There are few things I like more than *smacks lips* a big fat juicy corrupt PEP. And for anyone who shares my addiction, it is gratifying that there is such a steady stream of them. Today we have one more to add to our collection. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
While working as a lecturer at a Mexican university in the 1980s, Guatemalan Alfonso Portillo shot and killed two students, claiming self-defence. He was not charged, and the case has since been declared “inactive”. In 1989 he returned to Guatemala and became politically active, ending up as Secretary General of the centre-right Guatemalan Christian Democrats (DCG) in 1993. Two years later he, along with other DCG high-ups, left the party to become independents after their parliamentary group was accused of corruption. He then joined the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG) and in 1998 was chosen as their presidential candidate. (Here’s the good bit.) Portillo launched his campaign on the platform of bringing morality into political life, vowing to fight corruption and to defend the little people against the white, urban elite. He won, and took office as president on 14 January 2000 – promising at his inauguration to launch a thorough government investigation into corruption.
Now you might think that he meant an investigation into clearing corruption – but actually it seems that he really intended to look more closely at how to do more of it. Almost from the outset, the FRG was accused of bringing corruption on an unprecedented scale to Venezuela. Portillo’s government has been tainted by accusations of embezzlement and money laundering, and in January 2004 he was voted out of office. He scooted off to Mexico, but was returned to Guatemala to face charges of embezzlement in 2008. He was cleared in 2011, but the completion of the legal process in Guatemala meant that he could be extradited to stand trial in the US, on charges of having used US banks to US$70 million in public funds stolen during his four-year presidency. He pleaded not guilty, saying that the US had kidnapped him.
And then this week Señor Portillo had a change of heart. He pleaded guilty to one count of laundering $2.5 million in bribes from Taiwan, saying that he had taken the money in exchange for a promise that his country would continue to recognise Taiwan diplomatically while he was in office. He agreed not to appeal against any prison sentence between four and six years – he will be sentenced in June.
And in case you’re wondering where your next PEP-fix is coming from, El Salvador’s former president, Francisco Flores, is under investigation by the Salvadorean congress for allegedly misusing millions of dollars in funds from (go on – guess) Taiwan, which he denies. Yum yum!