Guatemala confirms warrant for presidential candidate

Thelma Aldana, representing the Seed Movement Party, listens to a journalist's question during a press conference regarding her presidential nomination, in Guatemala City, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. (AP)
Updated 20 March 2019
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Guatemala confirms warrant for presidential candidate

  • Aldana, 63, was Guatemala’s top prosecutor from 2014 to 2018

GUATEMALA CITY: A Guatemalan judge has ordered the arrest of former attorney general and presidential candidate Thelma Aldana on charges including embezzlement, the police said on Tuesday, amid an escalating campaign on high-profile corruption and rights cases.
Aldana, who helped lead investigations into top politicians, including the current president, is seeking the presidency in a June election.
The warrant for her arrest, issued by Judge Victor Cruz, cited charges of embezzlement, lying and tax fraud. Aldana has denied wrongdoing.
Aldana, who was in El Salvador on Tuesday for a meeting, planned to return to Guatemala by Thursday, she said in an appearance on CNN.
She added that her presidential candidacy, approved by electoral authorities on Tuesday, had granted her immunity and that she would not take action against the arrest order.
“We’re not going to do anything... They know that I’m going to keep up the fight against corruption, and lots of people in Guatemala are trembling because of that,” she said.
President Jimmy Morales has fought back against a UN-backed anti-corruption body that, along with Aldana, sought to impeach him in a campaign financing investigation.
In January, he expelled the head of the corruption body, known as CICIG, from the country and has declined to renew its mandate.
Aldana and CICIG’s investigation of former President Otto Perez Molina led to his impeachment and cut short his presidency. He remains in custody on charges of involvement in a customs corruption ring.
Morales’ party is seeking to pass a law to free military officials convicted of human rights crimes during the Central American country’s 36-year civil war.
Lawmakers were set to review changes to the law on Wednesday, but dropped it from the agenda amid an onslaught of criticism from local and international rights groups, including the United Nations.
Instead, they have scheduled a discussion on modifying the criminal procedure code.
The proposed changes would limit jail time for accused people awaiting verdicts, which could allow the release of at least 100 people facing corruption charges, as well as others accused of war crimes. 


Fears grow as ‘chamki’ fever kills 100 children in Bihar

Updated 59 min 47 sec ago
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Fears grow as ‘chamki’ fever kills 100 children in Bihar

  • Multi-disciplinary institute planned to identify reason behind disease
  • Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain, caused by viruses. Symptoms include high fever, vomiting

NEW DELHI: When Arun Ram took his four-year-old daughter Sandhya Kumari to hospital in late May, he thought she was suffering from fever brought on by a seasonal virus.

But within 12 hours of her admission his daughter had died.

The initially mild fever had run out of control, causing mental disorientation, seizures and delirium.

Kumari was among more than 100 children who fell victim to acute encephalitis syndrome in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.

The state’s central districts of Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, Sheohar and East Champaran are worst affected. Official estimates suggest a death toll of 130, with 15 children under the age of 10 dying on Sunday alone.

Locally, the syndrome is known as “chamki” fever.

“In my hospital, 291 patients have been admitted, 91 have been discharged and 83 have lost their lives up until Monday,” said Dr. Sunil Kumar Sahi, medical superintendent of Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzaffarpur.

“The cause of the death is not known,” he told Arab News.

“This is matter of research. We follow a medical protocol in treating such patients because all the children are suffering from inflammation of brain or encephalopathy.

“We are telling the people that they should not come out in the heat, and they should eat on time. If there is a fever, they should take a cold bath and take medicine.” 

Sanjay Kumar, Bihar government’s principal secretary, said that the disease had affected 222 blocks in 12 districts in central Bihar.

On Sunday, a five-year-old girl died in front of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan while he was visiting the hospital.

“The situation is really grim in the area adjoining Muzaffarpur. The death toll has reached 127, but government data is still not giving a clear picture,” Raj Kumar, a local reporter, said.

The government has announced it will set up a 100-bed hospital to ease the growing concern in the region. 

A team of doctors has been deployed in central Bihar’s main hospitals to handle the growing number of cases.

“A multi-disciplinary institute will be set up here in the next year to identify the reason behind this disease,” the health minister said.