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United States sanctions officials in El Salvador, Guatemala for condonation

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Posted: Tuesday, September 21, 2021. 10:46 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: The United States has added seven officials in El Salvador and Guatemala to its list of Undemocratic and Corrupt Actors under section 353 of the United States–Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, which generally makes the perpetrators ineligible for visas and admission to the United States. These designations respond to recent actions that undermined democracy and obstructed corruption investigations in El Salvador and Guatemala.

From El Salvador, Elsy Dueñas De Aviles, Oscar Alberto López Jerez, Hector Nahun Martinez Garcia, Jose Angel Perez Chacon, and Luis Javier Suárez Magaña, all current Magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, are accused of undermining democratic processes or institutions by accepting direct appointments to the Chamber by the Legislative Assembly, in a process that appears to have contravened the Salvadoran constitution.

The previous five Magistrates were abruptly removed without legitimate cause following the May 1 seating of the newly elected Legislative Assembly. After being installed, the new Magistrates declared their installation by the Legislative Assembly to have been constitutional. The Magistrates undermined democratic processes or institutions by approving a controversial interpretation of the Constitution authorizing re-election of the President despite an express prohibition in the Constitution forbidding consecutive terms of the Presidency.

From Guatemala, Maria Consuelo Porras Argueta De Porres, current Attorney General of Guatemala, is accused of obstructing nvestigations into acts of corruption by interfering with criminal investigations. Porras’ pattern of obstruction included ordering prosecutors in Guatemala’s Public Ministry (MP) to ignore cases based on political considerations and actively undermining investigations carried out by the Special Prosecutor Against Impunity, including by firing its lead prosecutor, Juan Francisco Sandoval, and transferring and firing prosecutors who investigate corruption.

Separately, Angel Arnoldo Pineda Avila, current Secretary General of the MP, is accused of obstructing investigations into acts of corruption by interfering in anticorruption probes. The MP has opened a probe into allegations that Pineda interfered in an anticorruption investigation. Pineda is alleged to have tipped off investigative targets about cases being built against them.

A release says “the United States will continue using the tools at our disposal to promote accountability for attacks on the democratic aspirations of the people of Central America. We will continue partnering with government officials who show a dedication to combating corruption and strengthening democratic governance, including as part of an overall policy of addressing the root causes of irregular migration. And we will continue supporting the people of El Salvador and Guatemala as they strive to contribute to and benefit from democratic institutions, generate equitable economic opportunities, and create the futures they desire for themselves and their families.”

It is not known if any Belizeans have been similarly accused.

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