

On Dec. 21, the foreign affairs ministry presented appeals requesting the Constitutionality Court to clarify “some doubts” on several rulings in favor of CICIG investigators and lawyers, ordering the renovation of their work visas.

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Three days prior, during the CICIG’s holiday period, the government of Jimmy Morales notified 11 CICIG workers they had 72 hours to leave the country after denying them a visa, or, in some cases revoking the work visas they had been issued.

Guatemala’s Chief of the Public Prosecutor's Office Maria Consuelo Porras announced her office launched an investigation against Foreign Ministry Sandra Jovel for revoking the investigators’ visas after an organization called “Alliance for the Reform,” which gathers about 30 social and human rights groups, filed an appeal.

One of the targeted CICIG officials, Cesar Giron, led a fraud case against the president’s brother and son, which led to a trial that began last year, and is still ongoing.

Opposition groups have interpreted Morales’s decision as a desperate move to avoid investigations on him and close allies. The CICIG has been trying to investigate him on corruption allegations but Congress has blocked every attempt.

CICIG was established over a decade ago with the authority to conduct independent investigations and work with the country’s prosecutors. It has often clashed with Morales, whose National Convergence Front is close to military officers responsible for many human rights' violations during the country’s civil war.

The CICIG brought down Morales’ predecessor, Otto Perez, with a corruption probe and sought to prosecute Morales over illegal financing allegations.

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