Family of Guatemalan President Accused of Corruption

On January 18, Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala announced that President Jimmy Morales’ brother and son, Samuel Everardo Morales Cabrera and Jose Manuel Morales Marroquín, were linked to fraud accusations in an open case regarding the previous administration. Although current evidence does not implicate President Morales, the case challenges the anti-corruption platform he used during his 2015 presidential campaign. Authorities arrested Samuel Everardo early on January 17 for his alleged participation in a corruption scandal that occurred in September 2016. The scandal involved Guatemala’s state procurement agency (RGP). Previously, authorities arrested 22 other people on September 1 for fraud and embezzlement charges associated with the same case. Jose Manuel later turned himself in.

Currently, the extent of the president’s family’s involvement is unknown. Reportedly, the RGP made three payments amounting to $35,793 between November and December 2015 for catering services that never actually occurred. Although the Morales family apparently did not benefit from these payments, the evidence indicates their involvement in the transaction process.

Guatemala has been plagued by corruption scandals in recent years. Most notably, its former president, Otto Perez Molina, was involved in an extensive scheme to ‘‘falsify documents, bilk importers and siphon state resources,’’ as the Insight Crime Organization reported back in 2015, leading to his resignation. The recent scandal falls into a recent pattern of corruption in Guatemalan politics.

President Jimmy Morales’s slogan during his campaign, ‘‘Not Corrupt, Not a Thief,’’ exemplifies the anti-corruption promise he ran on. However, the scandal raises questions regarding the validity and reliability of the president’s claims. In a press release after the arrest, President Morales expressed his support for his family but reiterated his respect for the law and his intention to avoid any interference with the trial’s due process