The U.S. State Department imposed sanctions on former Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Wednesday, banning him and his sons from entering the United States because of his alleged “involvement in significant corruption.”
The sanctions were issued three days after Giammattei left office at the end of his four-year term and following the inauguration of his successor, leftist President Bernardo Arévalo, who took office on Monday.
In a press statement issued on Wednesday, spokesman Matthew Miller asserted that 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.”
“The United States has made clear that it stands with Guatemalans who seek accountability for corrupt actors,” the State Department said. “Over the past three years, we have taken steps to impose visa restrictions or sanctions on nearly 400 individuals, including public officials, private sector representatives, and their family members for engaging in corrupt activities or undermining democracy or the rule of law in Guatemala.”
“Corruption weakens the rule of law and democratic institutions, enables impunity, fuels irregular migration, hampers economic prosperity, and curtails the ability of governments to respond effectively to their people’s needs,” the statement continued.
The sanctions imposed on Giammattei bar him from entering U.S. territory. The ban also extends to Giammattei’s adult daughter Ana Marcela Giammattei and his two adult sons, Alejandro Eduardo and Stefano Giammattei.
Giammattei served as president of Guatemala from January 2020 to January 2024. During his presidency, Giammattei attempted to bring Guatemala in line with Washington while maintaining a critical stance of U.S. President Joe Biden and his administration.
In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News in 2022, Giammattei asserted that Biden’s then-ongoing negotiations with Venezuela’s socialist regime for the purchase of Venezuelan oil may have been negatively impacting law enforcement efforts to combat drug trafficking.
FLASHBACK: Kamala Harris, Afghan Migrants, and Oil Deals with the “Devil”— One-on-One with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei
Matt Perdie / Breitbart News
“The fault is here [in the United States] and I will explain why: 50 percent of the drugs consumed in the world are consumed here,” Giammattei said. “The pushers in the streets selling drugs, where does that money end up? In the banks here.”
“When we see every day the planes [with drug shipments] come down in Venezuela – which, it is known that in Venezuela is where the planes come down, which, there are negotiations with Maduro now,” he continued, “I hope they negotiate so that planes don’t leave with drugs from there – but 95 percent of the planes land in Venezuela, and they come empty.”
In the same interview, Giammattei stated that he would never consider buying oil from socialist Venezuela, as it would be akin to “nourishing the devil.”
Giammattei also heavily criticized Vice President Kamala Harris during the interview for her apparent inaction and lack of communication regarding the ongoing migrant crisis on the southern border of America.
Since then, the Biden administration has granted licenses, generous oil and gas sanctions relief packages, and other concessions to dictator Nicolás Maduro, allowing socialist Venezuela to reinvigorate its main sources of revenue.
Giammattei, who served as president for a four-year term, was not eligible for reelection, as Article 187 of the Guatemalan Constitution explicitly prohibits anyone who has served as president from being reelected. Giammattei and his former vice president, Guillermo Castillo, were sworn in as Guatemalan deputies for the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) on Tuesday in accordance with Guatemalan law, which states that the outgoing president and vice president automatically become part of the regional parliamentary body upon leaving office.
As PARLACEN deputies, both Giammattei and Castillo enjoy immunity in the event of any judicial accusation against either.
Giammattei’s successor, Bernardo Arévalo, took office in the early hours of Monday after the inauguration was delayed for nine hours by confusion about the inauguration of Guatemala’s new Congress, which has the responsibility of conducting the presidential inauguration ceremony.
The squabbles between the outgoing and incoming members of Congress were mostly centered around Arévalo’s party, the Semilla Movement, being disqualified from politics in November following an investigation by the Guatemalan Prosecutor’s Office into alleged irregularities in the founding of the party. Semilla’s lawmakers took office as independents.
The delays in Arévalo’s inauguration led several regional leaders, the European Union, the Organization of American States, and delegations from the United States and other countries to demand Congress complete Arévalo’s inauguration proceedings. Arévalo ran as an “outsider” candidate with a campaign mostly centered around fighting Guatemala’s corruption.
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.