Detained former mayor Edgar Francisco Ruiz Paredes

Authorities in Guatemala have arrested a former mayor and several local officials on corruption charges, a possible foreshadowing of what's to come in 2016 as prosecutors set their sights on municipal-level fraud networks.

Edgar Francisco Ruiz Paredes, mayor of the popular tourist city Antigua, Guatemala up until last week, was arrested on January 21 for alleged illicit association, extortion, and embezzlement, reported the Associated Press. Ten other local officials and citizens were also detained. 

Prosecutors say the suspects were part of a corruption network that awarded government contracts to family members of another former mayor, Adolfo Vivar Marroquín, who was arrested on similar charges in 2012 and is currently in prison. 

The Public Ministry (as the Attorney General's Office is known in Guatemala) and the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG) led the investigation into the corruption network, reported La Hora.

The day before the arrests, the Public Ministry and CICIG stated their respective investigative teams would work together to target corruption at the municipal level in 2016. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Ruiz may just be the first of many corrupt local officials to come under judicial scrutiny in 2016 as the Public Ministry and CICIG focus their attention on municipal corruption following a historic year for Guatemala's anti-impunity crusaders in 2015. The Public Ministry and CICIG worked together to uncover several corruption rings operating at the national level last year, including one within the customs office allegedly run by former President Otto Pérez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti. Both of the disgraced political figures are now in prison awaiting trial. 

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

The focus on municipal corruption could pay huge dividends, as mayors in Guatemala -- and across Latin America -- have managed to create what amount to criminal fiefdoms by embezzling public funds or colluding with drug trafficking groups. With little oversight from state and national authorities, these criminal-style networks are often run for years with impunity, as is seen in the Ruiz case.

However, going after municipal corruption presents its own set of challenges for Guatemala, which has 338 municipalities. Although not all are run by corrupt mayors, it is unclear how many resources the Public Ministry and CICIG can dedicate to investigating local politicians, while also building off progress made last year at the national level. 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
Prev Next

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla -- a decorated war hero and a longtime US ally -- finds himself treading water amidst a flurry of accusations about corruption and his connections to drug traffickers. López Bonilla is not the most well-known suspect in the cases against...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...