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Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales ran for election under the slogan, "not corrupt, nor a thief." But when the president last week said that he was kicking out a United Nations-backed commission tasked with investigating corruption a whirlwind of political confrontation unfolded. The announcement came after the UN panel said it would move to strip the president of immunity so it could probe allegations of illegal campaign financing. The investigation has targeted several political parties including his National Convergence Front.
Just hours after Morales declared the head of the commission, Ivan Velasquez, "persona non grata" the constitutional court ruled that he did not have the authority to do so, setting the scene for a constitutional crisis, but also flexing judicial independence in a country where leaders and politicians have been implicated in corruption, violence and drug trafficking. Until recently they had been able to operate with near impunity.
Former President Otto Molina Perez was forced to resign in 2015 after the remarkable rise of a citizen protest movement that saw tens of thousands of demonstrators on the streets for months in the capital. That movement was sparked by an investigation from the same UN panel, known officially as the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, or by its Spanish initials, CICIG. Hours after his arrest Perez was put in jail, where he remains.
Since the ruling, Morales appears to have backed down somewhat, posting on his Facebook page that "the rule of law must always prevail." Now, his fate rests with Congress, which has the final say on removing his immunity.
We'll hear the latest from Guatemala and ask what this crisis means for the country.
On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Adriana Beltran @Adriana_WOLA
Senior associate for citizen security, The Washington Office on Latin America
Gabriel Wer @wergabriel
Activist, Justicia Ya
Fernando Carrera @fcarrera1904
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs
Salvador Paiz @salva_paiz
Vice President, FUNDESA
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