Headline — 30 August 2017 — by Adele Ramos
Jimmy Morales sacks Carlos Raúl Morales

The ex-Foreign Minister did not carry out the president’s order to expel UN anti-corruption rep, Iván Velásquez Gomez

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Aug. 28, 2017–Guatemala president Jimmy Morales has sacked Canciller Carlos Raúl Morales, that country’s foreign minister, after he did not execute the president’s order to expel Iván Velásquez Gómez, the head of a United Nations-backed, independent anti-corruption commission, whom President Morales declared to be “persona non grata” in a video message released yesterday.

The vice minister for Foreign Affairs, Carlos Ramiro Martinez, was also removed from office, according to reports appearing in the Guatemalan press.

An official announcement issued by the Government of Guatemala yesterday said that the deposed foreign minister has been replaced by the former vice minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sandra Érica Jovel Polanco. Jovel is reportedly facing legal proceedings for irregularities in the adoption of a child.

The president yesterday ordered the UN agent who leads the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) to “immediately leave the territory of the Republic of Guatemala.” The agency led by Velásquez, a Colombian, was moving to lift the immunity of the president from a probe into possible campaign finance violations in 2015, before he rose to office on an anti-corruption platform.

Protesters in Guatemala, who took to the streets to condemn their president’s actions, as well as the UN Secretary-General and the US State Department, have publicly supported Velásquez.

Heather Nauert, spokesperson of the US State Department, which said that it will continue to monitor the situation closely, said in a statement released yesterday that, “We are deeply concerned by Guatemalan President Morales’ announcement of his decision to bar the … (CICIG) Commissioner Ivan Velásquez from the country. Mr. Velásquez has been an effective leader of CICIG in its fight against corruption in Guatemala.” The US Government has provided tens of millions of dollars to Guatemala for the CICIG.

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, was shocked to learn of President Morales’ actions. According to the UN, only days earlier, President Morales had met at UN Headquarters in New York with Guterres, who had reiterated the United Nations’ commitment to the fight against impunity and corruption. He also pledged the UN’s continued support to the mandate of the CICIG.

Guterres fully expects that Iván Velásquez will be treated by the Guatemalan authorities with the respect due to his functions as an international civil servant, said a statement issued by the Secretary-General’s spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric.

Even the new Foreign Minister is barred from executing Morales’ expulsion order. Via a signed resolution issued yesterday, Guatemala’s highest court for civil law, the Constitutional Court—a permanent tribunal with independent jurisdiction whose primary function is the defense of constitutional order in Guatemala and which has the power to check executive overreach as it relates to their constitution—suspended the decision of the president to expel Ivan Velásquez Gómez, and blocked Foreign Affairs officials and other state agencies, such as the military and police from executing President Morales’ order.

(There is no indication that President Morales and the ex-foreign minister are related.)

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