GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemala’s constitutional court suspended on Wednesday the president’s decision to unilaterally terminate the government’s pact with the United Nations that established the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), an independent body tasked with prosecuting serious corruption crimes.
The magistrates at the country’s highest tribunal reached their majority ruling after an eight-hour conclave that went on well into the wee hours of the morning.
Only one justice, Dina Josefina Ochoa (the court’s president), presented a dissenting opinion on eight specific appeals that sought to stop the CICIG’s early ejection from the country, nine months before its current mandate is set to expire.
President Jimmy Morales had announced on Tuesday that he was immediately expelling the commission on grounds of its supposed “severe violation” of domestic and international laws.
“The CICIG has put at risk the nation’s security, public order, governance, respect for human rights and – above all – the sovereignty of the state of Guatemala,” Morales claimed during his announcement.
Latin America experts had been speculating for weeks that the reason behind the government’s decision was that the commission was investigating Guatemala’s business and political elite, including Morales and his family, although the UN-backed body has yet to launch a formal probe that would corroborate this hypothesis.
Opposition leaders have long accused Morales of accepting illicit campaign contributions; however, the allegations have yet to be supported by the courts.
Morales, a former television comedian, rose to power in 2015 after a landslide electoral victory based on a populist-nationalist campaign whose slogan promised he was “Neither corrupt nor a crook” (“Ni corrupto ni ladron” in Spanish).