A setback in the fight for justice

President Rev. José Pilar Cabrera of the LWF member church ILUGUA, which also belongs to the Communion of Lutheran Churches in Guatemala. Photo: ILUGUA
President Rev. José Pilar Cabrera of the LWF member church ILUGUA, which also belongs to the Communion of Lutheran Churches in Guatemala. Photo: ILUGUA

Lutherans in Guatemala protest expulsion of commissioner investigating impunity and corruption

(LWI) - The Communion of Lutheran Churches of Guatemala has expressed regret and objection to the government's expulsion of the Commissioner of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The churches say the order to Iván Velásquez Gómez to leave the country, poses a major setback to the ongoing fight against corruption and impunity.

Appointed by the United Nations, Velásquez Gómez has been at the head of the CICIG since 2013. The independent international body was established at the request of the Guatemalan government in 2007 to expose individuals and criminal groups believed to have infiltrated state institutions, fostering impunity and undermining democratic gains made by the country since the 1996 peace agreement that ended decades of armed internal conflict.

“A danger for justice, peace, democracy and human rights”

In a statement opposing the government’s action, the communion representatives argued that Velásquez Gómez, a Colombian,  together with the Office of the Public Prosecutor, are “engaged in a very important fight against corruption of senior officials in the country, with unprecedented results in the country's history. … [They] have managed to investigate and dismantle various structures of corruption that had infiltrated even the highest spheres of the state, thus guarding against impunity.”

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales ordered the commissioner to immediately leave the country on 26 August, the same day on which thousands of people representing indigenous organizations, civil society and university students staged demonstrations to affirm support for the work of CICIG and the Attorney General’s office. They also demanded the president’s resignation.

Demonstrators in Guatemala City. Photo: José Pilar Cabrera
Demonstrators in Guatemala City. Photo: José Pilar Cabrera

The Lutheran churches said the exit of Velásquez Gómez, "constitutes a danger for justice, peace, democracy and human rights,” as it implies the intention to stop ongoing research into cases that should be prosecuted.

They called on the government to rescind its decision, while demanding an explanation to the population for the commissioner’s expulsion. The churches have appealed for dialogue and non-violent mechanisms to strengthen peace building in Guatemala.

The expulsion of Velásquez Gómez, … "constitutes a danger for justice, peace, democracy and human rights.”
Communion of Lutheran Churches of Guatemala

The Lutherans supported the position of the Ecumenical Christian Council of Guatemala, which also protested the president’s order to the CICIG Commissioner to leave the country. In a statement, the council, called “for wisdom and sanity to the political, religious and social leadership of our country,” and for “dialogue in order to not succumb to internal confrontations,” which do not benefit the search for the common good.

The communion of Lutheran churches in the country is made of The Lutheran World Federation member church -- Guatemala Lutheran Church (ILUGUA), the German-speaking Congregación Luterana La Epifanía, the Iglesia Luterana Agustina and the Iglesia Luterana en Guatemala (CONLUT).

(By the Communications Network of Latin America and the Caribbean)