This article first appeared in News in America on August 01, 2021.
Hours after Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei expressed concern over the suspension of US support for the Public Ministry (MP), Washington reiterated that they are open to working with those willing to collaborate in the fight against corruption.
Giammattei on Thursday called the suspension of US cooperation with the MP “counterproductive” after the main anti-corruption prosecutor was removed and fled the country fearing for his safety.
In a statement, Giammattei thanked the United States for its “fundamental” support in the fight against organized crime and corruption, “efforts in which the Public Prosecutor’s Office plays a fundamental role, so suspending support is counterproductive.”
“I am concerned about the negative impact that this measure will have on the efforts that the Guatemalan government is making to achieve these objectives,” he added.
Guatemala’s prosecutor against impunity, Juan Francisco Sandoval, who had denounced a lack of support for his work, was dismissed on Friday, prompting Washington to suspend its support for the attorney general’s office.
Later, the U.S. special envoy for the Northern Triangle, Ricardo Zúñiga, said in a telephone press conference that the protests that have taken place in the last hours in Guatemala due to Sandoval’s dismissal express the citizens’ desire to confront corruption, according to “La Voz de América”.
Zúñiga added that “the Biden Administration has made it clear that it is prepared to work with those who are willing to collaborate with us in the fight against corruption”.
The official added that “that is why we support so strongly the people who work to fight corruption”, and with respect to Sandoval, he said that the U.S. considers him “an advocate of the fight against corruption”, and that is why the prompt response to what happened last week.
He noted that Giammattei, in his statement, acknowledged the assistance provided by Washington over the years, but stressed that the U.S. has made a “significant investment” in Guatemala to, among other things, improve justice, not only to speed up the fight against corruption, but also to address other social problems, such as gender violence.
“The United States also made significant investments in expanding access to justice in Guatemala, in expanding the work of the special prosecutor’s office to address not only issues related to corruption and organized crime, but also issues such as gender-based violence, which is a major driver of irregular migration,” he added.
“In any case, the Biden Administration has made it clear that it is prepared to work with those who are willing to work with us in fighting corruption and promoting measures to end impunity,” Zuniga said.
Loss of confidence
The administration of President Joe Biden, which has made fighting corruption in Central America a key priority in attacking the causes of migration to the United States, said Attorney General Consuelo Porras showed a lack of “good faith.”
“As a result, we have lost confidence in the attorney general,” said State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter.
But Giammattei called for “not shutting down communication” between the United States and the Guatemalan prosecutor’s office.
On Thursday, thousands of Guatemalans blocked some 20 stretches of road and demonstrations in several cities, including the capital, to demand the resignation of Giammattei and Porras, for alleged acts of corruption and the handling of the pandemic by the president, a doctor by profession.