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Guatemala ex-president to be extradited to US for embezzlement trial

The Embassy of the US Guatemala on Thursday praised the decision of the Guatemala Constitutional Court [official websites] allowing former president Alfonso Portillo [CIDOB profile, in Spanish] to be extradited to the US on charges of embezzling foreign donations. Upon extradition Portillo will stand trial in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on charges of laundering US$1.5 million [AP report] in Taiwanese foreign donations, which were supposed to be used to buy schoolbooks for Guatemalan children. Instead Portillo allegedly deposited the funds in various banks for his personal use. Portillo was president from 2000 to 2004 and was tried last year in Guatemala on charges of embezzlement [JURIST report] under which he allegedly diverted approximately USD $15 million in funds from the Ministry of Defense. His extradition to the US was approved [JURIST report] by a Guatemalan criminal court in March 2010.

In November then-president Alvaro Colom announced that he would allow Portillo to be extradited to the US [JURIST report] to stand trial. Colom has also faced recent legal trouble of his own. In August the Guatemalan Constitutional Court ruled that former first lady Sandra Torres is ineligible to run for the office of president [JURIST report] because of her relationship to Colom, her ex-husband. Torres and Colom divorced last year [BBC report] after Torres announced her plans to represent the ruling National Unity for Hope party in upcoming elections. The Guatemalan Constitution [text, PDF] bans relatives of the president from running for the office. Court President Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre held that because Torres was Colom's wife for most of the term, Torres would be in violation of the Constitution if she were to run for office. Otto Perez Molina, Torres' main opposition and current president, accused the two of fraud [BBC report] for divorcing in an effort to circumvent the constitutional ban.

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