US bars ex-Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei from entry 3 days after he left office

US bars ex-Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei from entry 3 days after he left office © Provided by The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The U.S. State Department barred former Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei from entering the United States, accusing him Wednesday of “significant corruption” three days after he left office.

The Biden administration had become increasingly critical of Giammattei’s administration as Guatemalan prosecutors sought to head off Sunday’s inauguration of new President Bernardo Arévalo, who has vowed to crack down on corruption.

“The State Department has credible information indicating that Giammattei accepted bribes in exchange for the performance of his public functions during his tenure as president of Guatemala, actions that undermined the rule of law and government transparency,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Corruption allegations swirled around Giammattei for much of his term, but prosecutors who received the accusations were pushed out by Attorney General Consuelo Porras — herself already sanctioned by the U.S. government — and the inquiries did not advance.

The U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Brian A. Nichols, had warned last week that the U.S. government would continue identifying and holding accountable those who tried to undermine Guatemala’s democracy.

Giammattei had maintained in the months before the inauguration that the prosecutors’ cases against Arévalo and his party were not politically motivated and that because of the separation of powers he could not intervene. Publicly he said the transition of power was advancing.

Critics said that during Giammattei’s four-year term, much of the more than decade of work by a United Nations-supported anti-corruption commission and Guatemalan prosecutors was undone. The local prosecutors and judges who worked with the U.N. became the hunted, with dozens fleeing the country and those who didn’t getting locked up and facing charges.

The U.S. government has sanctioned hundreds of Guatemalan officials and private citizens accused of undermining the country’s democracy. Earlier in President Joe Biden’s term, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Guatemala and said unchecked corruption was a factor driving Guatemalans to emigrate.

“The United States remains committed to strengthening transparency and governance in Guatemala and throughout the Western Hemisphere and we will continue to use all available tools to promote accountability for those who undermine it,” Miller’s statement said Wednesday.

Source: The Associated Press