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Biden admin. blacklists former Guatemalan president, ex-minister for corruption

Guatemala's former President Alejandro Giammattei was designated as inadmissible to the United States on allegations of corruption. Pool File Photo by Justin Lane/UPI
Guatemala's former President Alejandro Giammattei was designated as inadmissible to the United States on allegations of corruption. Pool File Photo by Justin Lane/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 17 (UPI) -- The Biden administration targeted two former Guatemalan officials, including former President Alejandro Eduardo Giammattei Falla, with punitive measures on Wednesday over allegations of corruption.

Giammattei was barred from entry to the United States by Biden's State Department while former Ministry of Energy and Mining Alberto Pimentel Mata was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury, blocking all property in his name and preventing U.S. persons from doing business with him.

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The Biden administration says fighting corruption has been a core national security interest as it targets what it deems a root cause of migrants and refugees fleeing their countries for refuge in the United States.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Giammattei was being made ineligible for entry over his involvement in "significant corruption."

"The State Department has credible information indicating that Giammattei accepted bribes in exchange for the performance of his public functions during his tenure as president of Guatemala, actions that undermined the rule of law and government transparency," Miller said in a statement.

The Treasury separately sanctioned Pimental on allegations of accepting large bribes in exchange for permits and licenses for a private company operating in the energy and mining sector of Guatemala.

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Biden administration officials said in one instance Pimental received a large bribe to start consultations with local communities in El Estor, Izabal, in eastern Guatemala, on behalf of private companies. In a second instance, he accepted a $1 million bribe to provide industry groups with mining licenses.

"The United States remains committed to holding accountable those who abuse their positions in pursuit of personal benefit, weakening the public's faith in government institutions," Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement.

The announcement comes after Giammattei was replaced as the leader of Guatemala on Monday when anti-corruption crusader Bernardo Arevalo was sworn in as president.

Last week, Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah announced that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol had denied entrance to one of Giammattei's sons at a Miami airport.

During the last three years of the Biden administration, more than 400 people and their family members have been either barred from entering the United States or been sanctioned for engaging in corruption or undermining democracy or the rule of law in Guatemala.

"The United States remains committed to strengthening transparency and governance in Guatemala and throughout the Western Hemisphere and we will continue to use all available tools to promote accountability for those who undermine it," Miller said.

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