- Title: Judges sweat over Guatemala anti-graft fight after U.N. commission's ouster
- Date: 31st August 2019
- Summary: GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA (AUGUST 28, 2019) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) CICIG SPOKESPERSON, MATIAS PONCE, SAYING: "We call on civil society in Guatemala, and especially the Guatemalan state, to protect officials from the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. The international officials are to leave the country in the coming hours. For the Guatemalan officials, they will remain here. To civil society, look after and protect those who have helped in this noble task in Guatemala. We are confident that it will be the case."
- Embargoed: 14th September 2019 04:23
- Keywords: United Nations judges civil society commission CICIG President Jimmy Morales corruption
- Location: GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA + UNIDENTIFIED LOCATION
- City: GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA + UNIDENTIFIED LOCATION
- Country: Guatemala
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA004AUJSO5J
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: In late August, U.N. officials, judges and civil society leaders met in Guatemala to say farewell to a U.N. commission that fought political corruption before its mandate was terminated by President Jimmy Morales.
High-level figures were conspicuously absent. Neither Morales nor his ministers, congressional powerbrokers nor top business leaders attended.
Morales' successor, Alejandro Giammattei, who takes office in January, has also turned his back on the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which is due to close on Sept. 3.
The agency's ouster has enflamed tensions sparked by CICIG's crusade against graft, a chronic malaise in Guatemala, and has caused profound unease among the judges who will inherit its mantle.
Without the CICIG, widely viewed as one of the most successful anti-corruption bodies in Latin American history, judges told Reuters they feared it would be difficult to proceed with cases because of threats, staff cuts and a lack of political power.
Since launching in 2007, the CICIG helped strengthen courts and professionalized the attorney general's office. It brought down the last president and almost toppled Morales by accusing him of breaking campaign finance laws.
In return, Morales accused the CICIG of abuse of power and set about expelling it, ultimately allowing its mandate to expire.
The CICIG still has popular approval, with 72% of Guatemalans saying it should remain, according to a recent survey of about 1,200 people by local research firm Prodatos.
However, Giammattei wants to let the CICIG mandate expire in September and create a local anti-corruption body, saying the U.N. commission's future had already been decided. Describing the problem in Guatemala as "the system," he said the causes of corruption are what must be attacked.
Many view the idea as an uphill battle.
The CICIG's team began life with a bold experiment: working with the attorney general's office to combat criminal networks entrenched after more than 30 years of civil war. Then-President Oscar Berger welcomed the group, recognising that weak institutions and extensive corruption were dragging down the Central American nation's fragile democracy.
After the CICIG took on presidents, judges, cabinet members and lawmakers, its exit leaves 70 cases in limbo that are due to be passed to the Special Prosecutor Against Impunity (FECI), a local office designed to combat corruption.
Judges, CICIG investigators and ex-prosecutors hope Giammattei will at least guarantee judicial independence.
Responding to the reports of intimidation, Attorney General Consuelo Porras said this week that any credible threats against judges would be investigated.
(Production: Milton Castillo, Manuel Carrillo)
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