The Latest: US lawmaker backs UN official in Guatemala
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The latest on the effort by Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales to expel the head of a U.N. anti-corruption agency (all times local):
The chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee says Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales should drop his push to expel the head of a U.N. anti-corruption commission working in that nation.
Republican Rep. Ed Royce of California says in a Monday statement that Ivan Velasquez should remain as head of the U.N.-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala. Royce says the U.S. Congress “has spoken with one voice” in supporting the body’s work to end graft in Guatemala.
In Royce’s words: “I urge President Morales to change course, respect the Constitutional Court, and allow Ivan Velasquez to continue his important work supporting Guatemalan authorities fighting high levels of corruption.”
President Jimmy Morales appears to be softening his stand in his effort to oust the U.N. anti-corruption commissioner in Guatemala, a move that has left him battered him with criticism at home and abroad.
Hours after he got support Monday from his own Cabinet on the expulsion order, Morales indicated a willingness to abide by court decisions on his action, which had touched off anger and raised threats to the future of his administration.
Writing in his Facebook account, Morales says: “People of Guatemala, as president of the republic I have and will respect the decisions of the other branches of government. The rule of law should always prevail.”
Indigenous groups in Guatemala are blocking a major interchange on the Inter-American Highway to protest the president’s attempt to expel the head of U.N. anti-corruption commission that has been investigating graft in the country.
The indigenous mayor of Solola in south-central Guatemala said Monday that the highway is being blocked at Los Encuentros to show support for commission head Ivan Velasquez. Mayor Tomas Saloj said the demonstration is also a message against corruption.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales announced early Sunday that he had ordered Velasquez’s expulsion for overstepping his authority. The Constitutional Court suspended that order, but Morales stood by it.
Morales’ move came two days after Velasquez and the country’s chief prosecutor announced that they were seeking removal of the president’s immunity against prosecution so they could investigate him for illegal campaign financing.
Guatemala’s chief prosecutor says President Jimmy Morales must obey an injunction by the country’s top court that suspends his order to expel the head of the U.N.’s anti-corruption commission.
Prosecutor Thelma Aldana has worked closely with commission chief Ivan Velasquez and says he has her unconditional support.
The Constitutional Court on Sunday blocked Morales’ expulsion of Velasquez. But the president appeared to set up a constitutional crisis by saying he’s sticking with his demand. Still, there have been no signs so far that officials have tried to physically force Velasquez out of the country.
Aldana told a news conference Monday that she’s willing to meet with Morales and give him the respect he deserves.
Aldana and Velasquez said last week they were asking authorities to remove Morales’ immunity from prosecution so they can pursue an investigation into alleged campaign finance violations.
Guatemala’s chief prosecutor Thelma Aldana says she’s giving unconditional support to the head of a U.N. anti-corruption commission who the president has ordered to leave the country.
Adana issued a statement late Sunday saying the Constitutional Court’s order suspending the president’s expulsion order for Ivan Velasquez must be obeyed. She’s worked closely with Velasquez.
President Jimmy Morales plunged the country into a constitutional crisis Sunday by standing firm on his order to remove Velasquez even after the court suspended the order.
Now Guatemalans will watch the courts closely to see what the definitive ruling is on Velasquez and whether Morales’ immunity will be lifted as Aldana and Velasquez requested on Friday.