HomeNewsBriefImprisoned Guatemala Ex-President Rejected US Plea Deal in 2010
BRIEF

Imprisoned Guatemala Ex-President Rejected US Plea Deal in 2010

ELITES AND CRIME / 4 APR 2014 BY MICHAEL LOHMULLER EN

Declassified US State Department cables document how Alfonso Portillo, the former president of Guatemala who recently pled guilty to money-laundering charges in New York, refused a plea deal following his arrest to chance his arm in the corrupt Guatemalan justice system.

Hours after Portillo's arrest in January 2010, Stephen McFarland, then US Ambassador to Guatemala, met with Carlos Castresana, head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), to discuss the arrest of Portillo and the offers made to him to accelerate the judicial process, reported Plaza Publica.

A cable sent to the Department of State in Washington (pdf) says Portillo had been presented a choice: He could accept a reduced sentence in Guatemala for his embezzlement of state funds during his presidency, return the 3 million Euros discovered in his family's European bank accounts, and be extradited to the US to face money-laundering charges. Or, he could remain in detention in Guatemala City's dangerous Zone 18 Prison while he contested criminal charges and extradition.

According to Castresana, Portillo immediately rejected voluntary extradition to the US, saying he would make his case in Guatemala.

Four other declassified cables also clearly show how the US Embassy was intimately involved with the legal case against Portillo and the work of CICIG, reported Plaza Publica. One cable (pdf), however, said this had implications for Embassy security, as Portillo was accusing McFarland of conspiring against him as retribution for not having supported the Iraq war.

Adding to these concerns, the cable refers to an incident in March 2010, when an anonymous caller claimed to have control over the three judges hearing the case of the US extradition request, and that he would kill their families if the case was not suspended. However, the judges verified their families were safe and the hearing continued.

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite the strong evidence against him, Portillo was acquitted in May 2011 of stealing $15 million of state funds during his presidency. It would be another two years before he was finally extradited to the US, where he recently pleaded guilty to charges of accepting bribes and money laundering.

Portillo's decision not to immediately accept a plea reflects the inefficiency and corruption in Guatemala's justice system. Portillo opted to try his luck in Guatemala, and the decision proved the right one -- he won his case.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

However, he is not taking the same chances in the US, pleading guilty after more than likely cooperating with authorities and reaching a deal with prosecutors.

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

BRAZIL / 28 JUN 2022

Prosecutors, mayors, prison directors, relatives of officials - are assassinations here to stay in Paraguay?…

EL SALVADOR / 2 APR 2021

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele has appointed a new security minister whose alleged ties to officials and political operators accused…

ELITES AND CRIME / 29 DEC 2021

Jimmy Chérizier, alias "Barbecue," is a complicated individual. For some, he's a Robin-Hood figure. For others, he's a former police…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…