Guatemala agrees to extradite ex-President Portillo to US

President Álvaro Colom agreed to extradite former President Alfonso Portillo, accused of laundering $70 million through US banks, after Guatemala's courts ruled extradition permissible.

Gabriel Bouys/AP/File
Then-Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo, left, welcomes Pope John Paul II after his arrival in Guatemala City in this 2002 file photo.

On Tuesday, President Álvaro Colom agreed to extradite former President Alfonso Portillo to the United States. The US seeks Mr. Portillo's extradition because it accuses him of having laundered $70 million through US banks. 

I thought that Mr. Colom was going to leave the final decision up to the upcoming president, but I can't really find that link anymore. He also said that he would wait until the legal process in Guatemala had been exhausted before acting. Portillo was cleared of charges in Guatemala earlier this year. He and his lawyers then challenged his extradition in Guatemala's courts, including the Supreme Court of Justice and the Constitutional Court. Those decisions cleared the way for Colom to act.

The US Embassy in Guatemala issued a statement in which it welcomed the decision. 

"We applaud the efforts made by the Constitutional Court, the Attorney General's Office and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala," the embassy said in a written statement. "This sends a strong message that nobody is above the law."

My preference would have been to have Portillo found guilty in a Guatemalan court. However, that was not the case. We'll see what happens in the US.Here's something I had read before. According to Fox News Latino:

The Portillo administration is considered by local analysts as one of the "most corrupt" in the recent history of Guatemala, given the calculations that during the four-year term government officials embezzled more than $500 million.

I've always had the impression that Portillo's four years in office were pretty corrupt. However, I just hadn't seen a dollar figure associated with it. 

His administration's corruption is also why I argued that, as of right now, the Colom administration does not appear to have been as corrupt as its predecessors. Obviously, we won't know for a few months or years until the new administration takes the reigns and begins to open the books. However, does any really think that Colom and his administration were able to embezzle nearly half a million dollars with CICIG looking over their shoulders? If so, the CICIG experiment needs to pack its bags and go home. 

The Colom administration might have been corrupt in many ways. However, it's tough to agree with El Periodico's editorial that concluded that Colom's legacy to the country is corruption.

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