For months, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has been trying to stop a United Nations-backed anti-corruption investigation into his government.
Morales, a stand-up comedian who ran for president in 2015 with the slogan “Not corrupt, nor a thief,” is accused of campaign finance violations. His administration is under investigation by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, an influential international corruption panel called “CICIG” in Spanish.
Last September, Morales told CICIG investigators they were no longer welcome in Guatemala and denied a visa to lead prosecutor Ivan Velasquez. The courts quickly ruled that Velasquez must be allowed to re-enter Guatemala to continue his work, but Morales has refused.
On Jan. 6, immigration officers sent by Morales arrested Velasquez’s deputy prosecutor at the Guatemala City airport. The Constitutional Court ordered his release and reiterated that the government must let the CICIG continue its investigation.
Instead, Guatemala’s attorney general began impeachment proceedings against three of the court’s five justices, saying they had exceeded their authority by ruling on foreign affairs issues.
More is at risk than the United Nations’ work. The showdown between Morales and Guatemalan courts has plunged the country into crisis, and its democracy hangs in the balance.
What Is the CICIG?
Protests that started small – a few thousand demonstrators marching through Guatemala City over the Jan. 12 weekend – are now spreading across the country.
Morales has reason to be worried.
The CICIG was invited into Guatemala in 2007 to eliminate “clandestine illegal armed groups” – criminal networks that have infiltrated its government. These shadowy webs of corruption, the subject of my 2017 book on Guatemala, include…