The State Department said Wednesday that Alejandro Giammattei, Guatemala’s president until this week’s tumultuous transfer of power, was barred from entering the United States because of what officials said was information indicating he had accepted of waste.
You announcement reported that the United States is moving quickly to support the anti-corruption campaign led by Guatemala’s new president, Bernardo Arévalo. Guatemala has recently been gripped by protests against attempts to block Arévalo from taking office, and Mr. Giammattei refused to show up at his successor’s inauguration on Monday.
“No one, especially a public official, is above the law” She said Brian Nichols, the top State Department official for the Western Hemisphere.
The Treasury Department also announced sanctions on Wednesday against Alberto Pimentel Mata, former Energy Minister in the Giammattei government, in relation to Pimentel Mata’s theft of fragments and his involvement in numerous corruption schemes related to government contracts and licenses, officials said.
Last weekend, U.S. Customs and Border Protection denied entry to Miami to one of Mr. Giammattei’s sons, and expelled him on Monday. second to Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican and supporter of Mr. Giammattei.
Taken together, these measures reflect how the U.S. government is trying to stem corruption and impunity in Guatemala, Central America’s most populous country.
While Giammattei was president, from 2020 to 2024, an alliance of prosecutors, judges, members of Congress and other political figures retaliated against officials involved in a pioneering United Nations-backed anti-corruption initiative.
“The State Department has credible information indicating that Giammattei accepted scraps in exchange for fulfilling his public duties during his tenure as president,” Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, said in a statement.
The former president is now “generally ineligible” to enter the United States, Miller added, although he did not provide specific information about the money grabs that Giammattei was accused of having agreed to.
The former president was not immediately available for comment.
Reports of Mr. Giammattei’s involvement in corruption schemes have circulated for years in Guatemala. In 2021, prosecutors launched an investigation into allegations that Russian citizens paid a bribe to Mr. Giammattei in connection with a mining project, after an anti-corruption prosecutor obtained testimony from a witness who said he went to the house of Mr. Giammattei and of having delivered a document. on a carpet full of money.
While in office, Giammattei denied that he had been kidnapped in connection with the Russian project.
Investigations into these allegations have made little progress in Guatemala’s murky justice system. In the carpet full of cash case, the prosecutor handling the matter was fired and forced into exile in the United States.
The State Department’s designation of Giammattei comes in the context of other American efforts aimed at countering the illegal activity of political leaders in Central America. The United States in 2022 extradited Juan Orlando Hernández, former president of Honduras, to face drug trafficking charges in New York.
Giammattei, who espouses staunchly conservative policies, is seen as an ally by some political figures in the United States, such as Lee and Richard Grenell, former ambassador to Germany during the Trump administration, who visited Guatemala last week in a show of support for Mr. Giammattei.
The United States announced it sanctions last month against Miguel Martínez, one of Mr. Giammattei’s closest associates, as well as visa restrictions against nearly 300 Guatemalan citizens, including more than 100 members of Congress, for their efforts to undermine Mr. Arévalo and prevent him from being inaugurated.
Former presidents of Central America generally gain immunity from prosecution in the region by being sworn in as members of the Central American Parliament. But that immunity does not extend to the U.S. legal system or involvement in violating American laws. Giammattei joined the Central American Parliament shortly after his mandate expired.
Jody Garcia contributed reporting from Guatemala City.