(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
Guatemala's Constitutional Court on Sunday suspended an order by President Jimmy Morales to expel the head of an influential U.N. anti-graft unit investigating campaign financing, setting the stage for political instability in the Central American nation.
Speaking in a video published on his Facebook account earlier on Sunday, the president said Ivan Velasquez, head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG, must leave the country immediately. Morales' declaration that Velasquez was "persona non grata" came days after CICIG said the president should be investigated over alleged illicit funding during his election campaign,
With powers to investigate crime and corruption, CICIG was instrumental in removing Guatemala's former president from office in 2015 after identifying him as a key player in an alleged multimillion-dollar corruption racket.
Protesters gathered on Sunday outside CICIG's offices and the Constitutional Court in support of Velasquez, a veteran prosecutor who previously investigated drug cartels and paramilitary groups in his home country, Colombia.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a statement he was "shocked" by Morales' move, and called on Guatemalan authorities to treat Velasquez with respect. In a joint statement issued by the US Embassy, a group of nine Western countries and the European Union strongly backed Velasquez and criticised Morales' move to oust him.