Former Guatemalan leader pleads guilty to taking Taiwanese bribes

The current president claims that Taiwanese donations are more transparent in Guatemala today than they were 14 years ago.

Jane Rosenberg/Reuters
Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo (middle) appears before Judge Robert Patterson (r.) in court in New York in this March 18, 2014 court sketch.

Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo admitted in a New York City courtroom that he accepted $2.5 million in bribes from Taiwan in exchange for his country's continued recognition of the island in its ongoing dispute with China. He'll receive somewhere between four and six years in prison for this.

President Otto Perez Molina claims that these "open secret[s]" are a thing of the past and that relations with Taiwan and donations from them are more transparent. We shall see. While they did happen fourteen years ago, it is not clear when the bribes stopped – President Berger? President Colom? I can't say that former President Portillo's guilty plea is making former Salvadoran President Francisco Flores feel comfortable right now.

It's bad for democracy and for the people of Guatemala and El Salvador that their leaders have taken bribes from Taiwan in return for continued diplomatic recognition. On the other hand, if that's all that they are being accused of, I guess it feels like a bit of a letdown. What ... I am more concerned with now is an investigation into the Guatemalan judicial process that found Portillo not guilty. What, if any, shady transactions went on to ensure his release?
 
In other criminal extradition news, [suspected Guatemalan drug trafficker] Waldemar Lorenzana has now joined Portillo in the United States. Mr. Lorenzana was arrested in Guatemala in 2011 and his extradition to the US was approved in 2012. Lorenzana allegedly was involved in drug trafficking along the border with El Salvador and Honduras. He also has ties to the Sinaloa Cartel.
 
 Steven Dudley explains why Lorenzana is known as the "Patriarch."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.