United States and UN must address escalating democratic crisis
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales recently announced that he will not renew the mandate of a powerful UN-backed commission set up to combat corruption in the country, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) – a body that is currently investigating President Morales for alleged illegal campaign financing. In response, American Jewish World Service (AJWS) President and CEO Robert Bank issued the following statement:
“President Morales has precipitated a crisis that directly threatens democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Guatemala. Deploying military vehicles around the office of an effective anti-corruption commission and unilaterally deciding not to renew its mandate are not the acts of a democratic leader.
“This crisis goes far beyond how President Morales has intimidated and then undermined the anti-corruption commission. In recent weeks, human rights advocates have been attacked and civil society leaders have been forced to leave the country with the threat of sedition charges hanging over their heads. The existence of a vibrant and free civil society and the very stability of Guatemala are at stake.
“The international community must act with urgency to prevent the situation in Guatemala from further spiraling out of control and causing irrevocable damage to the nation’s democratic system. We are calling on the administration and Congress to speak out forcefully on the matter. They must urge Morales to allow CICIG to continue its critical work unimpeded and demand that human rights and the rule of law be respected.
“Much of the military equipment deployed by President Morales against the offices of the anti-corruption commission and numerous civilians was provided by the U.S. government. Given this use of U.S. equipment, the U.S. government should urgently examine whether Guatemala is in compliance with U.S. conditions on military aid. Furthermore, the State Department should disinvite President Morales from the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America scheduled to take place in November in Washington.
“The UN also has an important role to play. We strongly encourage Secretary-General António Guterres to speak out forcefully on the need for judicial independence in Guatemala and for security for its Constitutional Court judges and human rights defenders. We urge the UN Security Council to hold an informal meeting focused on the threat to the rule of law, democracy and human rights in Guatemala, as it did with Nicaragua last week. At this meeting, the Security Council should adopt a resolution calling for Guatemala to restore and respect the rule of law and push ahead with fighting impunity and corruption through CICIG, the anti-corruption commission threatened by President Morales.
“President Morales has set Guatemala on a path toward escalating instability and violence. The global community must act before it’s too late to steer the nation back onto the path of democracy, human rights and rule of law.
“We thank members of the U.S. Congress who have offered strong support for the anti-corruption commission and for fighting corruption in Guatemala, including Senators Bob Corker and Bob Menendez and Representatives Ed Royce and Eliot Engel.”
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