Monday, 18 December, 2017

Guatemala court blocks expulsion of United Nations anti-graft chief

The Latest: Guatemala Cabinet minister quits in protest Guatemala court blocks expulsion of UN anti-graft chief
Christy Curtis | 29 August, 2017, 00:44

Morales has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, and rumors swirled last week that Morales' visit to United Nations headquarters in NY was to get rid of the commission's head, Ivan Velasquez.

However, the foreign minister resigned on his own, along with the deputy foreign minister, the health minister and three deputy health minister, reported Reuters.

The citizens of other countries in the region have watched its work admiringly, but paradoxically its success in prosecuting top politicians in Guatemala has made it unlikely that another leader in the region would invite the creation of such a commission.

The court ruling means Velasquez, an attorney from Colombia, can remain in Guatemala and continue his investigation.

Not only are prosecutors investigating the campaign financing of the party led by the Morales, but his brother and son have been ordered to stand trial for an alleged tax fraud scheme.

Morales declared Velasquez's expulsion after Guatemalan chief prosecutor Thelma Aldana, who is working with CICIG, 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.

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed disappointment in Morales' decision. The military veterans association announced support for Morales's move and Finance Minister Julio Hector Estrada has said he will stay in his post.

Later Sunday, U.S. State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said in a statement that the U.S. was "deeply concerned" by Morales' decision. In a statement he said the USA government would examine the future of its foreign assistance to Guatemala.

If courts rule in favor of the request, it must then be sent to Congress where it needs a two-thirds majority to be approved.

Morales, a former comedian, won the subsequent elections and took over as president the following year.

Sunday's move capped days of speculation that Morales would move against Velasquez.

The embassies of countries backing a United Nations anti-corruption commission in Guatemala are decrying the decision by the country's president to expel the agency's chief.

Aldana announced her "unconditional support" for Velasquez and called for "strict compliance" with the court decision overturning his expulsion.

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