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Guatemala prosecutors pursue ex-president Jimmy Morales

·1 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 10, 2019 file photo, then Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales talks with Canada's ambassador Rita Marija Rudaitis-Renaud during a welcome ceremony for ambassadors in Guatemala City. Guatemalan prosecutors on Wednesday, April 21, 2021, have requested that former President Morales be stripped of his immunity so he can be prosecuted for violating the mandate of the United Nations backed anti-corruption mission then working in the country. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo, File)

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemalan prosecutors on Wednesday requested that former President Jimmy Morales be stripped of his immunity so he can be prosecuted for violating the mandate of the United Nations-backed anti-corruption mission then working in the country.

Morales, who led Guatemala from 2016 to 2020, has immunity because after his term he immediately became a representative to the Central American Parliament. Morales assumed the presidency pledging to battle corruption but once he and family members became targets of the anti-corruption mission, he moved to push it out of Guatemala.

In 2017, Morales declared the head of that mission, Colombian Iván Velásquez, persona non grate and did not allow him to re-enter the country.

Morales was twice investigated during his presidency for alleged electoral crimes.

But it was his decision to force Velásquez out, despite a ruling from Guatemala’s highest court that he couldn’t, that was cause for Wednesday’s move by the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s office to try to strip his immunity.

The U.N. mission, known as the CICIG, worked in Guatemala for 12 years, taking down criminal networks and even former President Otto Pérez Molina and his Vice President Roxana Baldetti.

To lift Morales’ immunity the Supreme Court will assign the case to a judge who will decide whether the evidence presented by prosecutors is valid. That judge will then make a recommendation and the Supreme Court will take the final decision.

Neither Morales nor his lawyers immediately commented.