Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ruled against President Jimmy Morales’s order to expel the head of a UN anti-corruption committee on October 18. The ruling compels the country’s Foreign Ministry to retract a statement sent to UN diplomat Ivan Velasquez warning him to “refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of the country.”
Velasquez, a Colombian national, is the chief of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). President of the Court Francisco de Mata ruled that the Guatemalan government’s diplomatic note could not legally inhibit the CICIG’s work.
Velasquez and Guatemalan Chief Prosecutor Thelma Aldana issued a joint statement on October 13 declaring their efforts to remove Morales’s impunity and investigate him for finance violations in his campaign.
Morales originally declared Velasquez persona non grata in a statement in August, saying, “I reiterate that I am acting motivated by the interests of the Guatemalan people.” The court also denied that order.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, has confirmed Guterres’s continued support for Velasquez. “[Guterres] has repeatedly reiterated his full confidence in Commissioner Velasquez,” said Dujarric.
Velasquez has a strong track record of attacking corruption in Guatemala and has earned considerable popularity for his efforts. Over 2,500 people gathered in Guatemala City in October to protest Velasquez’s removal.
The CICIG’s donor-states issued a statement advising against Velasquez’s discharge. “[The CICIG] has played a vital role in the fight against impunity and corruption that undermine security and prosperity in Guatemala. The decision to expel Commissioner Ivan Velasquez harms the ability of CICIG to achieve its mandate,” the statement said.
Velasquez has sent numerous seasoned politicians, both Guatemalan and Colombian, to prison. The future of his endeavors in Guatemala is unclear, but Morales will have to accommodate the commissioner for now.