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News > Guatemala

Guatemala's Court To Allow Ivan Velasquez Back Into the Country

  • Ivan Velasquez and Thelma Aldana receiving the Right Livelihood Honorary Award, Sweden Nov. 23, 2018.

    Ivan Velasquez and Thelma Aldana receiving the Right Livelihood Honorary Award, Sweden Nov. 23, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 November 2018

The head of the anti-graft body CICIG was banned by President Jimmy Morales due their corruption investigations in Guatemala.

Guatemala’s Constitutional Court (CC) declared that there’s no legal impediment for Ivan Velasquez, the head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), to return to the country, despite the president’s challenge to the appeal.


Guatemalan Court Ruling Favors CICIG But Chief Remains Banned

On Sept. 16 the CC had unanimously ruled on an appeal that President Jimmy Morales must let Velasquez back into the country, but days later Morales himself, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Guatemalan Institute of Migration and the Public Ministry, the National Defense and the Interior Ministry all tried to reverse it.

The well-known businessman and director of the far-right Foundation Against Terrorism Ricardo Mendez Ruiz, also tried to challenge it.

Judges Francisco de Mata Vela, Neftaly Aldana, Gloria Porras and Bonerje Mejia voted in favor of the court’s original appeal, but the President of the CC Dina Josefina Ochoa voted against it.

The Guatemalan government led by the right-wing Morales, a former comedian, and the National Convergence Front (FCN) have been at odds with the U.N.-backed CICIG when in 2017 the latter tried to investigate the president on well documented corruption charges.

The business people involved in the corruption case even admitted to have illegally financed Morales’s campaign in 2015 and asked the Guatemalan people for forgiveness.

However, the Congress has blocked every probe by the CICIG and the former Attorney General Thelma Aldana on Morales and his family since 2017.


Guatemala: CICIG Warns of Gov't Retaining Passport for 26 Workers

On Aug. 31, Morales announced that he wouldn’t renew the CICIG’s mandate arguing its members were violating the constitution and posed a threat to national security with their “selective justice.” When Velasquez left Guatemala for a work-related visit to the U.S., Morales prohibited his return citing “order and public security” reasons.

After sparking an international controversy, the U.N. and the General Secretary Antonio Guterres decided that Velasquez should remain as CICIG’s head, with an acting commissioner on the ground in Guatemala.

The government, however, has demanded the U.N. to appoint a new commissioner for the CICIG until its mandate expires on Sept. 3, 2019.

After the U.N. General Assembly in September, Morales declared that he had made an agreement with Guterres to appoint a new commissioner in a collaborative decision, but a U.N. spokesperson denied such an agreement existed and reiterated their support for Velasquez.

The CC’s new ruling must be complied with at all levels of government in Guatemala.

Morales’ presidency has not issued a declaration in response.

The CICIG was a key-actor in the political and legal events that led to the removal of former President Otto Perez Molina and the corruption trials of a great many of his staff.

Both Velasquez and Aldana received this year's Right Livelihood Honorary Award "for their innovative work in exposing abuse of power and prosecuting corruption, thus rebuilding people's trust in public institutions", during a ceremony at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden Friday.

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