Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales’ decision to ban the entry of United Nations-backed chief of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) has led to an institutional crisis. The Constitutional Court ruled against the executive action, but representatives of the executive have insisted on the ban, and now the country’s Human Rights Ombudsman has requested legal action against members of the executive.
Ombudsman Jordan Rodas called on the Constitutional Court to dismiss the Minister of the Interior Enrique Degenhart and Foreign Affairs Minister Sandra Jovel, who restated the government's position barring Ivan Velasquez, head of the CICIG, from returning to Guatemala despite a court ruling on Sept. 16, stating that they had no right to do so.
As evidence of the executive’s contempt of court, Rodas cited the order to not recognize Velasquez as Commissioner, Guatemala’s diplomatic request to the U.N. to send a list of candidates to replace Velasquez within 48 hours, and Degenhart’s declaration prohibiting Velazquez from entering the country.
He also called on the Constitutional Court justices to criminally prosecute Morales, Jovel, and Degenhart for disobeying the country’s highest court.
The executive contends that the Constitutional Court ruling does not order the president to allow Velasquez’s entry. The ruling explicitly orders the government to allow the entry of the CICIG Commissioner, but it doesn’t name Velasquez.
The Citizen Action group, a non-profit organization with a 20-year history of advocacy, has requested a clarification by the court specifying the protection order it issued applied to Velasquez.
Guatemala is facing a moment in which “a powerful few, are accelerating the disappearance of the Commission and blocking the return of Velasquez (but there) is also a civil society and state institutions, like the human rights ombudsman's office, that will not allow it,” Rodas said.
For weeks Guatemalans have been protesting against Morales decision to revoke CICIG's mandate.
President Morales’ animosity towards the commission isn't new. Last year, Morales tried to expel Ivan Velasquez from the country but was unable to do so after a Constitutional Court ruling, and in 2017 Congress passed legislation that granted the president immunity against corruption and embezzlement inquiries.
The most recent actions against the commision come after Congress announced it would investigate Morales to determine whether to lift his immunity from prosecution in order to allow for a trial over illegal financing allegations during his 2015 election campaign.
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.