Morales bars CICIG head Velásquez (Sept. 5, 2018)
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales barred the head of a U.N. anti-corruption body from entering the country. The latest salvo in an ongoing battle between Morales and the head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Iván Velasquez. Morales said he was acting on the recommendation of the National Security Council, and asked the U.N. to send a replacement. (Reuters)
Last week Morales already announced he would not renew the CICIG mandate, and that the body would have to wrap up its work within the next year. He made the announcement flanked by members of the military and deployed army vehicles to the CICIG headquarters. (See Monday's post.)
The decision to block Velásquez from returning to Guatemala, which puts Morales in conflict with Guatemala's constitutional court, pushed the country closer to a "full-blown constitutional crisis," according to the New York Times. His decision, communicated by letter without legal backing, is contrary to court decisions protecting Velásquez from being expelled or having his visa revoked, reports El Periódico. (See post for Aug. 30, 2017.)
Last year the Constitutional Court blocked an attempt to declare Velásquez persona non-grata, and ordered Morales not to interfere with the CICIG's work, reports Nómada, which compares the government's disobedience "a state coup similar to the one Jorge Serrano Elías attempted to carry out in 1993." (Another Nómada column gives background on that episode.)
Yesterday the Constitutional Court received three separate requests to block the decision, including petitions from Justicia Ya and the Guatemalan human rights prosecutor. (El Periódico)
The U.N. asked for Velásquez to remain in his post until the accusation -- that he is "a person who attacks order and public security; affecting governance, institutionality, justice and peace in the country'' -- is clarified. The U.N. Secretary General's spokesperson said there were serious doubts over the Guatemalan government's decision. (El Periódico)
Acting with the Guatemalan attorney general, the CICIG has attempted several times to investigate and prosecute Morales for alleged illicit campaign financing. The latest case is ongoing, and Guatemalan lawmakers are analyzing whether to withdraw presidential immunity so Morales can be investigated. Prosecutors and the CICIG have also investigated alleged corruption by members of the president's family.
The Associated Press reports that a group of ambassadors were meeting yesterday to evaluate their response. The CICIG has considerable international support, especially from donor countries -- including Sweden and the U.S. Though the Trump administration has voiced support for the CICIG, it did not respond immediately yesterday, notes the NYT. Morales has sought to curry favor with the U.S. administration, including backing its decision to move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. Lobbyists have also sought to undermine support for the CICIG in the U.S. congress. (See for example May 7's post.) Yesterday Democratic lawmakers threatened to cut Guatemalan aid if Velásquez is barred from returning.
Wall Street Journal columnist Mary O'Grady doubled down on her anti-CICIG crusade yesterday, defending Morales' decision not to renew the CICIG mandate and accusing the commission of "murky influence and capriciousness" deployed in defense of "the politics of the extreme left, which seeks to consolidate power by gaining control of institutions. It’s the same strategy employed by the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez." (See May 7's post on her previous allegations in this vein and the interests pushing the anti-CICIG views in the U.S.)
More from Guatemala
Guatemala's congress will soon vote on a bill that would criminalize abortion in all cases, prohibit sexual education in schools, and ratify anti-gay marriage regulations, reports the BBC. It would penalize women who miscarry through "negligence," reports Nómada. Separately, Nómada reports on the congressional coalition supporting the measure, which includes many of the lawmakers who last year voted to shield themselves from corruption, the so-called "Pacto de Corruptos." (See Aug. 31's briefs for HRW's criticisms of the bill, and post for Sept. 14, 2017, on the corruption pact.)
Eleven countries in the region will allow Venezuelans to enter with expired travel documents, a nod to the difficulty in obtaining new passports in Venezuela. Migration officials from around the region met in Ecuador to discuss the intensifying exodus from Venezuela -- an estimated 2.4 million people have fled the country in recent years, reports the BBC. (See yesterday's post.)
EFE interviewed Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega who denied violating human rights in his response to anti-government protests, which he said are funded by "the extreme right" in Florida. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Sao Paulo state prosecutors accused former mayor Fernando Haddad of corruption yesterday. The charges will not affect his eligibility for office -- he is running for vice president and will likely become the Workers' Party presidential candidate in a few days. (Reuters)
The National Museum fire that destroyed most of Brazil's 200-year-old landmark institution "symbolises a country where a lack of culture and education is the greatest problem," writes novelist Paulo Coelho in the Guardian. Most of the collection was destroyed, and museum authorities warn that -- like other public buildings in the country -- it was not insured, reports the Guardian separately. The tragedy was hardly unexpected though, in the past federal prosecutors, researchers and even the museum’s own administration warned of potential fire hazards, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Colombia's FARC political party -- inheritor of the guerrilla force by the same name -- is now a year old. But the absence of important leaders from its second party congress is raising serious concerns over internal fractures and implications for the FARC peace deal implementation, reports InSight Crime.
Mexican reporters are increasingly targets of criminal violence -- even while under a federal protection program aimed at protecting threatened journalists and human rights defenders. (UPI)
InSight Crime analyzes outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto's failed security policies. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Argentine government austerity measures applied to education could be a more costly public policy in the long run, argues José Natanson in a New York Times Español op-ed. Protecting the country's historically strong public education system is of vital importance, he writes, noting the strong social consensus regarding its importance.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...
Latin America Daily Briefing