Guatemalan Minister of Defense Williams Mansilla is stepping down from his position, the official announced yesterday, after being criticized for allowing his department to pay current President Jimmy Morales monthly bonuses.
Legislators discovered the monthly payment transfers last week that totalled just over US$61,000 since December 2016. Morales immediately announced he had returned the funds.
Comptroller General Carlos Mencos questioned the legality of the payments, saying that such bonuses would first have to be agreed upon by cabinet members, and if permitted, should be published in the Central American Daily, a government-run newspaper.
Mansilla defended himself saying that his actions were transparent and legal, claiming these bonuses have been permitted for 12 years, but that no president before Morales received them. Last week, Mansilla said that as commander in chief, Morales has a right to military bonuses. Mencos contends that even as commander in chief, the presidency is not within the administration of the military, and therefore, not allowed to receive them.
Several positions within the military are allowed the bonus, such as the Vice Minister of Defense and the General Commander of the Army, but not the President of the Republic.
Morales is currently under investigation by the Public Ministry and the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, or Cicig, for illegal campaign financing during his presidential elections in 2015. He is also under investigation by the same entities for unaccounted money transfers to members of his political party, National Convergence Front, in 2015 while Morales was the party’s secretary general. The national congress has protected Morales via decrees several times this month, protecting the president’s legal impunity and shielding him from the investigations.
These series of corruption scandals and presidential protections within the Morales administration have prompted several civil society protests over the past month.