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Guatemala’s Top Court Says President Can’t Expel Chief of Anticorruption Panel

Guatemala’s highest court ruled Tuesday that President Jimmy Morales could not expel the leader of a United Nations anticorruption panel that has accused him of breaking campaign finance laws.

The decision by the Constitutional Court confirms an earlier temporary ruling and and heightens political pressure on Mr. Morales to allow the work of the commission and its head, Ivan Velásquez, to go forward, even though the president is now a target of its investigations along with many other politicians and powerful business leaders.

The president’s surprise announcement on Sunday that he was expelling Mr. Velásquez created political upheaval, prompting protests in defense of Mr. Velásquez and condemnation from the United Nations, the United States and other countries.

“The government must decide if it is fighting against corruption or not,” the United States ambassador, Todd D. Robinson, told a Guatemalan newspaper on Monday. Mr. Robinson has been an outspoken supporter of the anticorruption battle led by Mr. Velásquez and Attorney General Thelma Aldana.

In a post on his Facebook page on Monday, Mr. Morales promised to abide by the ruling of the court.

In the eyes of many Guatemalans, Mr. Velásquez, a professorial Colombian prosecutor, has become their champion because of his role in cracking open corruption schemes led by members of Guatemala’s political and economic elite.

But the president, a former television comic who was elected in 2015 as a political outsider after the previous president was charged with leading a customs fraud ring, has been under growing pressure from conservatives to confront Mr. Velásquez.

The breaking point appeared to come on Friday, when Mr. Velásquez and Ms. Aldana announced that Mr. Morales’s party had failed to report anonymous campaign contributions made during the 2015 presidential campaign.

Source: NYT > World

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