This article first appeared on Prensa Libre on September 20, 2021.
The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, published on his Twitter account that the Attorney General of Guatemala, Consuelo Porras, and the Secretary-General of the Public Ministry (MP), Ángel Pineda, were included in the list of corrupt and undemocratic actors in section 353 of the report on foreign persons who have participated in actions that undermine democratic processes or institutions, significant acts of corruption, or obstruction of investigations into such corruption in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
“In support of the democratic aspirations of the Salvadoran and Guatemalan people, we are naming five Supreme Court Justices of El Salvador, Attorney General Porras of Guatemala, and Secretary-General Pineda to the Section 353 Corrupt and Undemocratic Actors list,” Blinken wrote.
The United States announced actions against seven Central American officials “for undermining democracy and obstructing investigations into acts of corruption,” according to a State Department statement.
The document said the United States “is committed to supporting the people of northern Central America by strengthening democracy, the rule of law, and accountability, which are the keys to a better future. To advance this priority, today we are adding seven perpetrators to the U.S. Corrupt and Undemocratic Actors list under section 353 of the U.S.-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, which generally makes perpetrators ineligible for visas and admission to the United States.”
He adds that these designations are in response to recent actions that undermined democracy and obstructed corruption investigations in El Salvador and Guatemala.
The list transmitted to Congress details the following attacks on democracy and anti-corruption measures:
“Maria Consuelo Porras Argueta de Porres, Guatemala’s current Attorney General, obstructed investigations of acts of corruption by interfering with criminal investigations. Porras’ pattern of obstruction included ordering prosecutors in Guatemala’s Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) to ignore cases based on political considerations and actively undermining investigations conducted by the Special Prosecutor Against Impunity, including the dismissal of her chief prosecutor, Juan Francisco Sandoval, and the transfer and dismissal of prosecutors investigating corruption,” the statement said.
In the case of Ángel Arnoldo Pineda Ávila, the current secretary-general of the MP, the US claims that he “obstructed investigations into acts of corruption by interfering in anti-corruption investigations. The MP has opened an investigation into allegations that Pineda interfered in an anti-corruption investigation. It is alleged that Pineda alerted the targets of the investigation about cases being built against him.”
The document adds that the United States “will continue to use the tools at our disposal to promote accountability for attacks on the democratic aspirations of the Central American people. We will continue to partner with government officials who demonstrate a dedication to combating corruption and strengthening democratic governance, including as part of an overall policy to address the root causes of irregular migration. And we will continue to support the people of El Salvador and Guatemala in their efforts to contribute to and benefit from democratic institutions, generate equitable economic opportunities, and create the future they want for themselves and their families.”
Prensa Libre consulted the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Presidency of Guatemala about their position on this US designation, but so far they have not commented on the matter.
In El Salvador
Elsy Dueñas de Avilés, Oscar Alberto López Jerez, Héctor Nahún Martínez García, José Ángel Pérez Chacón, and Luis Javier Suárez Magaña, current Justices of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court were also included in the list of corrupt and undemocratic actors in section 353 of the report on foreign persons who have participated in actions that undermine democratic processes or institutions, significant acts of corruption, or obstruction of investigations into such corruption in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
According to the statement, the magistrates “undermined democratic processes or institutions by accepting direct appointments to the Chamber by the Legislative Assembly, in a process that appears to have contravened the Salvadoran constitution. The five previous justices were abruptly removed without legitimate cause after the newly elected Legislative Assembly was seated on May 1. Once installed, the new Magistrates declared their installation by the Legislative Assembly constitutional. The Magistrates undermined democratic processes or institutions by approving a controversial interpretation of the Constitution that authorized the reelection of the President -Nayib Bukele- despite an express prohibition in the Constitution that prohibited consecutive terms to the Presidency”.
U.S. Congresswoman Norma Torres issued a statement following the publication of the third list of corrupt Central American officials prepared and published by the U.S. State Department.
“We continue to see governments plagued by corruption in Central America,” said Representative Norma J. Torres.” She added, “This list confirms significant anti-democratic actions in the region by officials who interfere with independent investigations and work against those who uphold the rule of law.”
“This is an important step toward holding accountable high-level officials and their accomplices who are directly involved in corruption and obstruction of democratic processes,” Torres continued.
“I know that these decisions were not taken lightly. These individuals used their power to attack judicial officials, protect corrupt interests and pursue political agendas that are contrary to their constitutions. I will continue to work with our government to counter the democratic backlash and ensure that our assistance reaches the people we intend to help,” she said.
Congresswoman Torres previously requested and received two State Department lists of corrupt officials in the region. She added that this supports her efforts in the Appropriations Committee to leverage all the tools of the U.S. government to hold corrupt and undemocratic actors accountable while supporting courageous actors fighting to uphold the rule of law in the region.
Torres added that he has long worked to ensure that U.S. funding benefits those in Central America who need it.
Call for Attorney General’s Resignation
Various social organizations, activists, and opponents of the Guatemalan government called for the resignation of the attorney general and head of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP, Fiscalía), Consuelo Porras, following the sanction against her for corruption by the U.S. State Department.
One of these voices was that of the executive director of Instituto 25A, an entity emanating from the protests in Guatemala against corruption in 2015, Gabriel We’re, who said that the request for the resignation of Consuelo Porras “has not lost validity”, since she removed anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval from his post, last July.
“The demand for the resignation of the Attorney General is still there, it has not ceased”, he indicated.
Acción Ciudadana, also spoke out against Porras, emphasizing that “the corrupt actions have weakened the investigations of the Public Ministry” and are the responsibility of the attorney general and her secretary-general, Ángel Pineda (also pointed out by the US)”.