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.


‘Unprecedented’ crackdown on crime welcomed by Afghans

Updated 18 January 2019
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‘Unprecedented’ crackdown on crime welcomed by Afghans

  • Interior Minister Amruallah Saleh's first act was to order his subordinates to ignore the long-standing tradition of presenting politicians with flowers and gowns when they are promoted
  • Saleh has also banned politicians and lawmakers from traveling with their ubiquitous security details (

KABUL: When Amruallah Saleh took office as Afghanistan’s interior minister last month, he wasted no time setting out his stall. His first act was to order his subordinates to ignore the long-standing tradition of presenting politicians with flowers and gowns when they are promoted.

“Lay down the flowers that you have bought as gifts for me on the graves of martyrs who you know from the security forces,” he said in a speech after assuming office last month. “Put the gown that you have bought for me on the shoulders of the broken-hearted fathers of the fallen.”

He went on to discuss his determination to act “mercilessly against criminals and the enemy.” At the time, many assumed Saleh’s comments to be the usual empty political promises so often heard from Afghan politicians assuming office in recent years, particularly as attacks by militants and criminal activity increased in Kabul in the early weeks of Saleh’s tenure. 

However, it seems as though Saleh, a former spymaster, is making good on his promise. The joint measures he has instigated with Kabul’s police chiefs to crack down on crime — including naming and shaming those wanted for involvement in criminal activity — have been a success. Some arrests have already been made, and a number of individuals on the blacklist have reportedly turned themselves in for questioning.

“He has shown decisiveness and courage by naming some of the culprits. That in itself is an initiative that has made people optimistic,” security analyst and retired general Attiqullah Amarkhail told Arab News.

Saleh has also banned politicians and lawmakers from traveling with their ubiquitous security details (usually traveling in a convoy of blacked-out vehicles) inside Kabul. Unsurprisingly, that move has attracted criticism from some senators, but has been welcomed by residents and other politicians.

Zaki Nadery, a Kabul resident, said the nation was “thirsty for reform” and that people already feel more secure in the city now that steps have been taken against lawbreakers, a sentiment echoed by several people interviewed by Arab News.

“People now have a relative sense of psychological and mental security. This is the result of tangible results from the work of the new minister. People have begun to trust and respect the police,” Nadery said.