Guatemala pulls out of UN-backed anti-corruption commission | News | DW | 08.01.2019
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Guatemala pulls out of UN-backed anti-corruption commission

The decision comes after more than a year of tension between the government and the UN-sponsored anti-corruption group. The independent body is investigating top officials and people close to President Jimmy Morales.

Guatemala will end a UN-sponsored anti-corruption commission, which has been investigating high-ranking members of the country's government and President Jimmy Morales' campaign financing.

For more than a decade, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) has had the power to conduct independent investigations in cooperation with the country's prosecutors.

Read more: More than two-thirds of all countries corrupt, TI report says

Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel announced Guatemala would abruptly pull out of the CICIG eight months earlier than expected after meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday.

"Therefore we reported to the secretary-general that within 24 hours the agreement [establishing the CICIG] will be terminated by the Guatemalan government," she said.

Jovel accused the CICIG of overreaching its authority and interfering in Guatemala's sovereignty.

Watch video 00:32

Morales expels anti-graft chief (30.08.2017)

Brewing tensions, constitutional crisis

The decision follows more than a year of tensions between the anti-corruption body and the government.

In August, Morales announced he would not renew the CICIG's mandate, which was due to expire on September 3, 2019, and days later barred the body's chief from re-entering the country after a business trip.

Last month, the government refused to extend the visas of 11 CICIG members despite a constitutional court ruling that the government must extend the visas.

The dispute between the president and the court plunged Guatemala into a government crisis.

Ivan Velasquez (Getty Images/AFP/O. Estrada)

CICIG chief Ivan Velasquez has been barred from Guatemala since last August

Meanwhile, Morales' government is trying to get three of the constitutional court's judges dismissed.

"It's all part of the same strategy to undermine the court with allegedly legitimate procedures designed to deprive it of legitimacy," Marcela Martino, sub-director for the program for Central America and Mexico at the Center for Justice and International Law, told DW. "We are talking about a breach of the constitutional order."

Martino said she fears what lies ahead for the numerous judges, prosecutors and regular citizens who "risked their lives in the fight against impunity." Their human rights are seriously endangered, she warned.

"The risk is that one underestimates the consequences that a breach of the rule of law in one country could have in the entire region," Martino said.

Morales in CICIG's crosshairs

Morales, a former comedian, came to power in a landslide 2015 vote amid disillusionment with Guatemala's political class.

At the time, Vice President Roxana Baldetti and President Otto Perez Molina had resigned to face CICIG-led fraud and corruption charges. Baldetti was sentenced to prison in 2017 and Molina remains in custody.

In 2017, the CICIG sought to prosecute Morales over illegal election financing. That followed separate graft investigations into members of the president's family and inner circle.

Over the past 12 years, the CICIG has succeeded in dismantling criminal and corrupt state structures and modernizing criminal investigation procedures, pressing charges against more than 600 people.

cw/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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