Guatemala’s former anti-corruption prosecutor at risk of arrest
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) – Guatemalan officials confirmed on Friday they were trying to arrest a sacked anti-corruption prosecutor whose ouster has led the United States to cut back on cooperation with the Central American nation’s legal system.
The arrest warrant for Juan Francisco Sandoval was confirmed by prosecutor’s office spokesman Juan Luis Pantaleón, a day after Attorney General Consuelo Porras said on Twitter that he was under investigation for allegedly disclosing confidential information, among other allegations.
Sandoval, who said he investigated President Alejandro Giammattei and other senior officials, was fired on July 23 and fled to the United States, saying he feared for his safety.
Sandoval responded to Porras by accusing him of “pursuing a strategy to criminalize and persecute all those who have contributed for years to strengthening justice and to fighting corruption and impunity”.
He accused her of interfering in the investigation into the president’s corruption suspicion involving a major port. No charges have been laid in this case.
Sandoval’s ouster led the US government to declare in July that it had lost confidence in Guatemala’s commitment to fight corruption and it temporarily suspended cooperation with the attorney general’s office.
Many Guatemalans have also staged street protests in recent weeks, accusing the government of cracking down on attempts to root out corrupt officials.
Suspicions were raised on Thursday when the country’s highest court issued a ruling that could prevent some corrupt officials from entering jail. The Constitutional Court struck down a law that prohibited those convicted of corruption to terms of five years or less from paying a fine instead of serving a sentence behind bars.
It applies to convictions for crimes committed by public officials and to those brought before the courts involving charges of fraud, corruption, passive embezzlement, abuse of power and trading in influence.
Among the potential beneficiaries of this decision is one of the judges of the court, Néster Vásquez, who has been accused by the Office of the Special Prosecutor against Impunity of having manipulated the election of judges to others.
Vazquez was included in a recently released U.S. list of allegedly corrupt officials in the region, along with former President Alvaro Colom who has been accused of involvement in fraud and embezzlement.
In 2019, then-President Jimmy Morales forced a UN-backed anti-corruption mission that had worked with local prosecutors to root out corruption and led to the jail of several senior officials, including the former president Otto Perez Molina.
On Friday, the former head of this UN mission, Iván Velásquez, issued a declaration of solidarity with Sandoval, “that corrupt Guatemalan prosecutor Consuelo Porras ordered the capture.
“Sooner or later, the people will restore the rule of law, and corrupt people of all kinds will pay for their misdeeds.”