Guatemala's President Jimmy Morales has announced his government won't renew the work visas of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), just days after Congress announced they will move forward with a corruption investigation against him.
Accompanied by the military, Morales gave a press conference on Friday in which he delivered a series of controversial declarations, the most important being the expulsion of the same anti-corruption commission that is investigating him.
Morales said his government took the decision because the international organism was abusing its powers and violating the constitution, despite his government having given the commission unconditional support.
Working with Guatemala's attorney general, the CICIG in 2017 sought to prosecute Morales, a former comedian, over illegal financing allegations during his 2015 election campaign.
The UN was notified in 2017 about the "irresponsible actions of the commission and many of its members," violating Guatemalan laws and "inciting people and institutions to take part in corruption and impunity acts," Morales said. He accused the commission of "selective criminal persecution with an evident ideological bias" and of manipulating justice to "terrorize" the people of Guatemala.
In the letter sent to UN Secretary General Antonio Guetteres, Morales said the CICIG has been in Guatemala for more than 10 years, which he considers ample time to meet its fundamental objectives. CICIG's last term will end September 2019.
The news comes after the Senate announced on Tuesday that members of its National Investigatory Commission will investigate Morales for alleged 2015 campaign finance violations.
Attorney General Consuelo Porras said the request was made after new evidence surfaced in an investigation to determine the origin of US$1 million in undeclared campaign financing for the conservative National Convergence Front. Morales was the party's secretary general between 2015 and 2016.
The CICIG and former prosecutor Thelma Aldana had been trying to investigate him for years, but Congress passed legislation in 2017 that granted the president immunity against corruption or embezzlement inquiries.
The businesspeople who illegally financed Morales' presidential campaign even formally apologized in April 2018, admitting their crimes and committing to work with the CICIG and Aldana to provide the necessary information.
CEOs of investment and cement companies, among others, admitted giving almost US $1.2 million to the now ruling party to pay polling officers during the electoral process at Morales' request.
After the press conference, the offices of the CICIG were surrounded by the military and groups of both supporters and detractors of the commission.
Human Rights Prosecutor Jordan Rodas also attended the offices in support of the CICIG, thanking Commissioner Ivan Velasquez and his team for "the important work they do for the country against corruption and impunity."
Matias Ponce, CICIG spokesman, thanked the people of Guatemala who have expressed their support for the commission.
Morales declared CICIG head Ivan Velasquez "persona non grata" in August 2017 and ordered him to leave Guatemala, but the nation's top court suspended the decision.
Guatemala's Congress Against 'Gender Ideology'
At the end of the press conference, Morales announced his support for a controversial bill that would ban sex education in schools, same-sex marriage, and legal and safe abortions, all in the name of the defense of the family, life and freedom of expression.
"Guatemala and our government believe in life," Morales said. "Our government and Guatemala believe in family based on the marriage between man and woman. Our government and Guatemala believes in and wants free, non-intervened elections. Guatemala wants freedom, because it believes in freedom."
The 5272 legal initiative states that every individual has the right to '"freedom of consciousness and expression," meaning that no one should be forced to "accept sexual diversity as normal."
Also, article 2 defines sexual diversity as "the set of ideas, tendencies and practices by which society groups adopt a sexual conduct different to heterosexuality and incompatible with the biological and genetical aspects of the human being."
It then goes on defining family as the union of a "father, mother and the children under their tutorship," de facto prohibiting any other formula.
Currently, Guatemalan law only allows abortion in cases in which the life of the mother is at risk. The new bill would make this process even more difficult: anyone who wants an abortion must first exhaust every other medical alternative and be availed by two specialists.
Having an abortion would be punished with sentences between five and ten years in prison, while those who perform it could face up to 50 years. Also, having a spontaneous or accidental abortion would face two to four years in prison.