Juan Francisco Sandoval fled early on Saturday after being fired in a move that sparked international condemnation.
Guatemalan anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval fled the country early on Saturday, just hours after being fired a step that has sparked international outrage.
Sandoval, who led the Guatemalan prosecutor’s office against impunity (FECI) until Friday, fled to the Salvadoran border in the early hours of Saturday morning, said Jordan Rodas, the Guatemalan human rights ombudsman.
“The decision was made to protect his life,” Rodas told Reuters.
Sandoval arrived in La Chinamas, a border town in El Salvador, about 120 km southeast of Guatemala City. He was accompanied on his trip from Guatemala by human rights activists, Swedish Ambassador Hans Magnusson, and journalists from The Associated Press.
“Unfortunately, it has become a situation that many government officials in Guatemala have to go through simply because we are not useful to the regime,” Sandoval said, as reported by AP.
“Wherever I am, I will continue to work for the benefit of the people of Guatemala, but for my own safety I will not be used by people who have made the use of state funds a way of life,” he said. he said. .
Guatemala’s Attorney General Maria Porras remove the internationally known corruption prosecutor from his post on Friday.
A government statement earlier in the day said Porras had removed Sandoval from the ministry’s “ongoing abuse and frequent institutional abuse”. “Given the looming lack of trust in the relationship, his service is being terminated today,” Porras said.
But the move has drawn international criticism, including from the government of US President Joe Biden, who has called on the Guatemalan government as well as others in Central America to eradicate corruption.
The unit led by Sandoval was originally created to address investigations led by the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which was removed from the country in 2019.
He is a respected prosecutor against corruption with a record of dozens of criminal networks. Along 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.
The removal of Sandoval on Friday caused a setback for US officials, including Samantha Power, administrator of the US International Development Agency (USAID).
As I emphasized in my visit last month, the independence of # DESASTROUS is an essential test of Guatemala’s commitment to the rule of law. Attorney General Porras’ dismissal of Juan Francisco Sandoval, champion of corruption, is an outrageous move. The Guatemalan people deserve better. https://t.co/y3ssKrhoTs
– Samantha Power (@PowerUSAID) 24 July 2021
“The dismissal of Attorney General Porras from 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 the removal of Sandoval an illegal, arbitrary and criminal act.
“The international community must protect him immediately,” Velasquez said.
Guatemalan civic organizations have said they plan to protest on Saturday afternoon to protest Sandoval’s dismissal and departure.