Guatemala's President Jimmy Morales left the city of Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela or Xelajuj, without attending the ceremonies he had planned, because locals rejected his presence and demanded his invitation be revoked.
"I was told: 'Don't come because the people don't want you,'" Morales said. "And I said: 'Well, I've done nothing wrong, I have only complied with the law and worked hard.'"
The president was due to attend the opening ceremony of the Central American Independence Festival of Quetzaltenango, or 'Xela Fair,' on Friday amid protests against his decision to end the mandate of the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG), which is investigating him for alleged corruption.
The Citizens' Collective of Quetzaltenango and other local social organizations had demanded the mayor revoke Morales' invitation to the fair, one of the most important in the country, but their petition was ignored.
On Friday, the city awoke to signs declaring Morales 'persona non grata,' and showing support of the CICIG and its commissioner Ivan Velasquez. Other groups also protested this week, hanging black mourning flags from the city hall.
Se inaugura la feria de Xela sin @jimmymoralesgt. Fue nombrado Non Grato por la ciudadanía digna y se regresa a casa en medio del rechazo de la población a que participara en estos actos. #NoAlMoralazo #PactoDeGolpistas #PactoDeCorruptos pic.twitter.com/2xlRU9qdkF— PrensaComunitaria (@PrensaComunitar) 7 de septiembre de 2018
During the opening parade, students from several institutions hoisted similar signs in rejection of Morales, with images going viral on Guatemalan social media.
Morales opted not to attend, assisting only in the inauguration of the National Civil Police regional station and a highway segment before heading to the capital, where he said he had "many important matters to address."
Alfredo Brito, spokesman of the presidency, said the government of Guatemala respects freedom of speech for the people, which is guaranteed by the constitution.
Education Director Carlos Lopez called the supervisors for a meeting to address the issue, but the results have not been made public.
According to organizers, about 6,000 children from 40 private and public institutions took part in the parade, intended to commemorate traditional games and toys.