Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 26th 2013 Contents A55
May 26, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
Former president of
Portillo, left, speaks to
the press as he is led
by police to an aircraft
that will fly him to the
United States from
Guatemala City, Friday.
Portillo was extradited
to the United States to
face charges of
laundering $70 million
in Guatemalan funds
through US bank
accounts. AP PHOTO
GUATEMALA CITY---Former Guatemalan President
Alfonso Portillo was extradited on Friday to the
United States to face charges of laundering $70
million in Guatemalan funds through US bank
The former president was taken from a military
hospital where he was recovering from liver surgery
and a heart condition and put on a plane, according
to his lawyer Mauricio Berreondo. He said the plane
was bound for New York, where he is also charged
with embezzling $1.5 million in foreign donations
intended to buy school library books in Guatemala.
"I blame the government for what could happen
to him," Berreondo said. "Portillo is sick and there
are several pending appeals."
He said one appeal had to do with establishing
the state of Portillo s health.
Deputy Foreign Minister Rita Claverie said that
both the Supreme Court and the Constitutional
Court had notified the government there are no
pending appeals in his case.
Portillo, who was Guatemala s president from 2000
to 2004, was taken out of the hospital on orders of
Interior Secretary Mauricio Lopez Bonilla, Berreondo
said. An Associated Press reporter saw a small white
jet carrying Portillo, 61, dressed in a black sweatshirt
take off late morning local time.
"This decision is an important affirmation of the
rule of law and due process in Guatemala," the US
Embassy in Guatemala said in a statement. "We
commend the Guatemalan authorities in the strength-
ening of rule of law and the fight against organized
crime and corruption."
In brief remarks to a local radio station, Portillo
said his extradition was illegal.
"This is a kidnapping," he said.
Portillo was turned over to US authorities in the
same week that the high court threw out a genocide
conviction in another high-profile case against an
ex-president, former dictator Efrain Rios Montt. That
decision that has been widely questioned and crit-
icized, including in the United States.
For Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American
Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank, Portillo s
extradition comes as a relief to the government.
"It comes at moment when the government is
under a lot of criticism and this is something they
can point to as an example of them being serious
about fighting crime and adhering to the rule of law,"
Guatemala has been struggling to build a credible
justice system, including with the help of a UN-
sanctioned team of international prosecutors.
For Oscar Vasquez, director of the non-govern-
mental organization Citizen Action, Portillo s extra-
dition shows the difficulties the country s justice
system is facing.
"As in the case of genocide in Guatemala, the
justice system shows signs of chaos, confusion and
disorder, given that we no longer know who is right,
the state for extraditing him or his defense lawyers,"
"It seems that we are left to rely on the justice
of others," he added, referring to the United States.
In the US case, Portillo allegedly deposited the
money in Miami and transferred it to a Paris account
in the name of his ex-wife and daughter.
Guatemala s highest court upheld the extradition
last August after it was granted by former President
Alvaro Colom as he left office in 2011.
Portillo has called the proceedings a political reprisal
by powerful Guatemalan businessmen and the US
government for not bending to their interests. He
has also said the court agreeing to his extradition
constitutes a violation of his human rights.
Upon leaving office in 2004, Portillo fled to Mexico,
where he began working as a financial adviser for
a construction materials company.
He was extradited from Mexico to Guatemala in
2008 to face embezzlement charges at home. (AP)
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