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Alejandro Giammattei, presidente de Guatemala. Foto: Getty Images
Alejandro Giammattei, president of Guatemala. Photo: Getty Images

New corruption scandal points to Guatemala's president

New corruption accusations in Guatemala expose an institutional crisis in Central America.

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On Tuesday, Aug. 24, the New York Times published a report that includes the testimony of the Guatemalan anti-corruption prosecutor, Juan Francisco Sandoval, who accused the country's president, Alejandro Giammattei, of receiving bribes from a Russian mining company. 

The former prosecutor was fired a few weeks ago at the beginning of the investigation into the case.  According to Sandoval, the president received a rolled-up carpet filled with money as part of the bribe to allow the Russian company to operate part of a Guatemalan port.

"After handing over the money-stuffed rug, the witness heard one of the men say that they had just guaranteed a free door at the Portuaria, according to his statement," the NYT article notes. 

Once he was fired, he traveled to the United States with all the evidence and brought it to the U.S. law enforcement authorities. 

The case has already generated reactions in Guatemala, and as expected, the presidency denied any responsibility in the matter. 

The Public Prosecutor's Office even indicated to the newspaper República that Sandoval did not inform the Attorney General, Consuelo Porras, about the case. 

"For this reason, the actions to be taken are being analyzed," the office said.

Porras is pointed out by other witnesses quoted by the NYT as an ally of Giammattei, and who, from her position as head of the Public Prosecutor's Office has dedicated herself to undermine the investigations carried out by the anti-corruption unit.

Sandoval, who headed the anti-corruption office of the Attorney General's Office for five years, was well known in the country for dismantling more than 50 corrupt structures, including "La Linea," a bribery and smuggling scheme in the country's customs system that ended with the resignation of then-President Otto Pérez Molina in 2015.

What is happening in Central America?

In recent months, the political situation in the region has been marked by instability and scandals, not only in Guatemala but also in Nicaragua and El Salvador. 

In Nicaragua, for example, President Daniel Ortega has launched a campaign against his political opponents and the media. 

According to CNN, more than 30 opposition politicians and activists, including seven presidential candidates, have been imprisoned as of Aug. 25. Registrations for presidential candidates opened on Aug. 2, but the government continues to use all its weapons to block registered candidates, which would guarantee Ortega's "democratic" reelection on Nov. 7.

In El Salvador, the populist measures of President Nayib Bukele, such as the legalization of cryptocurrencies and a reform to the constitution that allows reelection, have also aroused the concern of experts. They consider it the beginning of another government with anti-democratic tendencies in the region.

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