Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has declared as “persona non grata” the head of an influential U.N. anti-graft unit seeking to investigate his campaign financing and ordered the official to leave the Central American country immediately.
Speaking in a video published on his Facebook account on Sunday, the president said Ivan Velasquez, head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), must leave national territory with immediate effect.
The move came after the CICIG in 2015 was instrumental in removing Guatemala’s former president from office after identifying him as a key player in an alleged multi-million-dollar corruption racket.
Guatemala’s foreign minister Carlos Raul Morales left the government on Sunday, according to the ministry’s Twitter account. The circumstances of his departure were not immediately clear, but the former minister, who is not related to the president, said on Friday he would resign if Velasquez was forced out.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “shocked” by Velasquez’ expulsion, and called on Guatemalan authorities to treat with respect the Colombian national, who was believed to still be in Guatemala on Sunday morning.
Rep. Eliot Engel of the U.S. house committee on foreign affairs said he was “extremely disappointed” by the decision to expel Velasquez and called on the State Department and Congress to examine the future of U.S. assistance to the Guatemalan government.
“CICIG has played a transformational role in combating corruption and impunity in Guatemala,” he said in a statement.