On July 1, 2021, the U.S. Department of State released a list of alleged corrupt officials in North American. The list includes 50 plus names of current and former officials in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
In Honduras, among the prominent figures on the list is President Porfirio Lobo and his wife, former First Lady Rosa Elena Bonilla De Lobo. Allegedly, Lobo accepted bribes from drug cartels, and his wife engaged in fraud and misappropriated funds.
Honduran analyst Raul Pineda Alvarado said that it is concerning that certain names were omitted, notably, current Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who has allegedly accepted bribes from drug traffickers to aid in his political campaign.
“If this is the way the United States Congress wants to battle corruption in Honduras, it’s like wanting to cure cancer with aspirin,” said Alvarado.
In El Salvador, several individuals range from Cabinet officials to judges were on the list. Among the names is Cabinet chief for President Nayib Bukele, Chief of Staff Carolina Recinos, two former presidents of the Legislative Assembly, Walter Araujo, who is now a Bukele’s New Ideas party leader. Araujo was included because he called for an “insurrection against the Legislative Assembly and repeatedly threatening political candidates.”
In Guatemala, former President Alvaro Colom was named on the list for his alleged involvement in an embezzlement case related to the bus system in Guatemala City. Also on the list is the Supreme Court Justice Manual Duarte Barrera. Barrera and another high court justice, Nester Vasquez, allegedly meddled in judges’ selection process for the high court.
Persons included in the list are said to lose their visas and can no longer enter the U.S.
The Head of the Public Accountability Organizations Citizen Action in El Salvador Eduardo Escobar, said that the list gives some credence to the allegations against the public officials and waits to see if the Salvadoran Attorney General takes any legal action against the named individuals.
The list is not yet finalized, according to the White House special envoy for the Northern Triangle Ricardo Zúñiga. He also mentioned that putting a break on visas is not the only sanction that the U.S. is willing to consider.
This list was also published to comply with section 353 of the U.S.-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, which states that the U.S. government is to publish a public list of individuals “who have knowingly engaged in acts that undermine democratic processes or institutions, engaged in significant corruption, or obstructed investigations into such acts of corruption in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.”
A State Department press statement defined the primary goal of publishing the list: “Our objective with these designations is to support the people of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador in their efforts to form a democratic, prosperous, and safe region where people can contribute to and benefit from the democratic process, have confidence in public institutions, reduce inequality, and enjoy opportunities to create the futures they desire for themselves and their families.”