Gu­atemala pulls out of UN cor­rup­tion body, ex­pels mem­bers

The Myanmar Times - - World -

GU­ATEMALA said it was with­draw­ing from a United Na­tions-backed anti-cor­rup­tion com­mis­sion and giv­ing its prose­cu­tors a day to leave the coun­try, as Pres­i­dent Jimmy Morales moved to ex­pel a body that has in­ves­ti­gated him, his fam­ily and top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

Ac­cus­ing the com­mis­sion of over­reach and vi­o­lat­ing Gu­atemala’s sovereignty, For­eign Min­is­ter San­dra Jovel on Mon­day an­nounced the de­ci­sion af­ter meet­ing with Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res.

An hour later in Gu­atemala City, Morales held a news con­fer­ence ac­com­pa­nied by his min­is­ters in which he ac­cused the U.N. and Guter­res of be­ing si­lent in the face of what he said were hu­man rights abuses com­mit­ted by the com­mis­sion, known as CICIG for its Span­ish ini­tials.

“In spite of Gu­atemala’s ef­forts with the United Na­tions, the si­lence, pas­siv­ity and neg­a­tivism of the sec­re­tary-gen­eral contributed to an un­cer­tainty in the CICIG’s ac­tions that put at risk the coun­try’s sovereignty,” Gu­atemala’s pres­i­dent said.

Morales was ac­com­pa­nied by mem­bers of a Rus­sian fam­ily who had been con­victed of cor­rup­tion for the use of false doc­u­ments to open busi­nesses and buy prop­erty in Gu­atemala, in a case in which the CICIG par­tic­i­pated.

“Thank you, Mr. Pres­i­dent, for your fight for sovereignty and hu­man rights,” said fam­ily mem­ber Irina Bitkova. Guter­res’ spokesman Stephane Du­jar­ric is­sued a state­ment say­ing the U.N. ex­pects Gu­atemala to keep up its end of an agree­ment that cre­ated the com­mis­sion, un­til its man­date ends in Septem­ber.

Guter­res “strongly re­jects” Gu­atemala’s com­plaints in with­draw­ing from the com­mis­sion, Du­jar­ric said, ad­ding that the group has made an “im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion ... to the fight against im­punity in Gu­atemala.”Jovel ac­cused the com­mis­sion and its mem­bers of politi­ciz­ing its work, vi­o­lat­ing Gu­atemala’s sovereignty, fail­ing to re­spect the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence and caus­ing “divi­sion in our so­ci­ety.”

“The CICIG has ex­ceeded its au­thor­ity,” she said. Jovel said the com­mis­sion’s staffers have 24 hours to leave the coun­try, though a Gu­atemalan court has ruled that the coun­try has to grant them visas.

US Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Norma Tor­res, a Demo­crat from Cal­i­for­nia who was born in Gu­atemala, said Morales’ pres­i­dency “has set the coun­try back years, if not decades.”“When he took of­fice in 2016, Morales had a his­toric op­por­tu­nity to give Gu­atemalans the trans­par­ent and ef­fec­tive gov­ern­ment that they de­serve,” she said in a state­ment. “In­stead, when faced with the prospect of crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion by CICIG and the pub­lic min­istry, he chose to de­stroy the rule of law in or­der to pro­tect him­self.”Dur­ing its 11 years op­er­at­ing in Gu­atemala, CICIG has pressed cor­rup­tion cases that have im­pli­cated over 600 peo­ple. The com­mis­sion said in Novem­ber that it has won 310 con­vic­tions and bro­ken up 60 crim­i­nal net­works. Morales has made no se­cret of his con­tempt for the group — for­mally, the In­ter­na­tional Com­mis­sion against Im­punity in Gu­atemala — which has in­ves­ti­gated the pres­i­dent’s son,his brother and Morales for pos­si­ble cam­paign fi­nance vi­o­la­tions. They deny the ac­cu­sa­tions.

Photo: AP

Gu­atemala’s Pres­i­dent Jimmy Morales, flanked by his cab­i­net, gives a state­ment at the Na­tional Palace in Gu­atemala City on Mon­day.

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