Reports indicate that on October 10 a Guatemalan court condemned former Vice President Roxana Baldetti (2012-2015) to a 15 years sentence. She was charged with leading a criminal organization that defrauded the state. During her term, Baldetti was allegedly tasked with the purification and cleaning of the Amitlatán lake. According to judicial authorities, after receiving bribes, she granted an 18 USD million contract to a company which was supposed to provide a special decontaminant which allegedly worsened the lake’s conditions. Her sentence notwithstanding, she faces further charges for corruption and alleged connections to Loz Zetas cartel from Mexico. Furthermore, she faces an extradition request from the U.S. government, which accused her of laundering money for drug traffickers. Baldetti, who served under President Otto Fernando Pérez Molina, resigned in May 2015 after a United Nations anti-corruption probe led to the arrest of 24 people suspected of involvement in an import bribery scheme.
The sentence is likely to be seen in Guatemala as a positive cornerstone in the struggle against corruption, which is considered commonplace across political echelons of Central American countries. Given that high-profile suspects are rarely convicted successfully, this episode could potentially create an empowering precedent by which the judiciary branch gains independence from political pressures. Such scenario will be strengthened if further sentences against Baldetti’s collaborators are carried.