Guatemala protesters call on President Morales to quit

Thousands of people in Guatemala protested against corruption in the government. (AFP pic)

GUATEMALA CITY: Thousands of Guatemalan protesters, including farmers, activists, and members of indigenous groups, marched through the capital of the Central American country on Tuesday to demand the resignation of President Jimmy Morales, who faces allegations of campaign finance corruption.

The protesters converged on the historic centre of Guatemala City demanding not only that Morales quit, but that members of Congress who have refused to strip him of his legal immunity so he can be fully investigated also step down.

“We demand the resignation of President Jimmy Morales and the corrupt deputies,” said Erika Martínez, head of the Committee for Rural Development in Guatemala, the organization that called the protests.

The crowds took almost six hours to march from all corners of the city, occupying public squares as they went, before converging in the centre where speaker after speaker ripped into the government.

Morales, a 49-year-old former television comedian, has spent the past eight months denying that his right-wing FCN-Nation party received campaign donations which it failed to report to the Supreme Court, as it was required by law to do.

The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a UN-sponsored body charged with fighting corruption in the country, has backed prosecutors’ calls for Morales’ presidential immunity to be lifted, to allow investigators to properly delve into the case, but Congress has so far sidestepped any move to do so.

Both prosecutors and CICIG announced last week a second investigation into allegations that Morales had skirted the rules on reporting campaign funds in order to accept a million dollars’ worth of donations from business leaders to his party.

Protesters carried placards that repeated Morales’ campaign slogan that promised “no corruption, no thieves” and called his election a “fraud.”

The march organisers also demanded an investigation into links between organised crime and the judicial sector, following the revelation earlier this year of a bribery ring led by a high-profile lawyer designed to rig elections for Supreme Court justices.

Martínez said they are demanding assurances that the country’s next chief prosecutor will have “no links to corruption.”

Morales has until mid-May to replace Thelma Aldana, the current attorney general who has worked with CICIG to combat public sector fraud.