Washington, DC—Today, the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry announced it would not renew the visas and would withdraw the diplomatic credentials of 11 investigators and personnel who work for the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG by its Spanish acronym). According to reports, authorities later gave the investigators—who are currently handling some of the most sensitive cases related to corruption and illicit campaign financing—a 72-hour period to leave the country or else be expelled. Established via an agreement between the United Nations and the Guatemalan state, the CICIG is an initiative that supports Guatemalan institutions in investigating criminal and corrupt networks embedded in state institutions. The CICIG has faced significant pushback from President Jimmy Morales and his allies who are under investigation for alleged illicit activity and corruption.
“This is a continuation of the Guatemalan government’s campaign to neutralize one of the region’s most effective initiatives for fighting corruption and organized crime, and backtrack the achievements seen thus far in fighting impunity and strengthening rule of law in Guatemala,” said Adriana Beltrán, Director for Citizen Security at research and advocacy group the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). “These actions by the government represent a clear violation of the Guatemalan state’s obligations under the agreement that established the Commission. Neither the Guatemalan people nor the international community are going to turn a blind eye to what the Guatemalan government is doing here, in its efforts to derail this important fight against endemic corruption in the country and maintain systems of impunity.”
This follows the Interior Ministry’s announcement yesterday that it was removing 15 high-ranking police officials from their posts, a measure that weakens efforts at institutional police reform. All of the officials had between 10 to 20 years experience; some had been working on homicide cases in Guatemala’s capital, according to Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre. Among those removed was the director of the special division that handles wiretapping in criminal investigations, a unit with 10 years of expertise in this area. This is at least the fifth time this year that Minister of the Interior Enrique Degenhart has withdrawn or reshuffled experienced officials at the upper ranks of Guatemala’s national police.
“The arbitrary removal of high-ranking members of the police, a force which has become increasingly professionalized, specialized, and which has contributed to reducing insecurity and violence in the country, weakens the police as an institution, as well as efforts at police reform,” said Beltrán.