US curbs work with Guatemala after prosecutor flees

Washington (AFP) –


The United States said Tuesday it was suspending cooperation with Guatemalan prosecutors after the top anti-corruption investigator was sacked and fled the country.

President Joe Biden's administration, which has identified the fight against graft as a key priority, said the dismissal of prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval showed a lack of "good faith" by Attorney General Consuelo Porras, whose office is known as the Public Ministry.

"As a result we have lost confidence in the attorney general," State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters.

"The US government is temporarily pausing programmatic cooperation with the Public Ministry while we conduct a review of our assistance to activities the attorney general leads," she said.

"We're watching closely for additional actions that could undermine the rule of law or judicial independence in Guatemala."

Sandoval, who was given an award earlier this year by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for his anti-corruption campaigns, said that he fled Guatemala due to fears for his life.

The Biden administration has faced political pressure from the rival Republican Party over the continued flight of Guatemalans and other Central Americans seeking safety in the United States.

Biden has sought funding for a four-year $4 billion plan to address the root causes of migration that include corrupt public institutions, dire poverty, some of the world's most severe crime rates and natural disasters seen as aggravated by climate change.