May 11, 2018 / 2:47 AM / 6 months ago

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

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemala asked the governments of Sweden and Venezuela on Thursday to withdraw their ambassadors, accusing the diplomats of interfering in domestic politics and calling the country corrupt.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has been assailed by graft accusations against his family, and he has been at loggerheads with a United Nations-backed anti-corruption body of which Sweden is a prominent backer.

“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,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel told a news conference the requests to remove the ambassadors had nothing to do with the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), however.

“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.

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

Earlier this year CICIG tried unsuccessfully to impeach Morales, a former comedian. He then tried but failed to expel the head of CICIG after criticism from the UN, the United States and the European Union.

Jovel said on Thursday “nobody is being expelled, nor are we declaring anyone non grata. Bilateral relations continue.”

“I think the ambassador of Venezuela also committed some types of interference.”

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom in a statement called the Guatemalan move “very unfortunate”.

“We will now seek further explanations from the Guatemalan government and thereafter consider a course of action,” she said. “Sweden’s views and action on issues concerning human rights and fighting corruption are well-known.”

Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Additional reporting by Johan Sennero in Stockholm; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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