Guatemala in political crisis after president tries to expel UN investigator

Guatemala faced a fresh political crisis Sunday as President Jimmy Morales tried to expel a UN official investigating him for suspected corruption, but was overruled by the courts.

Credit:  Johan Ordonez / AFP | Guatemalans march demanding the resignation of President Jimmy Morales in front of the Culture Palace in Guatemala City, on August 26, 2017.

The row comes two years since another graft affair that toppled a former president in the Central American country of 15 million people.

And it sparked international criticism, from the United States and several European countries.

Morales on Sunday turned against UN anti-corruption official Ivan Velasquez as his investigations threatened to engulf Morales in scandal too.

Morales said he ordered Velasquez, a Colombian national, to be expelled from the country “in the interests of the Guatemalan people, for the strengthening of the rule of law and our institutions,” in a video published online.

Later in the day, the Constitutional Court temporarily suspended Morales’s order, its chairman Francisco Mata told reporters.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington was “deeply concerned” and said the CICIG had to be “permitted to work free from interference by the Guatemalan government.

The US also joined Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland in condemning the move, in a joint statement issued by their embassies in Guatemala City.

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