The State Division stated Wednesday that Alejandro Giammattei, Guatemala’s president till a tumultuous switch of energy this week, was denied entry to the USA due to data indicating he had accepted bribes.
The announcement indicated that the USA was taking swift motion to assist the anti-corruption drive led by Guatemala’s new president, Bernardo Arévalo. Guatemala was not too long ago engulfed by protests over efforts to stop Mr. Arévalo from taking workplace, and Mr. Giammattei refused to seem at his successor’s inauguration on Monday.
‘Nobody, and positively no civil servant, is above the regulation’ said Brian Nichols, the State Division’s high official for the Western Hemisphere.
The Finance Ministry additionally introduced sanctions on Wednesday in opposition to Alberto Pimentel Mata, a former vitality minister in Mr. Giammattei’s authorities, in reference to Mr. Pimentel Mata’s taking of bribes and his involvement in quite a few corruption schemes involving authorities contracts and licenses, officers stated.
Over the weekend, U.S. Customs and Border Safety denied one in every of Mr. Giammattei’s sons entry to Miami and deported him on Monday. according to to Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah and supporter of Mr. Giammattei.
Taken collectively, these strikes replicate how the U.S. authorities is attempting to curb corruption and impunity in Guatemala, Central America’s most populous nation.
Whereas Mr. Giammattei was president, an alliance of prosecutors, judges, members of Congress and different political figures retaliated in opposition to officers concerned in a landmark United Nations-backed anti-corruption initiative from 2020 to 2024.
“The State Division has credible data indicating that Giammattei accepted bribes in change for the efficiency of his public features throughout his time period as president,” Matthew Miller, a State Division spokesman, stated in an announcement.
The previous president is now “typically ineligible” to enter the USA, Mr. Miller added, though he didn’t present particular details about the bribes Mr. Giammattei was accused of accepting.
The previous president couldn’t instantly be reached for remark.
Stories of Mr. Giammattei’s involvement in corruption schemes have circulated in Guatemala for years. In 2021, prosecutors opened an investigation into claims that Russian residents paid bribes to Mr. Giammattei in reference to a mining venture, after an anti-corruption prosecutor obtained testimony from a witness who stated he went to Mr. Giammattei’s residence and had delivered a roll. carpet crammed with money.
Throughout his time in workplace, Mr. Giammattei denied that he had been bribed in reference to the Russian venture.
Investigations into these claims didn’t yield a lot progress in Guatemala’s opaque authorized system. Within the cash-filled carpet case, the prosecutor who investigated the case was fired and compelled into exile in the USA.
Mr. Giammattei’s appointment to the State Division comes amid different U.S. efforts to counter unlawful actions by political leaders in Central America. America extradited Juan Orlando Hernández, a former president of Honduras, in 2022 to face drug trafficking expenses in New York.
Mr. Giammattei, who embraces staunchly conservative insurance policies, is seen as an ally of some political figures in the USA, akin to Mr. Lee and Richard Grenell, a former ambassador to Germany throughout the Trump administration, who visited Guatemala final week in a present of assist for Mr Giammattei.
America final month introduced sanctions in opposition to Miguel Martínez, one in every of Mr. Giammattei’s closest associates, along with visa restrictions on practically 300 Guatemalan residents, together with greater than 100 members of Congress, over its efforts to weaken Mr. Arévalo and shut him down to stop it from being inaugurated.
Former presidents in Central America sometimes acquire immunity from prosecution within the area by being sworn in as members of the Central American parliament. However that immunity doesn’t prolong to the American authorized system or to involvement in violating American legal guidelines. Mr Giammattei entered the Central American parliament shortly after the top of his time period of workplace.
Jody Garcia contributed reporting from Guatemala Metropolis.