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  HOME | Central America

Guatemala’s Constitutional Court Halts CICIG Chief’s Expulsion

GUATEMALA CITY – The Constitutional Court issued on Sunday a temporary injunction suspending President Jimmy Morales’s order declaring the head of the UN-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) persona non grata and ordering him to leave Guatemala immediately.

Constitutional Court chief justice Francisco de Mata Vela told reporters the injunction was issued in response to a filing by two attorneys.

“This court grants the temporary injunction requested and suspends the decision made by the president,” the chief justice said, adding that the Interior Ministry and Foreign Ministry should “abstain from executing the decision of the president, which is suspended.”

The judicial body’s justices voted 3-2 to grant the injunction, Constitutional Court spokesman Santiago Palomo said.

Earlier in the day, Morales had ordered CICIG chief Ivan Velasquez to leave the country, citing his constitutional authority to declare him persona non grata.

“Under my constitutional powers and in accordance with Article 183, Section C of the constitution, I declare Ivan Velasquez persona non grata in his role as commissioner of the CICIG and order that he leave the Republic of Guatemala immediately,” the president said.

Morales also fired his foreign minister, Carlos Raul Morales, and deputy foreign minister, Carlos Ramiro Martinez, officials said.

The president named Sandra Jovel to replace Carlos Raul Morales as Guatemala’s top diplomat.

Attorney General’s Office spokesmen said Jovel was indicted in a case involving irregularities in the adoption of a child.

A hearing is scheduled in the case on Monday, AG’s office spokesmen told EFE.

Jovel was forced to resign as deputy foreign minister due to the allegations.

Mynor Edgardo Quintana Sanchez and Dominga Lissette Ordoñez Saenz, an adviser to Jovel during her time as deputy foreign minister, were also indicted in the case.

Quintana Sanchez and Ordoñez Saenz face child abandonment and other charges in the case.

Presidential chief of staff Carlos Martinez swore in Jovel, who is expected to carry out the order to expel Velasquez, a Colombian attorney.

The Office of the President did not say whether Carlos Raul Morales refused to execute the expulsion order against Velasquez, who has been in charge of CICIG since 2013.

Morales’s decision to expel Velasquez comes after CICIG and the Attorney General’s Office asked the Supreme Court on Friday to lift the president’s immunity from prosecution so he can be investigated for alleged violations of campaign finance laws.

The accusations were announced at a joint press conference where Attorney General Thelma Aldana was joined by Velasquez.

Morales, in his capacity as legal representative of his party, “impeded the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the citizenry from learning the identity of the financers who contributed to his campaign,” Velasquez said.

The evidence indicates that the president’s FCN-Nacion party broke the law by accepting anonymous contributions and then failing to report them, the CICIG chief said.

The man who succeeded Morales as party chair after he became president, Edgar Ovalle, is currently on the run from prosecution for his suspected role in human rights abuses during Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war.

The FCN-Nacion failed to meet its legal obligation to provide ledgers, bank statements and other documentation showing the sources of funding and the exact amount of contributions, prosecutors allege.

Rumors had been swirling for some time that Morales had asked the UN to remove Velasquez from his post at CICIG, which was created in 2007 to help Guatemala’s criminal justice system fight organized crime, corruption and impunity more effectively.

Morales, who took office in January 2016, agreed to extend CICIG’s mission until 2019.

The US, German, Canadian, Spanish, French, Italian, British, Swedish, Swiss and European Union embassies released a joint statement praising Velasquez and expressing regret over his expulsion.

The UN also expressed disappointment over Velasquez’s expulsion and called on Guatemalan officials to treat the CICIG chief with “respect.”

CICIG and the AG’s office have investigated corruption cases involving about 300 people, including former officials, businessmen, politicians, members of Congress and mayors, among others.


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