Guatemala creates tensions by telling Sweden, Venezuela to remove envoys

Guatemala’s foreign minister says Swedish envoy Kompass must be withdrawn for describing Guatemala as a ‘corrupt society’

Guatemala City: Guatemala is on the threshold of an international row after demanding Sweden and Venezuela remove their ambassadors, whom it accuses of meddling in domestic affairs, experts and analysts said Friday.

The Central American country on Thursday said Swedish envoy Anders Kompass and Venezuelan envoy Elena Salcedo had to go, to be replaced by new ambassadors.

Guatemala’s Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel said Kompass had to be withdrawn because he described Guatemala as having a “corrupt society.” Salcedo was alleged to have links to a Guatemalan rural organisation opposed to Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales.

The move against the Swedish envoy triggered the biggest backlash.

Sweden on Friday slammed the decision over its ambassador, calling it “unfortunate” and demanding further explanation.

Sweden is one the largest supporters of the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which was founded in 2006 to tackle corruption and organised crime.

The body has of late been closely scrutinising Morales, who is under suspicion of illegal campaign financing in the election that brought him to power in 2015. Morales’ son and brother are also under investigation for suspected graft.

“I think this is recklessness, almost paranoia, and [Morales] is skidding to the edge,” Luis Linares, an analyst with the Association for Social Studies and Research, told AFP.

Morales created a political crisis in his country last September when he tried to kick out the Colombian head of the CICIG. He was blocked when the country’s top court annulled the order.

“The fear he has is that the actions by the CICIG and prosecutors might end up with a legal case against him, which is making him act in an irresponsible way,” the analyst said.

As for the Venezuelan ambassador, Linares hypothesised that it might be an attempt by Morales to ingratiate himself with the United States, which is stepping up its campaign against Caracas.

Guatemala was already the first country to say it was following the United States’ controversial lead in moving its embassy in Israel to occupied Jerusalem.

Gabriel Orellana, a former Guatemalan foreign minister who was in office 2000-2002, said Morales’ decision against the ambassadors was “evidence of intolerance on any form of criticism.”

“This puts everyone on edge in the sense that the president is thinking of his personal interests and those of his family in the case of Sweden,” he said.

“What we are saying to the world is that we are not such a serious country when it comes to our international policies,” he said, adding that it could result in less European aid for Guatemala.

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