Dozens of Central American officials added to US corruption blacklist

The US State Department on Wednesday added dozens of current and former Central American officials, lawmakers, judges and businesspeople to a list that names those the US government considers “corrupt and undemocratic” actors in the region. The so-called Engel List, created under legislation sponsored by then-US Representative Eliot Engel, includes individuals from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua whom Washington accuses of wrongdoing .

Among the 60 people named were the Salvadoran president’s press secretary Nayib Bukele and his legal adviser, two justices of the Guatemalan Supreme Court, a vice president of the Honduran congress and a number of former government ministers from across the region. U.S. officials see fighting corruption in Central America as one of the keys to addressing the root causes of record-breaking illegal migration across the U.S.-Mexico border, which poses a political and humanitarian problem for President Joe Biden.

“These individuals, through their extensive corruption, efforts to obstruct corruption investigations and the undermining of democratic processes and institutions, weaken the ability of governments in the region to respond to the needs of their citizens, contributing to irregular migration and destabilizing societies,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. Individuals named in the list, which the State Department is required by law to publish annually, will have their US visas revoked and will not be able to enter the United States.

The Nicaraguans were first added to the list after November elections in which Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla, won a fourth consecutive term after jailing rivals and cracking down on critical media. US President Joe Biden dismissed the election as a sham and imposed sanctions on Nicaraguan officials.

The State Department has appointed 23 judges and prosecutors who it says “undermined democratic processes” for their alleged complicity in jailing and prosecuting opposition figures. Bukele’s press secretary, Jose Ernesto Sanabria, was accused “of using the influence of the presidency to inappropriately pressure opposition political party leaders to resign under threat of ‘to be charged with criminal offences’.

Other Salvadorans added to the list included Christian Reynaldo Guevara Guadron, a lawmaker and “faction leader” of Bukele’s Nuevas Ideas party. Bukele has drawn international criticism, including from the United States, for what many see as democratic backsliding. He declared a state of emergency in March in what he described as an effort to curb a spike in homicides, suspending some constitutional protections.

Among the Guatemalans listed were the head of the office of the special prosecutor against impunity of the public prosecutor’s office, a former minister of communications and several businessmen. Among the prominent Hondurans named was Enrique Alberto Flores Lanza, minister for the presidency from 2006 to 2009. The State Department alleged that he “engaged in significant corruption by receiving $2 million in public money from the Central Bank of Honduras and redistributing them inappropriately to political allies.”

The list of Hondurans also included a former labor minister and a former health secretary.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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