Guatemala president expels UN anti-corruption chief
GUATEMALA CITY (AP):
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales announced yesterday he is expelling the head of a UN anti-corruption commission that is investigating the president's campaign financing.
A video posted on the government's Twitter site showed Morales declaring Ivan Velasquez "non grata" and ordering him to leave the country immediately. He also announced he was firing Foreign Minister Carlos Raul Morales for failure to carry out the expulsion.
Morales said nothing of kicking out the entire commission of foreign experts, but the expulsion leaves its future unclear. Two years remain on its mandate.
Velasquez heads a 10-year-old commission of experts that has worked with Guatemalan prosecutors to root out corruption in the country. It was key to bringing down former President Otto Perez Molina, who was forced to resign in 2015 and remains in prison.
Chief prosecutor Thelma Aldana, working with the UN commission, announced on Friday that she was asking the Supreme Court to recommend stripping Morales of his immunity from prosecution in order to investigate financing of his 2015 campaign, when he ran on the slogan 'Neither corrupt nor a crook.' If the court agrees, the decision on immunity would be made by Congress.
The prosecutor said Morales had refused to account for more than $800,000 in campaign financing and had hidden his own party's accounts. Velasquez said in the joint news conference with Aldana that financing of some campaign expenditures could not be explained.
Morales has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Some 2,500 people demonstrated in the capital on Saturday to demand that Morales resign.
The embassies of international donor countries that support the UN commission United States, Germany, Canada, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, as well as the European Union issued a joint statement regretting Morales' decision.
The commission "has played a vital role in the fight against impunity and corruption that undermine security and prosperity in Guatemala. The decision to expel Commissioner Ivan Velasquez harms the ability of CICIG to achieve its mandate," the statement said.