DPLF reiterates support for CICIG’s Ivan Velasquez in light of news that President Morales seeks his ouster

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 20:03 -- dplf

DPLF expresses its dismay at news reports that President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala is seeking the removal of Ivan Velásquez from the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Multiple news reports as well as public statements by Attorney General Thelma Aldana indicate that President Morales is planning to meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres this Friday to formally request that Velásquez be dismissed from his post of CICIG Commissioner.

This is a shocking development in light of the unprecedented work of CICIG under the leadership of Velásquez. This month marks the 10-year anniversary of the Guatemalan Congress’ approval of CICIG’s mandate to collaborate with the government in the investigation of organized crime in the country, under the auspices of the United Nations. Velásquez has served as Commissioner since 2013, during a particularly effective and important era for CICIG. During his tenure, CICIG’s investigations in partnership with the Attorney General’s office have led to the indictment and arrest of former President Otto Perez Molina and former Vice-President Roxanna Baldetti. It also spearheaded many high-profile cases such as “Plazas Fantasma” (leading to the arrest of several members of Congress for fraud and abuse of authority) and that against former army captain Byron Lima, which exposed widespread corruption and money laundering in Guatemala’s prison system.  

CICIG also co-led an investigation leading to the arrest of President Morales’ brother and son for fraud and money laundering, who are currently awaiting a trial which is due to begin shortly. The timing of the President’s decision to seek the removal of Velásquez is thus highly suspicious. It must be noted that Morales rose to power during the 2015 election on a wave of anti-corruption sentiment, promising during his campaign to have zero tolerance for corruption.

DPLF commends Attorney General Thelma Aldana, who has publicly revealed and spoken out against President Morales’ alleged plans regarding Velasquez, undoubtedly at great personal risk. Aldana, who has been a crucial partner with CICIG in the fight against corruption, has announced that she will resign if Velasquez is forced to step down.

Therefore, DPLF calls upon President Morales to immediately cease any efforts to remove Commissioner Velásquez, and to enable Velasquez to continue to carry out his vital work in collaboration with the Attorney General’s office. In the event that UN Secretary-General Guterres does receive a formal request to dismiss Velásquez, we respectfully encourage him to reject this request.