Buenos Aires Times

latin america Jimmy Morales skirts graft charges

Guatemala congress rejects lifting president's immunity

Lawmakers vote to retain protection from prosecution, despite corruption allegations from UN-led probe.

Tuesday 12 September, 2017
Legislators attend a session of Congress in Guatemala City, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. A five-members commission of legislators has recommended lifting Guatemala's President Jimmy Morales' immunity from prosecution so he can face possible trial on illegal campaign-financing accusations.
Legislators attend a session of Congress in Guatemala City, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. A five-members commission of legislators has recommended lifting Guatemala's President Jimmy Morales' immunity from prosecution so he can face possible trial on illegal campaign-financing accusations. Foto:AP

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Guatemalan lawmakers voted against lifting President Jimmy Morales' immunity from prosecution Monday, hours after a congressional commission recommended the protection be withdrawn to open the way for a possible trial on campaign-finance accusations.

Congress voted overwhelmingly not to do so. 

But since the measure failed to meet a threshold of 105 votes either for or against needed to settle the matter for good, it now goes into a kind of dormant state and can be reconsidered in another session of Congress.

Morales has been targeted by investigators amid allegations that about $825,000 in financing for his 2015 campaign was hidden and that other expenditures had no explainable source of funding.

The president has denied any wrongdoing. He issued a statement Monday night saying that the congressional decision "demonstrates the democratic maturity" of Guatemala's institutions.

Earlier Monday, Julio Ixcamey, head of the five-member commission of lawmakers, said it had found evidence of unregistered money in campaign funds.

But he also said Morales "did not have a direct participation in registering funds and contributions."

The investigation was conducted by Guatemalan prosecutors as well as Ivan Velasquez, the head of a UN anti-corruption commission that has been working in the Central American nation for a decade.

Last month Velasquez and Guatemala's chief prosecutor asked for the immunity attached to the presidency to be lifted in connection with the probe.

Two days later Morales sought to expel Vazquez from the country, but that order was swiftly overturned by the Constitutional Court.

- AP

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