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. 


Women's temple ban debate rages in India flashpoint vote

Updated 28 min 39 sec ago
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Women's temple ban debate rages in India flashpoint vote

  • Indian Supreme Court ruled the ban on women from entering a Hindu temple as unconstitutional
  • Two of the three candidates for presidency support the ban

PATHANAMTHITTA, India: Voters in a flashpoint constituency in southern India went to the polls Tuesday after a campaign dominated by the fallout from the controversial decision to allow women to enter a Hindu temple.
The district of Pathanamthitta in the state of Kerala includes the Sabarimala Hindu temple, where two women finally defied a longstanding ban on women of menstruating age last year.
Traditionalists were outraged and many women remain divided over the move, which has overshadowed the campaign with candidates staging election parades on the issue.
Kanaka Durga and Bindu Ammini made history in December when police guided them into the hilltop shrine, after the Supreme Court ruled that the ban was unconstitutional.
Days of pitched battles erupted between traditionalists and activists. The anger has not died down and core issues such as unemployment, health and education have been pushed aside during the campaign.
The whole country is expected to follow the result when it is announced on May 23 after India’s marathon election.
Two of the three main candidates in the election are men who support the ban, while the third is a woman who has tried to dodge the topic.
Veena George, who is standing for the alliance of left wing parties that runs Kerala’s state government cited an election commission advisory to avoid using the temple to get votes.
“We need a revival of job opportunities, agriculture and infrastructure. Educated women need jobs,” she told AFP on the last day of campaigning before Tuesday’s vote.
India’s main opposition Congress party has fielded Anto Antony, who won the last two elections and has backed the traditionalists.
The Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brandished its pro-Hindu credentials as it seeks to make an impact in a state where it has always struggled.
The BJP has fielded K. Surendran, who became the symbol of the massive temple protests across Kerala. He now faces more than 200 police cases related to violence during last year’s Sabarimala protests.
“The Communists have an issue with our prayers and religion but they can’t crush believers’ rights,” Modi told a rally in Kerala last week.
“We won’t tolerate any attack on a tradition that has lasted thousands of years,” Modi added to wild cheers.
Many women have backed the traditionalist cause.
“Local men and women agree. There is only one issue in this election — our faith. And the court shouldn’t have intervened,” Lakshmi, who works at a local hospital, and only uses one name, told AFP.
“I feel hurt as a Hindu when I see things going against our culture and tradition,” added Bindhu, a housewife.
“The temple has always been a place where women could not go. It is not acceptable to see people coming and fighting to enter now,” she added.
Tens of thousands of people, including many women, took part in street marches and protests in support of the ban.
However, uncertainty remains over how many women will vote for their right to enter Sabarimala.
“Women should be free to choose whether to enter or not. To me, women’s safety, here and all over India, is the only issue that is important,” said Ansa S., a medical student.