Torres, McGovern, Cardin, Leahy Introduce Bicameral Bill to Impose Targeted Sanctions on Guatemalan Officials Who Undermine Justice

Today, U.S. Representatives Norma J. Torres (D-CA) and James P. McGovern (D-MA) and U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Guatemala Rule of Law Accountability Act to authorize Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act sanctions against Guatemalan officials who have engaged in corruption, obstructed justice, misused U.S.-provided equipment, disobeyed Guatemalan Constitutional Court rulings, and interfered with the work of the U.S. government. In Guatemala, the actions of a government facing corruption investigations have placed the country’s stability and democracy in jeopardy and have undermined U.S.-supported efforts to address the root cause of migration.

“Faced with allegations of corruption, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has allied with criminal and corrupt actors who are intent on thwarting justice at any cost. He’s ordered the removal of a U.S.-funded anti-corruption commission, decimated the leadership of the National Civilian Police, attacked the independence of the judiciary, and shamelessly used U.S. provided J8 Jeeps to intimidate U.S. diplomatic personnel,” said Representative Torres. “Congress must stand up for the Guatemalan people and their long struggle to build a stable, prosperous democracy. Unless we act now, Guatemala is at risk of descending into lawlessness—and we’ll see the consequences at our southern border.”

“Guatemalan leaders—including President Jimmy Morales—ought to know that the international community is watching. We will not remain silent while they enrich themselves, undermine the rule of law, and go after human rights defenders,” said Representative McGovern. “The targeted sanctions included in this bill would make clear that the United States will not sit idly by while corrupt high-ranking government officials cheat the Guatemalan people of their prosperity and their future.”

“This bill affirms our support for anti-corruption initiatives, justice, and accountability in Guatemala,” said Senator Cardin, author of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. “Corruption exacerbates the insecurity, governance, and economic challenges that drive so many Guatemalans to leave their homes. This act upholds U.S. commitment to the rule of law, while ensuring a more efficient, appropriate use of U.S. assistance addressing the root causes of migration.”

“This bill is a direct response to flagrant actions by officials in Guatemala to subvert the rule of law,” said Senator Leahy. “Whether expelling the CICIG Commissioner, seeking to oust Constitutional Court magistrates, or threatening political candidates, corruption and abuse of power are driving this alarming, backward trend.  This bill makes clear that public officials and their associates who engage in corrupt acts, and who work to undermine the independence of the judiciary, will pay a very real price.”

Specifically, the Guatemala Rule of Law Accountability Act would apply financial sanctions, including asset blocking and the denial of visas, to current or former corrupt Guatemalan officials. It would also ensure that the U.S. can claw back any security equipment that is misused by the government of Guatemala.   

Torres and McGovern were joined in introducing the bill by original co-sponsors Representatives Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Deb Haaland (D-NM), Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Andy Levin (D-MI), Jim Himes (D-CT), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Don Beyer (D-VA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), and Steve Cohen (D-TN). The Senate companion is co-sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Chris Murphy (D-CT). The bill has been endorsed by the American Jewish World Service, the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, Freedom House, the Latin America Working Group, Oxfam America, and the Washington Office on Latin America.

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