Torres Reaction to New Report on Corruption in Central America

May 18, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Representative Norma J. Torres (D-CA) released the following statement after the U.S. State Department submitted a new report to Congress regarding corruption in the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The report, which was required by a provision in the Fiscal Year 2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, lists government officials in the Northern Triangle who are known or credibly alleged to have committed acts of corruption.

 

“This new report is a step in the right direction. The Trump Administration is finally beginning to recognize the extent of high-level corruption in the Northern Triangle, especially in Guatemala. More importantly, I am encouraged to learn that the administration has taken action against at least 85 corrupt officials this year. I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that those who are contributing to violence and poverty in the Northern Triangle are held accountable. If we do not take strong actions now, the region’s problems will become even more dire. We’re already seeing the consequences at our border, with record-high numbers of migrants seeking asylum and the death, in CBP custody, of four migrant children since December.”

 

The report acknowledges that the government of Guatemala has recently “impeded anti-corruption efforts, attacked judicial independence, and misused U.S.-donated equipment.” It also cites the Honduran Congress’ “actions to undermine investigations through legislation that would weaken MACCIH and UFECIC’s ability to develop and prosecute corruption cases.” The report further notes that between January and April of 2019, the State Department has “revoked the visas of 85 individuals from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras” who are suspected of corruption.

 

In addition to individuals convicted of corruption who were listed in a previous report to Congress, the new report lists several officials who have been charged but not convicted. It also lists Jose Luis Merino, the Vice Minister for Foreign Investment and Funding in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; several members of Congress, including Torres, previously called for Global Magnitsky sanctions against Mr. Merino. The report notes that Mr. Merino has been “alleged to have diverted $400 million through a series of shell companies to offshore accounts in Panama and other front companies.”

 

Torres is the founder and co-chair of the Central America Caucus and a member of the powerful House Rules and Appropriations Committees. In March 2019, she, along with Senators Ben Cardin and Patrick Leahy and Representative Jim McGovern, introduced legislation to impose sanctions on Guatemalan government officials who undermine efforts to fight corruption. On May 9, 2019, she joined Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel to introduce the bipartisan United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, which imposes additional sanctions on persons who contribute to corruption in the Northern Triangle.

 

The full report can be viewed HERE.

 

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