Guatemala asks Sweden, Venezuela to remove ambassadors over 'interference'

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, who has been assailed by graft accusations against members of his family.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, who has been assailed by graft accusations against members of his family.PHOTO: AFP

GUATEMALA CITY (REUTERS) - Guatemala asked the governments of Sweden and Venezuela on Thursday (May 10) to withdraw their ambassadors, accusing the diplomats of improperly interfering in domestic politics.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, who has been assailed by graft accusations against members of his family, has been at loggerheads with the United Nations-backed CICIG, a powerful anti-corruption body with broad international backing.

Sweden is a prominent backer of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

Morales risks provoking an international outcry and isolating from the Central American country, his government by acting to remove the diplomats.

"Because Ambassadors Anders Kompass and Elena Alicia Salcedo Poleo have, in the course of their work, assumed attitudes that result in interference in the internal affairs of Guatemala, the governments of Sweden and Venezuela have been asked to withdraw them," Guatemala's foreign ministry said in a statement, without giving further details.

In a subsequent news conference, Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel said the request to remove the ambassadors had nothing to do with CICIG.

"You all know perfectly well that at one point, Ambassador Kompass called all of Guatemalan society corrupt, and that's not something we accept, nor will we tolerate, because that's not how it is," she told reporters.

"I think the ambassador of Venezuela also committed some types of interference." She added that "nobody is being expelled, nor are we declaring anyone non grata. Bilateral relations continue."

In January, during a ceremony in which the government of Sweden donated funds to CICIG, Kompass made mention of "a corrupt society," but added that he did "not think it was correct" to say that all of the culture was bad. He also noted that CICIG represented "a strong medicine" for Guatemala.

In its earlier statement, the foreign ministry said it would wait for the governments of Sweden and Venezuela to present new ambassadors.

Kompass, formerly the director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, made headlines in 2016 when he revealed that the United Nations had been guilty of covering up dozens of cases of sexual abuse against women and children by its global workforce.

Morales, a former television comedian, became embroiled in a dispute with the United Nations this year when the CICIG tried to impeach him.

Although Morales avoided impeachment, he failed in an attempt to expel the head of CICIG after criticism from the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.