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Engel, Royce Call for Guatemala Visa Bans and Review of U.S. Assistance

Oct 17, 2017
Press Release
Members Urge Secretary Tillerson to Use Existing Tools to Combat Corruption in Guatemala

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), the Committee’s Chairman, called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to use his authority under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (P.L. 114-328, title XII, subtitle F) to put in place visa bans for those individuals in Guatemala who are committing or facilitating acts of corruption. 

In a letter to Secretary Tillerson, the top Democrat and Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee also asked that FY 2017 assistance to the Guatemalan government be adjusted to account for troubling, recent events involving the country’s officials. This includes the declaration of International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) Commissioner Ivan Velasquez as persona non grata by President Jimmy Morales and unsuccessful efforts by the Guatemalan Congress to curb penalties for illegal election financing.

In the letter, the members wrote, “We are deeply concerned by recent events in Guatemala which demonstrate a setback for the country in its efforts to combat corruption and impunity.”

Earlier this year, the House passed a measure (H.Res.145) authored by Representative Norma Torres (D-CA) underscoring the support of the House of Representatives for efforts to combat corruption across Central America. 

Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.

The Honorable Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington DC 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary: 

We are deeply concerned by recent events in Guatemala which demonstrate a setback for the country in its efforts to combat corruption and impunity. We write today to urge you to use your authority under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (P.L. 114-328, title XII, subtitle F) to put in place visa bans for those individuals in Guatemala who arecommitting or facilitating acts of corruption. We also ask that FY 2017 assistance be adjusted to account for recent concerning events in the country.

Attorney General Thelma Aldana and International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) Commissioner Iván Velásquez have played an important role in holding Guatemalan individuals and institutions accountable. President Jimmy Morales’s August 27th decision to declare Commissioner Velásquez persona non grata was a major disappointment which has been denounced by Democratic and Republican members of the United States Congress. We were pleased that the Guatemalan Constitutional Court stepped in to block President Morales from expelling Commissioner Velásquez.

On September 13th – just two days after voting to protect President Morales by not stripping him of his immunity – Guatemalan lawmakers voted 105-19 to curb penalties for illegal election financing. We appreciate the quick condemnation of this effort by the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala through its Twitter account. Fortunately, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court acted swiftly to suspend the legislation, but the damage has already been done. 

As you know, the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (P.L. 114-328, title XII, subtitle F) authorizes the President to deny entry into the United States, revoke a visa, block property under U.S. jurisdiction of, and prohibit U.S. persons from entering into transactions with, any foreign person he has identified as “a foreign government official, senior associate or facilitator of such an official, responsible for acts of significant corruption, including the expropriation of private or public assets for personal gain, corruption in government contracts or natural resource extraction, bribery, or the offshore sheltering of ill-gotten gains.” We urge you to use your authority under this law to ban the entry of Guatemalan individuals, whocommit or facilitate acts of corruption in the United States.

Finally, we note that FY 2017 funding meant to support theU.S. Strategy for Engagement with Central America has not yet been obligated. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (P.L. 115-31) states that 50 percent of assistance for the central governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras cannot be obligated until the Secretary of State certifies that the governments are taking several steps, including "cooperating with commissions against corruption and impunity" and "combatting corruption." We look forward to working with you through the Congressional Notification process to ensure that FY 2017 funds made available by P.L. 115-31 for Guatemala are not provided to the central government of Guatemala until significant improvements are seen. We of course fully recognize the fluidity of the situation in Guatemala and the need for the State Department and USAID to have the flexibility to adjust assistance as events on the ground warrant.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to hearing from you.

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