Protests Erupt in Guatemala Over Laws to Dilute Antigraft Campaign

“Now people see the president and Congress are like a gang of people just trying to protect themselves from crimes they’ve already committed with impunity,” said Fernando Carrera, a former foreign minister and analyst.

Even though the court acted quickly, he warned that “instability will continue to grow, and economic and institutional deterioration will worsen.”

Two weeks ago, Iván Velásquez, the Colombian prosecutor who leads the panel, known by its Spanish initials as Cicig, and Attorney General Thelma Aldana announced an investigation into the president’s party over campaign finance irregularities. As secretary general of the party during the 2015 campaign, Mr. Morales was responsible, they said.

Two days later, Mr. Morales ordered Mr. Velásquez to leave the country. Although the Constitutional Court quickly reversed that order, Mr. Morales’s reputation was battered.


President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala. His order to expel the head of a United Nations anticorruption panel has damaged his reputation.

Esteban Biba/European Pressphoto Agency

“President Morales lost a lot of support when he wanted Cicig out of the country,” Mr. Carrera said.

The court appears to have blocked the legislation, but many believe the battle between Cicig and the government will persist. Although Congress voted to protect Mr. Morales from prosecution last week, his son and brother are accused in a separate Cicig investigation.

And Cicig’s focus on campaign finance — which the panel has called “the original sin” of Guatemala’s political system — means that prosecutors are casting a wide net over Guatemala’s political establishment and the businesses that finance it.

The government’s hostility toward Cicig pits Mr. Morales directly against the United Nations and the United States, a strong supporter of the panel.

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