Anti-corruption commission nixed

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales on Friday shut down a crusading U.N.-sponsored anti-graft commission that has pressed a number of high-profile corruption probes — including one pending against the president himself over purported illicit campaign financing.

Speaking in front of civilian and military leaders, Morales said he had informed the U.N. secretary-general of his decision to revoke the body’s mandate and “immediately” begin transferring its capacities to Guatemalan institutions.

Minutes before the surprise announcement, U.S.-donated army vehicles that Guatemala uses to fight drug and other smuggling were deployed to the commission’s headquarters in the capital in what critics called an attempt at intimidation.

The decision caps a long history of friction between the president and the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG for its initials in Spanish.

In August 2017, Morales announced that he was expelling the commission’s chief, Ivan Velasquez, but that move was quickly blocked by Guatemala’s top court.

At the time Morales declared Velasquez a persona non grata and fired his foreign minister for refusing to carry out the order to expel him, before later backing off and saying he would obey the court’s decision.