Guatemalan President expels anti-corruption head

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has announced he is expelling the head of a UN anti-corruption commission that is investigating his campaign's financing.

But the order was blocked hours later by the country's top court.

A video posted on the government's Twitter site early on Sunday showed Mr 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.

Mr Morales said nothing of kicking out the entire commission of foreign experts, but the expulsion would leave its future unclear.

Two years remain on its mandate.

However, by midday Francisco de Mata Vela, head of Guatemala's Constitutional Court, said that it had issued a temporary injunction blocking the order to expel Mr Velasquez.

The court will now analyse the case before reaching a definitive decision. It was not clear how long that would take.

Mr 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 Mr 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 Mr Morales had refused to account for more than 800,000 US dollars in campaign financing and had hidden his own party's accounts.

Mr Velasquez said in the joint news conference with Ms Aldana that financing of some campaign expenditures could not be explained.

Mr Morales has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Some 2,500 people demonstrated in the capital on Saturday to demand Mr 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 Mr 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.

US Rep. Eliot Engel, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed disappointment in Mr Morales' decision.

In a statement he said the US government would examine the future of its foreign assistance to Guatemala.

About 50 people gathered on Sunday at the commission's headquarters, among them some foreign ambassadors along with Guatemala's human rights prosecutor, in a show of support for Mr Velasquez.

The crowd chanted: "Friend Ivan the people are with you."

AP


Most Read in World