GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday expressed “deep concern” to his Guatemalan counterpart over efforts to abolish a prominent anti-corruption unit within the attorney general’s office, said an American spokesperson.
The call between Blinken and Foreign Minister Pedro Brolo took place ahead of a visit to Guatemala by US Vice President Kamala Harris starting on Sunday. The Biden administration has made the fight against corruption a central part of its foreign policy strategy.
“We are closely following recent challenges to anti-corruption efforts in Guatemala,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Guatemala’s Office of the Special Prosecutor Against Impunity (FECI), headed by Prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval, has been the subject of legal proceedings in recent days in an attempt to declare it unconstitutional.
Sandoval receives vocal support from Washington.
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“The secretary expressed deep concern over any effort to abolish anti-corruption bureaus, such as FECI,” Price said.
President Alejandro Giammattei told Reuters https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/exclusive-guatemalan-president-says-graft-fighter-biased-ahead-harris-visit-2021-06-02 that he believed the FECI leader had a leftist agenda that affected his work. Giammattei says his government is determined to fight corruption and will not interfere with the attorney general’s office.
Giammattei said he was not involved in the pressure on FECI, although he was jailed in a case in which Sandoval was involved.
“Preserving independent institutions that fight corruption and impunity is fundamental to meeting the challenges of security, prosperity and governance in Guatemala,” said Price.
In a statement, Brolo said the call was part of daily communications with Washington. He underscored Guatemala’s “strong belief” in institution building as a key element in the fight against corruption and thanked the United States for its support.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington and Enrique Garcia in Guatemala City; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by David Gregorio)
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