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On Guatemala UN Guterres Issues Empty CICIG Read Out As Bans Press for 187th Day

By Matthew Russell Lee, CJR Letter PFT Q&A

UNITED NATIONS GATE, January 7 – Back on 25 August 2017 when Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales came to New York to meet with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on August 25, media mostly Spanish and Inner City Press set up a stakeout in the UN Secretariat lobby, to afterward hear his views on Ivan Velasquez and the future of the CICIG. The meeting began at 5 pm, but it was well after 6 pm when Guterres came down to his waiting car and driver. Inner City Press asked, Que pasa con la CICIG? But Guterres merely waved. Later he would have Inner City Press roughed up by his Security and banned from the UN, now 187 days and counting. On 7 January 2019,  his spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who declined to answer or even confirm receipt of written questions from Inner City Press, issued a canned read-out that is similar to Guterres' protestations by Somalia PNG-ing his envoy Nicholas Haysom the week before: "The Secretary-General met this afternoon with Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel of Guatemala who presented him with a letter informing the United Nations of the government’s intention to terminate the Agreement establishing the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) within 24 hours.     The Secretary-General strongly rejects the content of the letter addressed to him. The United Nations has been constructively engaged with the Government of Guatemala, at various levels, over the last sixteen months, in accordance with Article 12 of the Agreement creating CICIG. The mandate of the Commission is set to end on 3 September 2019. Until that date, we expect the Government of Guatemala to entirely fulfil its legal obligations under the Agreement.     The Secretary-General expects the Government of Guatemala to abide by its international undertakings to ensure the protection of the CICIG personnel, both international and national.     The Secretary-General recalls the important contribution of CICIG to the fight against impunity in Guatemala." It is perhaps with this record of shrill failure that Guterres is ordering UN staff not to ask him questions when they pose with him, for UN Photo only, on January 8, banned Inner City Press exclusive here. Guterres has no principles. Pushed, he virtue signals on Guatemala while he went silent for his own reasons on the deaths in Cameroon. On September 5, this from Guterres' spokes- / hatchetman Stephane Dujarric: "The Secretary-General was informed by the Guatemalan authorities today that they have barred Commissioner Ivan Velasquez, of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), from entry into Guatemala. CICIG and its Commissioner play a pivotal role in the fight against impunity in Guatemala.  The UN Secretariat has serious concerns about this decision, which it is currently reviewing and which does not appear to be consistent with the Agreement on the establishment of CICIG. The Secretary-General has asked Mr. Velasquez to continue at the helm of CICIG  from outside Guatemala until there is more clarity on the situation. The Secretary-General encourages the Government of Guatemala to continue to search for a solution through dialogue in the framework of article 12 of the Agreement establishing CICIG." Just as Inner City Press is continuing to scrutinize Guterres' destruction of the UN  from outside the gates "until there is more clarity on the situation." The difference? At least Jimmy Morales has a sense of humor - and doesn't pretend to believe in freedom of the press. On May 10, 2018, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  wanted to ask you, there's at least three senators and one representative in Washington that are…  have written to put a hold on $6 million to be paid to CICIG, and their reason for it is what they say is a lack of due process, that instances have come up where Mr. Velásquez has essentially bullied defendants in one case, they say, on behalf of a Russian bank.

And so I'm wondering, when you… when you issue these expressions of support, is it something that… that the Secretary-General has actually looked at these cases and said…

Spokesman:  CICIG operates under established rules through an agreement between the UN and the Government of Guatemala.  There are all sorts of built-in mechanisms.  CICIG has received broad support from Member States, and we hope that continues." On 21 March 2018 when Inner City Press asked about Guatemala removing 11 police investigators from the CICIG, Guterres' spokesman didn't know about it, and did not comment by the end of the day six hours later. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press:  I know that the Secretary-General has spoken in the past about CICIG [the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala] in Guatemala.  And now the Government there has removed 11 of its police investigators that were working with it, and Ivan Velásquez says this is clearly an attempt to undermine the CICIG.  So I was… do you have any…

Spokesman:  I'll check… check the reports.  The Secretary-General firmly stands behind the work of the Commission and the Commissioner.." But six hours later, nothing. Back on August 27, 2017 after not speaking at or even coming to the waiting stakeout at the UN, Morales issued a video, on Twitter, declaring Valasquez persona non grata. Here. Guterres is with sheikhs in Kuwait; Inner City Press asked his spokesman Stephane Dujarric: "This is a Press request on deadline for the UN's / Secretary General's response to this, from Jimmy Morales of Guatemala. Also please explain why UN Photo still does not have any photo of the Morales / SG photo op online, and state where Yemen envoy IOCA is, if he is not in Kuwait (didn't see him in the photo). Inner City Press has more questions and will be submitting them for responses, while noting that Friday's question was not even acknowledged, much less answered. Please explain." He replied, "Statement coming shortly." Then, a tweet from Jeffrey Feltman's DPA: ".@UN Secretary-General shocked at announcement that Guatemala's President has declared @Ivan_Velasquez_ persona non grata." Shocked implies that Morales didn't raise this possibility in their long meeting on Friday. More to follow.

 More to come.


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