Guatemala's upcoming presidential elections continue to be marred by a raft of graft probes as yet another investigation was launched into a presidential candidate and several other lawmakers.
Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office announced May 6 that it is investigating Economy Minister Acisclo Valladares Urruela, along with a presidential hopeful and six other congressman, for their alleged role in doling out nearly 58 million quetzales (around $7.5 million) to buy votes from more than 60 congressmen between 2012 and 2015 during the administration of now-jailed former President Otto Pérez Molina.
Working with the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG), authorities allege that then-Vice President Roxana Baldetti -- also now in jail -- distributed bribes from her office to trusted officials within the conservative Patriot Party (Partido Patriota -- PP) to guarantee approval for specific laws and judicial appointments.
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This investigation also targets Estuardo Ernesto Galdámez Juárez, the presidential candidate for President Jimmy Morales’ ruling National Convergence Front (Frente de Convergencia Nacional — FCN-Nación) in the upcoming June election.
Galdámez denied the allegations in a statement posted on Twitter, adding that he has “zero tolerance for corruption,” according to Prensa Libre. Pérez Molina and Baldetti, as well as Valladares, also rejected the charges, according to a Reuters report.
These revelations come on the heels of the arrest of another presidential candidate, Mario Amilcar Estrada Orellana, from the center-right National Change Union (Unión del Cambio Nacionalista — UCN). In a brazen attempt at securing campaign financing, he allegedly solicited millions of dollars from Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel. The scandal has also landed President Morales in hot water for his questionable ties to the former contender.
InSight Crime Analysis
Despite the best efforts of elites in Guatemala -- primarily President Morales -- to undermine the country’s anti-graft drive, the latest revelations highlight yet again the importance of an independent commission like the CICIG in supporting the Attorney General’s Office in bringing these cases to light.
Evidence and allegations of corruption have engulfed the Patriot Party in the past. Both Pérez Molina and Baldetti are alleged to have received more than $60 million in illicit campaign funds between 2008 and 2011 before Pérez Molina was elected president. The pair is now in jail for leading a customs fraud conspiracy that saw them pocket millions of dollars in kickbacks, among other corruption charges.
As InSight Crime detailed in an in-depth investigation into illicit campaign financing in Guatemala last year, the Patriot Party made a living relying on a quid pro quo system in which dubious businessmen secured campaign funds, votes and kickbacks while corrupt politicians provided favors ranging from government positions, state contracts and protection in exchange.