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News > Latin America

Guatemalan Court Ruling Favors CICIG But Chief Remains Banned

  • CICIG Commissioner Ivan Velasquez.

    CICIG Commissioner Ivan Velasquez. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 September 2018

The United Nations said Wednesday that it would send an assistant director to lead its anti-graft mission in Guatemala.

Guatemala's Constitutional Court confirmed Wednesday that the chief of the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Colombian lawyer Ivan Velasquez, can enter the country and called on government officials to refrain from issuing orders that prevent his return.

Guatemala's Institutional Crisis Deepens as CICIG-Morales Spat Continues

The court's order was addressed to Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart, Defense Minister Luis Miguel Ralda, Foreign Affairs Minister Sandra Jovel, the director of the national police Erwin Tzi, and the deputy director for migratory control. 

On Sunday the court ruled that the government had to allow the CICIG commissioner to enter the country. Following a presidential order, the foreign affairs and interior ministers announced in a press conference that the ban on Velasquez was still in force and argued the court's ruling didn't apply because Velasquez ceased being commissioner on Sept. 3. 

This executive decision was widely criticized and activists along with officials, including non-profits and the human rights ombudsman, have promised legal action, or called on the court to expand its ruling.   

Following that request, on Wednesday the Court specified the ruling applied to Velasquez and warned the government would be committing a crime by failing to comply with the ruling allowing him to enter Guatemala. 

Morales' latest order is only one of several attempts made to remove Velasquez as head of the CICIG. In 2017, after the CICIG implicated Morales' brother and son in cases of corruption, Morales tried to expel him from the country but was unable to do so after a Constitutional Court ruling. In the same year, Congress passed legislation that granted the president immunity against corruption and embezzlement inquiries.

Morales is currently being investigated by Congress on alleged illegal financial contributions during his 2015 presidential campaign.

CICIG spokesperson Matias Ponce said Wednesday that Velasquez "has been at all moments in use of his faculties, as the agreement between the Guatemalan state and the U.N. stipulates." Ponce's statements came after the U.N. ratified Velasquez as CICIG Commissioner in response to a request by the Guatemalan government for the U.N. to send a list of four candidates from which the government could choose the "ideal" commissioner. 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres responded saying "he finds no reason to withdraw the confidence in Commissioner Velasquez. However, given the situation, I have asked the commissioner to appoint a deputy commissioner to continue the work in the country, after consulting with national authorities."

National and international human rights groups have called on President Morales to obey the court's ruling and allow Velasquez to return to the country. 

The executive has not responded to the U.N.'s decision or the Constitutional Court's order.

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