Two activists fighting corruption in Guatemala yesterday won this year’s Rights Livelihood Prize, the jury for the Swedish human rights prize announced.
Thelma Aldana of Guatemala and Ivan Velasquez of Colombia were honored for their “innovative work in exposing abuse of power and prosecuting corruption, thus rebuilding people’s trust in public institutions,” the jury said in a statement.
Aldana, 62, is a former president of Guatemala’s Supreme Court and served as attorney general until May, when she stepped down.
Velasquez, 63, is the head of the UN’s International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).
“This prize comes at a particularly dramatic moment in the fight against impunity and corruption,” Velasquez said in a statement.
“It is very important because it will turn the eyes of the world to Guatemala, and hopefully also provide international solidarity with those who are committed to the transformation of the country,” he said.
On Thursday last week, thousands of students and activists demonstrated in Guatemala’s capital calling for the resignation of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, whom the CICIG alleges failed to report nearly US$1 million in financing to electoral authorities during his 2015 presidential campaign.
The UN mission has asked for Morales’ presidential impunity to be lifted so it can investigate the matter.
Morales late last month said he would not ask the UN to renew the CICIG’s mandate beyond September next year.
Four days later, Morales banned Velasquez from entering the country.
The two laureates have collaborated together and been responsible for several high-profile and sensitive criminal investigations, most notably the “La Linea” corruption case, which led to 60 prosecutions, including the arrest of then-president Otto Perez Molina, who was forced out in 2015 after three years in power.
Swedish-German philatelist Jakob von Uexkull founded the donor-funded prize in 1980 after the Nobel Foundation behind the Nobel Prizes refused to create awards honoring efforts in the fields of the environment and international development.
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