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Guatemala parliament votes to keep immunity for President Jimmy Morales

Guatemala's Congress refused to strip President Jimmy Morales of his immunity and allow him to face prosecution over campaign funds. Previously, Morales tried to expel the head of an UN anti-corruption team.

The embattled Morales won an important victory on Monday, with 104 out of 129 lawmakers in attendance voting for him to keep his presidential immunity.

Morales faces investigation by both Guatemalan prosecutors and the UN International Committee Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). He is suspected of failing to declare over $800,000 (around 670,000 euro) in campaign funds.

The graft allegations are particularly damaging to Morales, a former TV comedian, who ran as an outsider pledging to clean up corruption in Guatemalan politics. The president has denied any wrongdoing.

Woman with a #Jimmy to court outside the seat of Guatemala's Congress (picture-alliance/AP/M. Castillo)

A protester in Guatemala City holds up a sign saying "#Jimmy to court"

Morales blocked by the court

The UN-backed CICIG played a key role in ousting Morales' predecessor Otto Perez Molina in 2015. Molina was forced to resign and was eventually imprisoned over a multi-million-dollar bribery scandal which stemmed from a CICIG probe.

Ivan Velasquez portrait (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Castillo)

Ivan Velasquez called for removal of Morales' immunity

Last month, CICIG announced they were seeking to investigate Morales over unexplained funds. Only two days later, Morales moved against CICIG head Ivan Velasquez by proclaiming the veteran Colombian prosecutor "persona non grata" in Guatemala. However, the nation's Supreme Court overruled Morales' order to expel Velasquez. The court also opened the way for Congress to strip Morales of his immunity.

Read more: Guatemalan president defiant over Velasquez' ouster

In order to permanently settle the issue, the 158-seat parliament needs a two-thirds majority, or 105 votes for one of the options. The Monday decision fell short of this threshold by a single vote, leaving the possibility for the issue to be raised again sometime in the future.

Watch video 00:32

Guatemala's president expels anti-graft chief

dj/jm (AFP, Reuters, EFE)

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