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News > Latin America

Guatemalan President Sued for Contempt of Court Over Anti-Graft Body

  • Guatemalans take part in Independence day protests against Morales. Sign reads

    Guatemalans take part in Independence day protests against Morales. Sign reads "I am not afraid." | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 September 2018

Human rights groups argue the executive is violating the Constitutional Court's order to allow CICIG's Commissioner to re-enter Guatemala.

Human rights organizations filed a lawsuit Monday against Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart, General Solicitor Luis Donado, and Foreign Affairs Minister Sandra Jovel for violating a Constitutional Court ruling ordering the government to allow the head of the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) to re-enter the country.

Guatemala Independence Marked by Calls for Morales to Resign

The suit was presented after these government officials reiterated Guatemala will not allow Ivan Velasquez, head of the CICIG, to return to Guatemala despite the court ruling. According to Donado, the Constitutional Court ruling does not order the president to allow Velasquez’s entry.

However, after the ruling, Dina Ochoa, one of five judges on the court, said: “the plenary of magistrates annuls the decision taken by President Jimmy Morales, which prevents the return of the head of CICIG."

The General Attorney’s Office also disagrees with the executive’s interpretation of the court’s ruling. Through a public communique, it stated that it was notified of the Constitutional Court’s resolution “that grants provisional protection in relation to the prohibition for Mr. Ivan Velasquez Gomez, CICIG Commissioner, from entering the country.”

General Attorney Maria Consuelo Porras insisted the executive must respect the law and international commitments and stressed she would continue to work with the CICIG.

Foreign Minister Jovel announced during the same press conference that the government had issued a request to the U.N. demanding it submits a list of candidates to replace Velasquez within 48 hours, who was banned from entering the country by President Morales, currently under investigation by Congress for alleged links to illicit funding during his 2015 presidential campaign.

Guatemala Troops Face-off With Protesters Over Anti-Graft Body

“Guatemala will be able to make the considerations the case warrants and give its approval to the person who has the ideal profile for the interests of the Guatemalan state,” Jovel explained.

According to the foreign minister, Velasquez ceased being the head of CICIG on Sept. 3, 2018.

In the diplomatic letter, Guatemala affirms that it doesn’t recognize Velasquez as commissioner and that this decision is “definite and non-negotiable.” It also warns U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres he would be responsible for “any adverse circumstance that emerge from the lack of designation of a new Commissioner.”

Earlier this month President Morales requested the U.N. appoint a new Commissioner, but Guterres asked Velasquez to continue directing anti-corruption efforts from abroad "until there is more clarity on the situation."

Morales’ decision to not renew CICIG's mandate and the work visas for the members of the CICIG has sparked national and international outrage. Guatemalans have organized several protests to demand respect for the anti-corruption body and have issued calls for Morales to step down.

On Monday students of the Centro Universario de Occidente occupied the school to reject the executive’s remarks and actions against the Constitutional Court while the students at San Carlos University announced a march for Thursday to demand the resignation of both Morales and his vice president Jafeth Cabrera.  

Investigations by the CICIG have implicated Morales and many of his close associates, including his brother and his son in cases of corruption. Morales’ son Jose Manuel and his brother Sammy are facing trial for defrauding the state in 2013.

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