Guatemalan leaders will not attend summit in LA after US criticism

GUATEMALA CITY ( Associated Press) — Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said on Tuesday he would not attend next month’s US summit in Los Angeles, following criticism from the Biden administration for reappointing an attorney general. accused of protecting the corrupt.

During an event at the Mexican Embassy, ​​Giammattei said that a country’s sovereignty should be respected.

His announcement comes after many other regional leaders are unlikely to attend the summit, which was seen as a turning point for the Biden administration’s diplomatic efforts in Latin America.

At the end of Monday, Giammattei appointed Consuelo Porras as Guatemala’s top prosecutor for a second four-year term. The US government, the European Union and others have publicly criticized Porras’ performance, particularly the initiation of investigations against prosecutors and judges who worked on anti-corruption cases.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday night that the US would ban Porras and his immediate family from the United States.

On Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said further action could be taken.

“This Guatemalan is a step back for democracy, transparency and the rule of law, a move that will hurt the Guatemalan people,” Price said. “He has a documented record of obstructing and undermining anti-corruption investigations in Guatemala to protect his allies.”

Announcing his decision at the Embassy of Mexico in Guatemala does not seem to be a coincidence. Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador said last week that he would not attend the summit until the White House invites all leaders from the region, including Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Bolivia’s President Luis Arce also said he would not go if all countries were not invited. And leaders of Caribbean countries have discussed mass boycotts of the summit if a nation is excluded.

US Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols has previously said that the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua have shown they do not respect democracy and are unlikely to receive an invitation.

Argentina, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, issued an appeal this month to refrain from ousting any government.

President Joe Biden said in March that he expected to sign “a regional declaration on migration and protection” at the summit. On Wednesday, First Lady Jill Biden was scheduled to begin a trip to Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica to help the United States finalize arrangements for the gathering.

The feud with Giammattei could make achieving the US goal of a coordinated regional approach to controlling migration flows more difficult. Guatemalan authorities have aggressively dismantled migrant caravans trying to cross their territory in recent years.

Giammattei’s government was already on notice that the Biden administration was concerned about corruption.

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke candidly about corruption as one of the root causes of migration during a visit to Guatemala last June. The following month, after Porus fired Guatemala’s top anti-corruption prosecutor, the US government announced it was suspending cooperation with his office.

Crisis Group’s Central America analyst Tiziano Breda said Giammattei weighed the consequences of reappointing Porus and decided it would not go beyond statements and personal sanctions.

“We’ll have to see if America reacts differently than they do,” Breda said. “America’s warning will no longer prevent a decline in the fight against corruption because the cost of doing it is deemed tolerable.”

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