The Trump administration’s continued silence on President Morales’ decision to expel CICIG – a UN backed anti-corruption investigative body – speaks volumes. The White House has an unfortunate history with Guatemala, one that goes back decades and has only recently improved. However, the Trump administration’s decision to tacitly endorse the actions of President Morales endangers years of progress in democratic reforms, criminal justice and economic development.
Subverting a justice system so that it can no longer protect society and institutions from the predations of powerful criminals is one way to kill a democracy, as happened in Guatemala. But Mr. Morales’s lawless actions against the anti-corruption commission, known as Cicig, and his intentional sabotaging of the rule of law could never succeed without the seemingly unconditional support of the Trump administration and Republicans in the United States Congress. It is up to Democrats in Congress to recognize what is at stake for Guatemala, for the region and even for the United States, and act (…)
Cicig was conceived by Guatemalans and foreigners concerned that after decades of military dictatorship and internal war, the country’s fledgling democracy was becoming a corrupted narco state. Since 2007, Cicig has been collaborating with Guatemala’s Public Ministry in investigating and prosecuting cases of official corruption and organized crime.
The agreement governing Cicig’s mandate can be renewed periodically or annulled by the Guatemalan government. The anti-corruption body became especially effective after Iván Velázquez, a renowned Colombian prosecutor, was appointed by the United Nations in 2013 to lead the commission.
Guatemala has a long history of presidential corruption. Otto Pérez Molina, a former Guatemalan Army general and intelligence chief, went from the presidency to prison, convicted of heading a corruption scheme involving dozens more officials. His immediate predecessor, the center-left president Alvaro Colóm, and members of his cabinet, were also jailed for corruption.
During his televised address, Mr. Morales accused Cicig of being silent in the face of what he said were human rights abuses and of representing a threat to Guatemalan sovereignty and national security. He appeared with several people accused in panel investigations or their relatives.
Mr. Morales aimed most of his accusations at Mr. Velázquez, who he banned from the country after a trip to the United States in September. Days before his speech, Mr. Morales had announced that the commission’s mandate would not be renewed when it expires this September, a decision that, though legal, was widely condemned.
After his Jan. 7 speech, Morales gave Cicig 24 hours to leave country. On the 9th, shortly after Cicig’s international and Guatemalan prosecutors and investigators left the country, the Constitutional Court ruled against Mr. Morales. He refused to comply with that order. Mr. Velázquez continues to lead Cicig from abroad.
With the commission’s work scheduled to end in September, why the sudden urgency to expel its staff?