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Guatemala - 2015 Election

Guatemala held national elections on 06 September 2015 amid 19 weeks of anti-corruption protests that culminated in the establishment of an interim government in September. Jimmy Morales of the FCN party defeated National Unity of Hope candidate Sandra Torres by 67.4 to 32.3 percent in a second round of voting. A former comedian, Morales was elected president on pledges to clean up Guatemalan politics. He came to power after protests over a widespread corruption scandal that toppled his predecessor retired General Otto Perez, who remains in jail.

An OAS international election observation mission characterized the elections as generally free and fair. The Attorney Generals Office continued to investigate allegations of illicit campaign financing in the 2015 elections. The Supreme Electoral Court cancelled former presidential candidate Manuel Baldizons party, LIDER (Democratic Liberty Renewed), in February for campaign law violations. LIDER was appealing the decision.

President Jimmy Morales (National Convergence Front, FCN) took office January 14, 2016, along with a new Congress of mostly freshman members and locally elected officials. These newly elected officials enter a changed geopolitical landscape in Guatemala, with a lower tolerance for corruption and lingering citizen demands for widespread government reform and improved efficiency. The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden agreed to specific commitments in a joint statement to the support of the Alliance for Prosperity on February 24, 2016, including measures to ensure more accountable, transparent, and effective public institutions.

Retrial proceedings restarted on 16 March 2016 against former head of state Efrain Rios Montt and his intelligence chief, Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, in the case of genocide involving the Maya Ixil community. Proceedings had been suspended after the First Court of Appeals ruled that Rios Montt and Rodriguez Sanchez should be tried separately. Rios Montt had been found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and was originally sentenced to 80 years in prison. Later the Constitutional Court overturned the conviction on procedural grounds and returned the case to a different court for rehearing. In 2015 a high-risk court determined that Rios Montt was mentally unfit for public trial but ordered that the trial continue behind closed doors and with a guardian present. It also ruled that any verdict could be used only for the application of corrective measures on behalf of the victims and that Rios Montt cannot be sentenced to prison.

On 16 November 2016, in a different case against Rios Montt, a high-risk court dismissed a motion by the defense team to suspend criminal prosecution for genocide and crimes against humanity. The defense argued that Rios Montt was mentally unfit to stand trial. The court was scheduled to rule on February 9, 2017, on whether to send Rios Montt to trial. At years end the retrial dates had not been set for either case.

In September 2016, a judge barred President Morales' son, Jose Manuel Morales and his older brother and adviser, Samuel Morales from leaving the country, pending an investigation into suspicious payments linked to the mother of Jose Manuel's girlfriend in 2013. In January 2017, both were arrested, claiming their innocence. At the time, Morales said he would support his family, but also respect the law.

By May 2017, a new wave of protests shook the country, similar to the 2015 "Renuncia Ya" marches which helped oust former President Otto Perez Molina. Campesinos coming from all across the country started a national strike 23 May 2017 to demand the resignation of President Jimmy Morales, whose popularity has plummeted since his brother and son were caught up in a corruption scandal. The protests, organized by the Committee for Rural Development and the National Coordination of Campesinas Organizations, CODECA, denounced the corruption of political elites, including the president and the representatives who have allegedly received bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

In August 2018, the nation's Supreme Court decided to consider a request to strip Morales of his immunity for his alleged participation in illegal electoral financing. The proceeding, supported by the International Commission Against Impunity, or CICIG, is the third against him. Morales' credibility has suffered due to the CICIG's investigations, and he has aligned himself more closely with Donald Trump by backing his decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Guatemalan president Jimmy Morales said, "he is not obligated to abide by illegal resolutions" passed by the anti-corruption group. Guatemalan president Jimmy Morales justified his decision to end the mandate of the International Commission Against Impunity, or CICIG, in Guatemala and said that it will not jeopardize investigations into corruption in the country. Days after Congress revoked its 2017 vote granting President Jimmy Morales prosecutorial immunity, lawmakers announced 29 August 2018 a commission to investigate the president for illicit campaign finance. Guatemalas Congress announced the members of its National Investigatory Commission to probe President Jimmy Morales for alleged 2015 campaign finance violations.

Congress member Luis Fernando Montenegro from Encounter For Guatemala (EG) will serve as president of the five-member committee and Carlos Santiago Najera of the National Unity of Hope (UNE) is secretary. Fidel Reyes Lee of UNE will serve as a spokesperson, along with Rudy Pereira of National Convergence Front (FCN-Nation) and Boris Espaa. Espaa is independent. None of the lottery-selected members belong to Morales ruling National Convergence Front (FCN).

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