Guatemalans march over president’s bid to close UN anti-graft unit

Storekeepers of La Terminal market march in support of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales in Guatemala City on January 12, 2019. (AFP / ORLANDO ESTRADA)
Updated 13 January 2019
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Guatemalans march over president’s bid to close UN anti-graft unit

  • Morales has charged that the UN mission overstepped its duties
  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres insisted Guatemala was legally obligated to maintain the mission, which began in 2006
GUATEMALA CITY: Thousands of Guatemalans took to the streets on Saturday, some in protest and others in support of President Jimmy Morales’s bid to close a UN anti-corruption mission that sought to investigate him on suspicion of campaign finance violations.
Marchers chanted and waved banners reading “We reject the government of the corrupt” and “We are against impunity” amid rising international concern.
In another part of the city, storekeepers of La Terminal market marched in support of the embattled president.
Morales notified the United Nations on Monday that the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) would close early.
It has been working since 2007 and has worked with the prosecutor’s office on graft and organized crime cases, among others.
Morales has charged that the mission overstepped its duties.
But on Wednesday, the country’s highest court stopped the ruling.
The Constitutional Court ordered government authorities to tell staff and civil servants to cooperate with the UN mission.
It is the latest twist in a saga that erupted last year when the CICIG made a joint request with the state prosecutor’s office to lift Morales’s presidential immunity as part of a probe into illegal campaign financing by his FCN-Nacion party.
Morales responded by saying he would not renew the CICIG’s mission when it officially ends in September, and later tried unsuccessfully to block the mission’s head, Ivan Velasquez, from entering the country.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres insisted Guatemala was legally obligated to maintain the mission, which began in 2006.
CICIG and state prosecutors have presented evidence that Morales’s FCN-Nacion party failed to report nearly $1 million in financing to electoral authorities.
It’s not just Morales who is in the CICIG’s sights, though. His son and brother were charged with tax evasion and money laundering in 2016.


Fire sweeps through Bangladesh slum, nine dead

Updated 13 min 45 sec ago
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Fire sweeps through Bangladesh slum, nine dead

  • Fires regularly break out in Bangladesh’s slums, where millions live in squalid living conditions

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh: A fire tore through a slum in southern Bangladesh on Sunday killing at least 9 people and destroying hundreds of shanty homes, police said.
The blaze broke out in the port city of Chittagong at about 3.30 A.M. and raced through the district of bamboo, tin and tarpaulin homes, said local police chief Pranab Chowdhury.
“At least 470 shanties were destroyed by the fire. So far 9 people have died. They included four members of a family,” fire brigade official Hefazatul Islam said.
Fires regularly break out in Bangladesh’s slums, where millions live in squalid living conditions.
Rights groups have in the past alleged some shanty town blazes were deliberate acts of sabotage by developers seeking to free up property to construct multi-story buildings.
“We have seen fires are used as a weapon to evict poor slum dwellers and squatters from government or private property,” rights activist Nur Khan Liton said.