Guatemalan anti-corruption prosecutor flees country after sacking | Corruption News


Juan Francisco Sandoval fled early on Saturday after being dismissed in a move that sparked international condemnation.

Guatemalan anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval fled the country early on Saturday, only hours after being sacked in a move that sparked international outrage.

Sandoval, who had led the Guatemalan Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) until Friday, fled to the Salvadoran border in the wee hours of Saturday, said Jordan Rodas, the Guatemalan human rights ombudsman.

“The decision was made to safeguard his life,” Rodas told the Reuters news agency.

Sandoval arrived in La Chinamas, a border town in El Salvador, about 120km (75 miles) southeast of Guatemala City. He was accompanied on his trip out of Guatemala by human rights activists, Swedish Ambassador Hans Magnusson, and journalists from The Associated Press.

“Sadly, this has become a situation that many public servants in Guatemala have had to go through simply because we are not useful for the regime,” Sandoval said, as reported by AP.

“Wherever I am, I’m going to continue working for the good of the people of Guatemala, but for my own safety, I am not going to be used by people who have made exploiting government funds a way of life,” he said.

Guatemalan supporters of Sandoval gather in the streets in Guatemala City, on July 23 [Johan Ordonez/AFP]

Guatemala’s Attorney General Maria Porras removed the internationally known corruption prosecutor from his post on Friday.

A government statement earlier that day said Porras had removed Sandoval due to “constant abuses and frequent abuses to the institutionality” of the ministry. “Given the imminent lack of trust in the relationship, today his employment is terminated,” Porras said.

But the move prompted international criticism, including from the administration of United States President Joe Biden, which has been urging the Guatemalan government as well as others in Central America to root out corruption.

The unit Sandoval headed was originally created to tackle investigations spearheaded by the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which was removed from the country in 2019.

He is a respected anti-corruption prosecutor with a record of pursuing dozens of criminal networks. Together with the former UN anti-corruption mission he helped take down former President Otto Perez Molina and some members of his cabinet on corruption charges.

Sandoval’s removal on Friday sparked a backlash from US officials, including Samantha Power, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“Attorney General Porras’s firing of anti-corruption champion Juan Francisco Sandoval is an outrageous move,” she wrote on Twitter on Saturday morning. “The Guatemalan people deserve better.”

Ivan Velasquez, the former head of the UN anti-corruption commission expelled from Guatemala, called Sandoval’s removal “an illegal, arbitrary and criminal act”.

“The international community should protect him immediately,” Velasquez said.

Guatemalan civil society organisations have said they plan to demonstrate on Saturday afternoon to protest Sandoval’s dismissal and departure.

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