HomeNewsBriefGuatemala Powerbroker Withdraws US Asylum Plea To Face Criminal Charges
BRIEF

Guatemala Powerbroker Withdraws US Asylum Plea To Face Criminal Charges

ELITES AND CRIME / 28 AUG 2018 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

A longtime powerbroker in Guatemala has withdrawn his plea for asylum in the United States and will instead be deported to face criminal charges related to the Odebrecht corruption case in the Central American nation, which could pave the way for damning revelations that may implicate other elites.

Manuel Baldizón, a former congressman and presidential frontrunner for the Renewed Democratic Liberty (Libertad Democrática Renovada – Líder) party, has announced he is willing to be deported to his native Guatemala to face criminal charges relating to allegations that he received illegal payments from the Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht, Baldizón announced in an August 27 post on his Facebook page.

Prosecutors argue that Baldizón received, through a lawyer who had set up bank accounts, more than $3 million from Alejandro Sinibaldi, former Infrastructure, Housing and Communications Minister (Ministerio de Comunicaciones Infraestructura y Vivienda – MICIVI). Sinibaldi had received the money as part of a $17.9 million bribe from Odebrecht officials in exchange for granting the company a $300 million contract for the construction of a highway along Guatemala’s southern coast towards Mexico.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

Baldizón was arrested by US authorities in Miami in January 2018. He requested political asylum in the United States shortly thereafter by claiming that he was the victim of “political persecution” in Guatemala.

The Odebrecht corruption scandal is the largest investigation into widespread graft in Latin America and has ensnared many of the region’s top-most elites. Of the at least $788 million that Odebrecht officials admitted to paying in bribes to government officials and political parties in Latin America, $18 million in bribes were paid to officials in Guatemala.

InSight Crime Analysis

Baldizón's decision to withdraw his plea for asylum in the United States and instead face criminal charges in Guatemala in relation to the region’s biggest corruption case could set the stage for other powerful elites to be implicated in the scandal.

In his statement, Baldizón said that upon returning to Guatemala to face these charges, he seeks to be an “example to all the people who, like me, have made mistakes, and to recognize them with humility.” This could foreshadow how the former Líder Party member potentially plans to work with authorities and their far-reaching investigation as a protected witness, which could shift the tide against the country's elites.

SEE ALSO: InDepth Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime

“Baldizón seems to have admitted enough wrongdoing publicly to lead one to believe that he might be open to cooperating with Guatemalan authorities about his case in return for a reduced sentence,” Mike Allison, the head of the political science department at the University of Scranton, told InSight Crime in an email.

If Baldizón has "political scores to settle," his testimony could implicate a number of other business and political elites given the broad scope of the Odebrecht investigation, according to Christine Wade, a Central America expert and political science professor at Washington College.

However, Allison warned that the “greater likelihood is that Baldizón and his lawyers will put up roadblock after roadblock” to prevent a legal case from proceeding against him given the current battle being waged between prosecutors and the country’s elite class, including President Jimmy Morales himself.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COCAINE / 8 JUN 2020

The approval of a new law targeting drug planes will afford the Honduras government improved access to US counternarcotics intelligence…

ELITES AND CRIME / 7 JUN 2017

Mexico's June 4 elections have demonstrated once again that the country's political system is unable to adequately filter out candidates…

ELITES AND CRIME / 13 NOV 2013

The story connecting Mexico's infamous Guadalajara Cartel to the United States' top spy agency in the 1980s is not fiction,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.