The US Government has decided to “temporarily” freeze cooperation with the Guatemalan Public Ministry after the dismissal of the head of the Special Prosecutor Against Impunity in Guatemala (FECI), Juan Francisco Sandoval, a fact that has generated a new crisis in the Central American country. Washington had already expressed its displeasure at the removal of Sandoval, whom the US authorities had praised for his role in the fight against corruption, an endemic evil within the Guatemalan political system.
The deputy spokesperson for the Department, Jalina Porter, explained that, with the departure of Sandoval, her country has “lost confidence in the attorney general [María Consuelo Porras] and in their decisions and intentions to cooperate with the United States Government and fight corruption in good faith ”. Porter recalled recent visits to Guatemala by senior US officials, including Vice President Kamala Harris, as initiatives to strengthen relations between the two countries. During his visit to Guatemala in early June, Harris affirmed that the Biden administration’s position is clear on corruption: “We must eradicate corruption at its roots” so that resources are not diverted from the people who need them. His government has linked efforts to try to stop the irregular migration of Central Americans, one of the main problems that the Biden government has had to face so far, to the fight against corruption.
The dismissal of Sandoval, 38, occurred last Friday and since it became known it generated a deep malaise in broad sectors of Guatemalan society, fed up with the high level of impunity that prevails in the Central American country. The now former prosecutor was a key piece in the fight against corruption in Guatemala and on Friday, before going into exile in El Salvador, he denounced that his dismissal was ordered by the attorney general and head of the Public Ministry, Consuelo Porras. Sandoval affirmed that Porras has stopped several investigations that were carried out against the government of President Alejandro Giammattei, which include alleged cases of bribery and corruption. According to the lawyer, Porras “intention is to protect his friends who may be involved in the investigations.”
The decision to withdraw Sandoval has drawn criticism from the international community. In addition to the United States, the United Nations expressed concern about the removal of the prosecutor. “The ability of prosecutors to carry out their duties without intimidation or inappropriate interference is an essential requirement to respond to and prevent corruption and impunity,” said United Nations spokesman Farhan Haq.
In diplomatic and political circles, the dismissal is directly attributed to the fact that the investigations by the Prosecutor’s Office led by Sandoval exposed untouchable sectors of Guatemala, known as ‘The Corrupt Pact’, which would have co-opted the Legislative and Judicial powers and institutions theoretically destined to guarantee the independence of powers, such as the Constitutional, which were particularly uncomfortable for them.
Sandoval left Guatemala via El Salvador in the early hours of Saturday, just after his dismissal, to protect his life. But first he wanted to leave a testimony that sheds more light on the way in which all the country’s institutions have been co-opted, with very specific accusations to the prosecutor Consuelo Porras of whom he pointed out of throwing down on the investigations that reached the circle of trust of Giammattei . “He did not explicitly tell me not to investigate the president, but he was putting aside the file,” Sandoval said at a mile-long press conference.
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