Guatemalan civil groups and universities are fighting President Jimmy Morales’s attempt to ban the head of the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Ivan Velasquez, from entering the country.
A press conference brought social leaders, academics, Campesinos, women’s activists, and students together in a united effort to protest the president’s Tuesday request to airlines to "take the pertinent measures to prevent" Velasquez from boarding a Guatemala-bound plane, citing his presence is a risk to "constitutional order."
Lenina Garcia, general secretary of the Association of University Students of the State University of San Carlos (USAC), said Morales’s actions "are a threat and a risk for the population because it could be threatening to the constitutional order."
Human Rights Ombudsman Jordan Rodas encouraged social activists to unite, "The rule of law is at stake, we can not allow a coup d'état, we must safeguard the institutions, respecting the rule of law, knowing that it is not a monarchy but a democracy."
World organizations observing the series of events describe Morales’s behavior as "a step backward" and damaging to national institutions’ efforts against corruption and impunity.
Representatives from the Citizen Front Against Corruption (FCCC) urged the president to reconsider his decision and “abstain from breaking the constitutional order and the rule of law."
The travel ban against Velasquez follows the president’s decision to forego a renewal of the CICIG's mandate and work visas for members of the CICIG. Velasquez was outside the country on a work-related trip to present a report of the Commission’s work.
Morales has also called on the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a new head for CICIG. Guterres issued a request, however, for Velasquez to continue directing anti-corruption efforts from abroad "until there is more clarity on the situation."
The most recent actions against the commision come after Congress announced it would investigate Morales to determine whether to lift his immunity from prosecution to enable a trial over illegal financing allegations during his 2015 election campaign.