September 06, 2017

U.S. Senators Write Tillerson, Haley Regarding Guatemalan President’s Threat in Fight Against Corruption

“We believe that combatting impunity and strengthening the rule of law should be at the core of U.S. engagement in Central America.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) sent the following letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Hailey expressing concern about Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales’ attempt to expel Mr. Ivan Velásquez, head of the United Nations’ International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), from that country.

In the letter, the Senators state, “We believe that combatting impunity and strengthening the rule of law should be at the core of U.S. engagement in Central America.”

The Senators also reiterate their “unwavering support for continued application of the rule of law in Guatemala and recognize the necessity for Commissioner Velasquez and Attorney General Aldana to continue their important work against impunity.”

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador Haley:

“We write to express our profound concern about Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales’ recent decision to expel Ivan Velásquez, Commissioner of the United Nations’ International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), from the country.

The US has worked closely with the Morales Administration in Guatemala on a number of issues relevant to US interests in the region, and the work of CICIG and that of Commissioner Velasquez have been instrumental in strengthening the rule of law in the country. Together with the Guatemalan Attorney General Thelma Aldana, Commissioner Velazquez has worked diligently to reduce levels of impunity and strengthen judicial institutions.

We were pleased to see President Morales’ comments stating, “the rule of law should always prevail” after the Guatemalan Constitutional Court issued a ruling in favor of Commissioner Velasquez and we encourage the Morales Administration to honor the Court’s decision.

We commend the strong statements by Ambassador Haley and the State Department on this issue, and reiterate that it is imperative that CICIG continue its critical work without interference. We believe that combatting impunity and strengthening the rule of law should be at the core of U.S. engagement in Central America.

In this context, we reaffirm that the FY 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 115-31) requires the Department of State to withhold 50 percent of U.S. assistance to Guatemala if the government is not taking effective steps to address a series of issues. In particular, Section 7045(4)(B)(vii) of the Act establishes the need for “cooperation with commissions against corruption and impunity.” We ask that you consider this when you begin the State Department’s certification process.

In closing, we reiterate our unwavering support for continued application of the rule of law in Guatemala and recognize the necessity for Commissioner Velasquez and Attorney General Aldana to continue their important work against impunity.

Sincerely,

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