Visiting Guatemala on her first foreign trip as vice president, Kamala Harris pledged to tackle corruption as a root cause of U.S.-bound migration.
Sandra Cuffe writes in The Intercept on the challenges facing the anti-corruption efforts in Guatemala against the background of the the visit by the U.S. Vice President, Kamala Harris, noting the general indifference and defiance of the Guatemala elites to U.S. concerns.
Aníbal Argüello was not due in court until next year. During his time working on high-profile corruption cases with the now-defunct International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG, he analyzed wiretap and email evidence at the heart of a major graft case that brought down a sitting president and much of his administration in 2015. The trial has finally been set for January, and Argüello is expected to be a key expert witness for the prosecution.
Instead, Argüello was arrested last month. So was Juan Francisco Solórzano Foppa, a former tax chief and prominent anti-corruption advocate who previously worked in criminal analysis in the prosecutor’s office. Together with several others, they face charges related to alleged irregularities in a notarial act concerning the formation of a new political party. The case is widely seen as an example of the increasing use of lawfare against key figures and institutions in the fight against corruption in Guatemala.
After more than two weeks in custody, Argüello appeared in court for a preliminary hearing last week. “What is the goal of attacking me in this case, using the charges the prosecutor’s office is using against me? It is to undermine my participation as an expert witness,” Argüello told the judge. He was back in court for a continuation of the hearing Monday morning, while U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris was meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei just over a mile away in the national palace.
Concentration of power and anti-democratic moves in Guatemala are “caused by the permanent networks of corruption and crime, and the members of certain predatory oligarchy, who are shaping the system to impose their president like a mafia operator,” Guatemalan human rights ombudsperson Jordán Rodas wrote Sunday in an open letter to Harris. There is also a growing climate of persecution against human rights defenders, journalists, social leaders, and independent judges and prosecutors, he noted.
“Under these conditions,” Rodas wrote, “it is impossible to expect real progress in the fight against corruption and to remove the roots that cause irregular migration.”
You can read the full piece, with links, here, U.S. Anti-Corruption Drive Faces Bleak Prospects in Central America.