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Morales retains graft case immunity

GUATEMALA CITY

Guatemala’s Congress has voted overwhelmingly to preserve President Jimmy Morales’ immunity from prosecution after the attorney general submitted a request to investigate him over suspected financing irregularities during his 2015 election campaign.

The vote to protect Morales from possible prosecution was lopsided, with only 25 of the 158 members of Congress voting to strip Morales’ of his legal protections.

Presidential immunity can only be lifted with the backing of at least two-thirds of the chamber, or 105 members.

Backers of Morales argued their vote to stop the probe from advancing favoured political stability in the Central American nation.

“Democracy isn’t built by changing the president every two years,” said Congressman Raul Romero, head of the Fuerza party, referring to the corruption cases that led to the 2015 resignation of Morales’ predecessor, Otto Perez Molina.

The vote in Congress was a blow to the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which was pushing to determine the origin of some $800,000 in funds Morales managed as secretary general of the conservative National Convergence Front (FCN) party he led from 2015 to 2016.

It was widely believed that those in favour of stripping Morales of his impunity would struggle to win enough support in Congress to green light an eventual prosecution.

Reuters