The International Commission on Corruption in Guatemala, CICIG, and Guatemala's Public Ministry are investigating President Jimmy Morales' son and brother, they announced in a joint communique this week.
Guatemala: New President, Old Problems
José Manuel Morales Marroquín, Morales' son, was cited on Sept. 7, as was Samuel Everardo Morales, the president's brother, on Sept. 12.
According to investigators, Morales' son asked his uncle to provide him with bills that would help him justify the purchase of 564 Christmas breakfasts in 2013, for an amount of about US$19,000.
On Sept. 1, the head of the governmental institution that payed the allegedly fraudulent bill, the Real Estate Public Registry's Anabella de Leon, was arrested.
“The Public Ministry and the CICIG are currently investigating and doing the necessary checks to determine the level of criminal responsibility of these people and others,” said the joint statement, issued two hours after President Morales commented on the case in a video on Tuesday.
In the footage, Morales insists that his son and brother went voluntarily to court. He added that he will not mention the issue again in the future and that he will not interfere with the country's justice.
The investigation found that one of the fundraisers of the governing party and Central American lawmaker Othmar Sanchez Herrera could be involved in the case.
Various lawmakers have denounced the revelations, saying they were “undermining the president's credibility” and created a situation of “crisis for the country,” in the words of Mario Taracena, head of Guatemala's Congress.
Former comedian Jimmy Morales won the last presidential election in Oct. 2015, replacing former President Otto Perez Molina who was forced to quit after being involved in a massive corruption ring. Molina has been in prison since Sept. 2015.
However, protests by popular movements against state corruption have not stopped since Morales' election, while revelations continue to emerge about widespread systemic corruption in government institutions—though none directly involving the president.
Despite efforts to distance himself from the various high-level corruption scandals implicating the country’s main political parties, analysts are concerned that a Morales administration, with its ties to the military, may hamper efforts to prosecute former military officials accused of human rights violations committed during the all-too-recent civil war.
Members of his own political party currently face legal charges for human rights violations that allegedly took place during the 1960-1996 civil war.