US sanctions Guatemalan officials over corruption allegations

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The Biden administration on Monday sanctioned one current and one former Guatemalan official over allegations of corruption activity.

The sanctions target Felipe Alejos Lorenzana, an elected delegate to the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala, and Gustavo Adolfo Alejos Cambara, the former chief of staff for the Alvaro Colom presidential administration, which was in power between 2008 and 2012.

The two men were blacklisted over their alleged interference to undermine anti-corruption efforts in Guatemala, in particular to influence the judicial selection process for magistrates to Guatemala’s Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) and Court of Appeal.

Cambara is currently under house arrest in Guatemala and is the target of several corruption-related investigations, the Treasury Department said in a statement, and was reportedly supplying bribes in concert with Lorenzana to influence the magistrates’ appointments.

The sanctions were imposed under authorities of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world.

The U.S. sanctions block any property, interests or assets related to the men that are in the U.S., and also block any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, by either man, defined as those that either owns more than 50 percent of.

“When elected officials in Guatemala pursue self-enrichment in their official duties, it is an affront to democratic principles in the region,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. “This action serves to shine a light on corruption and promote accountability for those who would seek to thwart the judicial process.”

The U.S. sanctions were imposed in coordination with the United Kingdom, which has its own version of the Global Magnitsky Act that went into effect on Monday, called the Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions Regulations.

“By coordinating with like-minded global partners, we can more effectively combat corruption, including by disrupting access to the international financial system by corrupt actors and their networks,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

“The United States will continue to engage closely with its allies to impose tangible and significant consequences on corrupt actors,” he added.

The sanctions come on the same day that Vice President Harris is expected to hold a virtual meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei. The two are expected to discuss working together to address immediate relief needs of the Guatemalan people and deepen cooperation on addressing root causes of migration, as the U.S. faces a surge of illegal immigrants at the border.

Tags anti-corruption Antony Blinken Corruption Guatemala Janet Yellen Joe Biden Magnitsky Act sanctions
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