Latin America & Caribbean

Guatemalan president orders out UN anti-corruption investigator

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Morales won the 2015 election with an anti-corruption agenda

Guatemala's president has ordered the expulsion from the country of the head of the UN anti-corruption mission.

President Jimmy Morales ordered Iván Velásquez Gómez's immediate removal in a video message released on Sunday.

The Constitutional Court quickly halted the order, but Mr Morales said it did not have the power to overrule his decisions on foreign affairs.

The UN agency has backed calls for the removal of Mr Morales' political immunity.

Guatemalan prosecutors accused Mr Morales of funding irregularities in the 2015 election.

In a video posted on social media, Mr Morales declared Colombian lawyer Iván Velásquez persona non grata.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Many Guatemalans took to the streets to protest against the president on Sunday

"As president of the republic, for the interests of the Guatemalan people, strengthening of the rule of law, and institutionality, I declare Mr Iván Velásquez Gómez non grata, in his capacity as commissioner of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, and I order that he immediately leaves the Republic of Guatemala," Mr Morales said.

Health Minister Lucrecia Hernández Mack‏ resigned in protest at the president's move.

She said on Twitter it had become "ethically and politically unviable" to work in such a government.

Hours later, the Constitutional Court decided by three votes to two to temporarily block the decision.

But Mr Morales dismissed the court's ruling.

"No national court has constitutional powers to overrule decisions taken by the president concerning foreign affairs," he wrote on social media.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Velásquez has been in the post since September 2013

Mr Morales is a former comic actor who had never held public office before becoming president.

He surprised traditional politicians and won the election promising to tackle corruption and impunity.

"Neither corrupt nor a thief" was his campaign slogan.

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