The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) has been the subject of recent media reporting as the current President of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales, prematurely ordered the shut down of the Commission in early January. CICIG was expected to conclude its operations in September 2019 as President Morales had declined to further renew its mandate.
CICIG was established in 2007 by an agreement, that must be renewed every two years, between Guatemala and the United Nations. The purpose of CICIG is to provide support to Guatemalan state institutions in uncovering and investigating crime networks, including organized crime and corruption.
According to President Morales, in recent years, CICIG has become politically motivated in its investigations and has obstructed Guatemalan sovereignty. In 2017 and 2018, Morales issued orders to bar the Commissioner of CICIG, Ivan Velasquez Gomez (a Colombian diplomat and legal professional), from re-entering Guatemala reportedly for reasons of public security. Media from 2018 reported allegations of Russian influence over CICIG and these allegations led to the suspension of US $6 million of funding from the US until further investigations are conducted.
However, according to various international agencies and Guatemalan supporters of CICIG (including Guatemala’s Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country), Morales has shuttered CICIG for his own political reasons. CICIG had reportedly unsuccessfully filed at least three applications with the Guatemalan Congress to strip Morales of presidential immunity so that he could be officially investigated for corruption and irregularities in regard to political contributions for his 2015 presidential campaign. Additionally, as a result of CICIG investigations, Morales’s brother and son are currently being tried in Guatemala for fraudulent activities against the Government in 2013 (prior to the start of Morales’s presidential term).
On January 7, 2019, Morales’s administration ordered the expulsion of CICIG and its staff from Guatemala. Shortly after the departure of CICIG staff from the country, on January 9, 2019, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ruled against Morales’s orders, though Morales has reportedly refused to cooperate with the Court and comply with its rulings. Despite current tensions, CICIG Commissioner Velazquez continues to work from abroad, though he has offered to resign from his position if Morales with allow CICIG to operate in Guatemala until the end of its mandated term (September 2019).
According to Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perception Index, published February 2018, Guatemala is ranked as 143rd out of 180. Tied with Guatemala in 143rd place are Mauritania, Lebanon, Bangladesh, and Kenya. These rankings indicate that, in general, Guatemala is perceived to experience considerable levels of corruption.
Smith Brandon International monitors news stories, such as the recent events pertaining to CICIG, to ensure that we are up to date with international reformation efforts that aim to counter corruption. We make every effort to help our clients prepare for navigating the changing environment regarding international partnerships and prospective business associates worldwide.