Protesters marched in the streets in Guatemala City this week after it was reported that President Jimmy Morales would ask the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to remove the head of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, Ivan Velasquez.
Morales won the 2015 presidential election by a wide margin. As a candidate, Jimmy Morales was seen as a political outsider who ran on the campaign slogan “neither corrupt nor a thief.” That election came on the heels of President Otto Fernando Perez Molina’s resignation from office and subsequent arrest on corruption charges.
The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala started in 2007 after a request from the Guatemalan government. The Commission’s three main objectives are to investigate illegal groups that commit crimes that affect fundamental human rights of Guatemalans, collaborate with the government to dismantle these groups, and make public policy recommendations. Its original mandate two-year mandate has been extended four times. The Commission’s current mandate expires in September 2019.
Ivan Velasquez was appointed by the UN Secretary-General in 2013 to head the Commission. He is a former magistrate of the Supreme Court of Colombia. Velasquez and the Commission’s efforts were critical in the investigation into then-President Otto Perez.
This year began with the news that a judge ordered the detention of President Morales’ son and brother on fraud charges. Their alleged crimes are related to the scandal that brought down Otto Perez and his Vice President, Ingrid Roxana Baldetti Elias. Shortly after his son and brother were detained, President Morales tweeted, “The rule of law must prevail over all things.”
While Morales was not directly implicated in his relatives’ crimes at the time, the news was a blow to his presidency which had failed to live up to the public’s expectations. The Morales administration suffered another blow in March when the Supreme Court of Guatemala stripped Edgar Justino Ovalle, a Morales ally and member of Congress, of his immunity from prosecution. Ovalle is accused of crimes stemming from his time in the military during the civil war.
More recently, allegations against President Morales emerged related to campaign finance violations. As Prensa Libre reported, four investigations could reach President Morales. Three investigations are related to Morales’ time as Secretary General of the FCN party and campaign funds that may have come from Marlon Monroy Meoño, a narcotrafficker, and Alejandro Sinibaldi, the Communications Minister under President Otto Pérez who is accused of money laundering. The fourth is the fraud investigation against Morales’ son and brother.
Yesterday the Associated Press reported that the Attorney General of Guatemala, Thelma Aldana, asked a court to remove President Morales’ immunity from prosecution. Aldana said that Morales’ FCN party had not provided a full accounting of campaign funds nor had the party provided spending reports from the 2015 campaign. In addition, Ivan Velasquez said that $825,000 in campaign funds were hidden as well as other financing discrepancies.
The latest news does not necessarily mean that the end is near for Jimmy Morales’ presidency. However, it does show how far President Morales has fallen from his campaign slogan: neither corrupt nor a thief.
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