Guatemala’s Constitutional Court issued an order Sunday blocking the expulsion of the lead UN anti-corruption official only hours after President Jimmy Morales ordered his expulsion. Morales argued that Ivan Velasquez, head of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) [official website] misused his authoritative position by pressuring the legislative process and publicly accusing Guatemalans of violations without respecting their due process rights. The same day of his announcement, Morales fired the foreign minister for failure to execute the order and replaced him with another who is currently under investigation for illegal adoptions. According to a spokesperson for the US State Department [press release], Velasquez has acted as the lead in efforts to combat corruption and impunity in Guatemala for a decade. The US, Germany, Canada, Spain, France, UK, Sweden, Switzerland and the EU issued [WP report] a joint statement expressing their opposition to Morales attempt to expel Velasquez, stating that “[the commission plays].” Prior to Morales’ expulsion order, Velasquez and Guatemala chief prosecutor announced on Friday plans to remove Morales’ immunity in order to investigate how he financed his 2015 campaign, alleging he has not accounted for more than $800,000 in funding and has hidden his party’s accounts. Citizens, in protest of Morales, declared a state of siege in the capital, and some ministers resigned. A ruling on the request to void Morales’ immunity is currently being decided.
Guatemala has a history of political scandal. Former president Otto Pérez Molina and ex-vice president Roxana Baldetti were accused JURIST report] of taking nearly 130 million in bribes in the beginning of 2011 by Guatemalan Attorney General Thelma Aldana. In August 2015 the Guatemalan Supreme Court approved [JURIST report] prosecutors’ requests to impeach Molina after he announced his intent to not resign after the scandal broke. In October, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] welcomed a draft bill [JURIST report] on constitutional justice reforms in the Guatemala legislature, which “represents an historic opportunity to consolidate the remarkable progress the country has achieved in the fight against impunity and corruption in recent years.” In June a Guatemalan judge who served as general secretary for Guatemala’s soccer federation pled guilty [JURIST report] to fraud and conspiracy in the FIFA scandal.