The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala = “CICIG”) was created in 2006 when the UN signed an agreement with the country’s government to establish CICIG to support state institutions investigating and prosecuting difficult cases, especially involving organized crime organizations and political corruption. It has been responsible for several high-profile indictments, including against a sitting mayor, a director of the national civilian police, and a sitting president and vice president, both of whom are currently in prison. Its high-profile successes have engendered support and trust among Guatemala’s population, and it is widely perceived to be the country’s most-trusted institution.
However, President Jimmy Morales, who has led the country since January 2016, has come to loggerheads with CICIG over its investigation into allegations of illegal donations to Morales’s party, including from supposed drug traffickers. A breaking point was apparently reached when CICIG asked congress to strip Morales of immunity from prosecution. In 2017, Morales ordered the immediate expulsion of CICIG’s head, Iván Velásquez, which was blocked by the Constitutional Court of Guatemala. (The congress, meanwhile, refused to strip Morales of his immunity.) President Morales escalated again in August 2018, when he announced that CICIG’s mandate will not be renewed when it expires in September 2019, and then a few days later, when he blocked Velásquez from entering Guatemala as he attempted to return from meetings in Washington.
Since President Morales announced the decision against CICIG and its chief, Guatemalans have staged several organized protests in support of CICIG. European and American donors who sustain CICIG have expressed concern and denounced Morales’s moves as efforts to protect favored political and economic elites. The U.S. government has expressed its support for CICIG, including through visits by the U.S. Ambassador, Luis Arreaga, and Congressional Central America Caucus Chair Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA), who also represents Feed the Children’s Ontario, CA distribution center.
Feed the Children’s operations have continued during the political crisis, although the large protests in favor of CICIG among indigenous peoples closed down the InterAmerican Highway for several days in a row in September. Scheduled activities were postponed because staff were not physically able to travel to the communities in Sololá being served.