Biden officials are favorites in Guatemalan politics, critics say

As the United States spends some $ 310 million in Central American land, officials and experts are divided over whether these taxes are being siphoned off to fuel a “left revolution” or to drive reform. indispensable in corrupt local legal systems.

The State Department said the funds were intended to promote democracy and border security.

President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s administration is using foreign aid and a “leftist agenda” to subsidize “instability and economic misery” in Guatemala, Guatemalan analyst Luis Figueroa and man said. American Business Expatriate Steve Hecht.

They cite an anti-corruption forum in Washington, DC last month in which former Guatemalan officials Thelma Aldana and Juan Francisco Sandoval participated. State Department officials praised Sandoval for pursuing corruption cases. Yet both Aldana and Sandoval had been charged by the Attorney General of Guatemala, María Consuelo Porras.

The two former officials escaped prosecution at home by extending their stay in the United States, which made no effort to arrest them or hand them over to Guatemalan officials for trial.

In response to Porras’ indictment of Aldana and Sandoval, the State Department denied a US visa to Porras, who has not been charged with any crime in either Guatemala or the United States. Additionally, some US officials have praised Porras. The United States Embassy congratulated her, and the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency thanked Porras for extraditing criminals to the United States.

Nonetheless, Secretary of State Antony Binken later named her “corrupt actor. “Porras had” hindered investigations into acts of corruption by interfering with criminal investigations, “the Blinken statement said.

“Everyone knows she was put on the bad actor list because she fired Sandoval,” Hecht said.

State Department officials highlighted comments by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power, who said at an inter-American dialogue ceremony in September that Porras had seen himself refuse a visa for “obstructing corruption investigations” and for firing Sandoval, who has a long left-wing pedigree and has been accused of corruption.

Samantha Power is a director of the United States Agency for International Development. (Greg Nash-Pool / Getty Images)

This leads some observers to believe that the United States is taking sides in an internal right-left struggle in Guatemala. But State Department officials insist they are only trying to help “anti-corruption efforts” and promote “the rule of law.”

Porras was appointed to her current post during the tenure of former President Jimmy Morales in 2018. The Morales National Convergence Front was founded by a group of former military officers.

Sandoval had been a prosecutor since 2015. During his tenure, he and Aldana filed corruption charges against ex-President Otto Perez Molina, while civic organizations such as Semilla demanded his ouster during tumultuous protests.

After being replaced by Porras, Aldana made a presidential offer with Semilla, but a court disqualified him. Semilla is aware of the “hateful inequalities generated by an uncontrolled capitalism centered on the accumulation of wealth”, specifies its website.

Porras said her agency continues to face “pressure” from the State Department which she says is at the expense of eradicating corruption.

María Consuelo Porras has been charged with bribery, but neither the United States nor Guatemala has charged her with any crime. (Public domain)

“Sandoval was their criminal. They knew he had committed crimes, but it is part of their program. They believe these crimes are justified because of the purity of their agenda and the wickedness of their opponents, ”Hecht said.

“Guatemala has never had the rule of law,” Hecht said, “But what the United States is doing is not helping.”

This political battle was sparked when US Vice President Kamala Harris and Administrator Power visited Guatemala in June. As US media covered Harris’ words telling Guatemalans to “do not come” to the United States without a valid visa, Guatemalan officials noted his connection to Sandoval.

Soon after, Porras fired Sandoval, who left the country and now faces charges of contempt of his authority. US sanctions against Porras quickly followed.

“I believe USAID and what I call the human rights oligarchy have been preparing for a revolutionary change of government for 10 years without the need for elections,” said Guatemalan political analyst Luis Figueroa . “By removing a president and vice president for corruption, Congress would then choose acceptable replacements for pressure groups pushing for change, but not elected by voters. “

The anti-USAID rhetoric “is absurd and misleading,” said Justin Wolfe of the Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University. “The CICIG [an independent anti-corruption commission] has done extremely important work and faced considerable effort to derail its efforts. Guatemala has suffered and continues to suffer from terrible corruption, and Jimmy Morales’ administration has been one of the worst in recent memory, certainly since the return of electoral democracy to Guatemala.

“The United States has long supported grotesque human rights violations and corruption in Guatemala under the pretext of keeping communism at bay,” Wolfe said. He cited the case of the “genocidal actions” of General Efraín Ríos Montt as President of Guatemala in 1982-1983 after taking power in a military coup.

Wolfe says those who now speak out against the UN-sanctioned International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, known almost universally by its Spanish initials, CICIG, and USAID have supported this regime, without providing any evidence for this. affirmation.

Policy concerns

Another speaker at the Washington conference was Iván Velásquez, a Colombian lawyer who headed CICIG. He too is a controversial figure in Guatemala.

Hecht and Figueroa told Zenger that Velásquez and his now closed CICIG continue to divide Guatemalan politics.

Iván Velázquez, a Colombian jurist who headed CICIG, has sparked controversy in Guatemala for the commission’s alleged abuses. (Public domain)

Hecht said the State Department and USAID, particularly during the Bush and Obama years, and again under President Biden, pursued policies in Guatemala and in Latin America in general that “create chaos and promote left-wing objectives ”.

Hecht testified in June before the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights of the United States House of Representatives, “[Ambassador Todd] Robinson used the CICIG as a ram to try to change Guatemala’s constitution and make an electoral law in 2016. This was possible because the extraordinary power of the CICIG came from its diplomatic immunity and international support, in particular the United States. He could do anything illegally to anyone and did it.

In 2019, a Guatemalan congressional committee heard testimony from citizens alleging abuse by the CICIG. Prosecutor Velásquez denounced the commission, claiming that it violates the constitutional separation of powers and constitutes “an illegal interference of the legislative power” in the independent entity. “The ultimate goal of the commission… is to disrupt ongoing (legal) affairs,” Velásquez said.

Hecht told Zenger: “Many Guatemalans fear the CICIG because it seems to prosecute people who disagree with it.

Edited by Melanie Slone and Kristen Butler

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