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  • A protest in support of the UN anti-corruption commission in Guatemala, January 6, 2019.

    A protest in support of the UN anti-corruption commission in Guatemala, January 6, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 January 2019

Guatemala's foreign minister announced a premature end to CICIG's mandate in the country.

Guatemalans staged protests on Saturday both for and against the government’s decision to end the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala’s (CICIG) mandate prematurely.

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CICIG’s mandate was slated to end in September, after President Jimmy Morales decided to revoke work visas and expel the organization due to a personal and political dispute. Recent developments and controversies, however, brought forward the deadline.

Several organizations staged a “March for Justice and Democracy” at noon on Saturday, ending with a protest at Constitution Square in the city’s center.

The march protested the government's unilateral decision to end the mandate early. It also called attention to Morales’ refusal to comply with the Constitutional Court, which ruled in favor of the international organization’s permanent presence in Guatemala.

A group of lawmakers close to the government and led by the representative Guillermo Pellecer Rodas filed a complaint against three members of the court for “exceeding its power,” arguing that foreign policy is solely the responsibility of the president.

The protesters, who support the CC members, were joined by musicians, poets and other artists performing at various sites throughout the day.

On the other side, several business owners and merchants organized a demonstration in favor of Morales, starting at Terminal Market and also ending at Constitution Square, but earlier than the previous protest.

People chanted in favor of Morales, Guatemala’s sovereignty and against the CICIG, using slogans such as “If we work, we eat,” and warning that the Central American country could turn into another Cuba or Venezuela.

The area was safeguarded by security forces, and several streets near government offices in Guatemala City’s historic center were blocked.

The same merchants gathered a few thousand people in favor of Morales in May 2018, when the president gave a speech in the same square attacking the CICIG, Campesino organizations such as the Campesino Development Committee (Codeca), the human rights ombudsman and the Public Ministry.

Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel announced Monday that the government had reached an agreement with the CICIG after meeting UN Secretary Antonio Gutierrez, who protested the decision, and gave its members 24 hours to leave the country and terminate their anti-corruption mandate.

The CICIG was established over a decade ago 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 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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