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Guatemala to Shut Down UN Anti-corruption Body on Tuesday


Colombian national Yilen Osorio, a member of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), center, is embraced after entering to Guatemala at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, Jan. 6, 2019.

Guatemala said it had notified United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that it would end a U.N.-backed anti-graft commission on Tuesday - eight months earlier than expected — over accusations the body interfered in internal affairs.

The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG, was established over a decade ago with the authority to conduct independent investigations and work with the country's prosecutors.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales had announced in August that he would not renew the body's mandate, which was due to expire on Sept. 3, 2019. Days later, he banned CICIG head Ivan Velasquez, a hard-charging Colombian prosecutor, from re-entering the country.

Working with Guatemala's attorney general, CICIG sought to prosecute Morales, a former comedian, in 2017 over illegal financing allegations during his election campaign two years earlier. That move followed separate CICIG graft probes into members of the president's family.

Guatemalan Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel met with Guterres in New York on Monday.

"It is regrettable that the Secretary-General, in a bid to maintain one person in the position, sacrificed the legitimacy of the commission," Jovel told a news conference after the meeting, referring to Guterres' decision to stand-by Velasquez.

"Therefore we reported to the Secretary-General that within 24 hours the agreement (that was struck to create CICIG) will be terminated by the Guatemalan government," she said.

Jovel accused the commissions of exceeding its authority. The United Nations did not immediately respond when asked about her remarks.

Many politicians in Guatemala consider the foreign-led body, which is unusual among U.N. bodies for its powers to bring cases to prosecutors, to be a violation of national sovereignty.

Anti-corruption activists credit it with cleaning up government.

Last month the Guatemalan government revoked visas and immunity for 11 CICIG investigators and two relatives.

Speaking ahead of the meeting between Guterres and Jovel, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the secretary-general continued to support the work of the commission.

Guterres also "expects the Guatemalan Government to provide the Commission with all the assistance necessary for the discharge of its functions and activities, including the freedom of movement of its staff throughout Guatemala, as provided in the agreement that was signed," Dujarric said.

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