Guatemalans Demand Resignation of President Morales after Firing Anti-Corruption Official


EspañolPresident of Guatemala Jimmy Morales announced that he was expelling Iván Velásquez this weekend, but a judge quickly stopped the decision. Velásquez is Head of International Commission Against Impunity, or CICIG in Spanish. It’s a commission of legal experts who counsel officials on the country’s drug and gang problem, among other things.

“As President of the Republic, I reiterate that I am acting with motivation for the interests of the people of Guatemala,” Morales said. “I confirm my full decision to declare Mr. Iván Velásquez Gómez ‘persona non grata’ as Commissioner of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala.”

The announcement comes two days after Velásquez requested that Morales be stripped of his immunity and go under investigation for illicit campaign financing.

Demonstrators show their support for Velásquez in front of the CICIG headquarters in Guatemala City. (/Adriana Peralta)

Despite Morales’ efforts, the country’s Constitutional Court blocked the decision  to expel Velásquez with three votes in favor and two against. Demonstrations popped up across Guatemala in response to the decision, most notably in the capital of Guatemala City. Most of them supported Velásquez’s residency in the country, and demanded Morales’ resignation.

Several officials in Morales’ adminsitration resigned, including the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ana Maria Diéguez and Health Minister Lucrecia Hernandez Mack, Commissioner of Human Development Enrique Godoy in addition to many Local Competitiveness and Critical Infrastructure members and Board of Directors of the Municipal Development Institute.

“Given the president’s decisions to declare Mr. Ivan Velásquez ‘persona non grata’ and what that implies in the fight against political impunity, I have decided to deliver my resignation,” Godoy said.

Un grupo policial llegó a proteger el área de una de las manifestaciones.
Police line up against demonstrations during protests this weekend. (/Adriana Peralta)

Officials with the US Department of State issued a statement in favor of Velásquez, saying they were “deeply concerned” about Morales’ decision. “Mr. Velásquez has been an effective leader of CICIG in its fight against corruption in Guatemala.”

US Ambassador to Guatemala Todd Robinson said on Twitter that Morales’ attitude “has damaged the credibility of the government in this fight.” Robison also warned that Morales’ decision could impact US relations with Guatemala, according to local media who spoke with him on the phone.

“In 2015, when the government and the authorities fought very hard against corruption, both Republican and Democrat members of congress responded with a rather extensive assistance program,” he said.

Elliot Engel, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, announced his support for Velásquez, and said Congress will evaluate what type of economic support it can provide to Guatemala in 2018.

“President Morales has acted, now the US Congress and the Department of State have to examine our assistance to the Guatemalan government and see if the Morales administration is willing to meet the conditions for our budget,” Engel’s statement said.

Diplomatic representatives of the United States, Germany, Canada, Spain, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the European Union jointly established their position in favor of Velasquez and the work of CICIG.

“Under the leadership of Commissioner Velásquez, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) has made a decisive contribution to strengthening judicial sector institutions in Guatemala,” a United Nations statement read, adding, “Velasquez has worked tirelessly to promote a culture that defends the rule of law and that rejects corruption.”

Source: AP

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