Guatemala court to consider anti-graft investigator’s ban

September 6, 2018
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FILE - In this Sept. 14, 2017 file photo, Ivan Velasquez, commissioner of the United Nations International Commission Against Impunity, CICIG, pauses during an interview, in Guatemala City. Velasquez was barred from re-entering the country Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, days after President Jimmy Morales decided not to renew the body's mandate. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo, File)

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The Constitutional Court agreed Wednesday to consider four appeals seeking to reverse the government of President Jimmy Morales’ decision to bar from Guatemala the head of a U.N.-backed commission investigating corruption in the country.

The court gave the president and other government bodies 48 hours to report on the reasons for the decision regarding Ivan Velasquez, head of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG for its initials in Spanish.

The Guatemalan government has called him “a person who attacks order and public security in the country.” The United Nations defended CICIG and the commissioner as playing “a pivotal role in the fight against impunity in Guatemala.”

Morales’ government announced Tuesday that Velasquez, a Colombian national, would not be allowed to return to the Central American country and that he had asked U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to name a replacement.

But the United Nations opted to keep him in charge. Commission spokesman Matias Ponce said Velasquez was working remotely from Washington, where he was holding meetings.

“The U.N. Secretariat has serious concerns about this decision, which it is currently reviewing and which does not appear to be consistent with the Agreement on the establishment of CICIG,” the United Nations said in a statement, urging Guatemala to “continue to search for a solution through dialogue.”

Working with Guatemalan prosecutors, Velasquez’s commission has pressed a number of corruption probes that have ensnared dozens of politicians, public servants and businesspeople.

One case dealing with over $1 million in purported illicit campaign financing allegedly received by Morales remains pending. The president denies wrongdoing.

Last Friday, Morales announced that he would not renew CICIG for another two-year mandate in the country, giving the commission until the end of its current term in September 2019 to transfer all its functions to Guatemalan institutions.