In our podcast this week, we return to Guatemala for the second of three stories on illicit campaign financing in that country to discuss Juan Carlos Monzón, the former private secretary of Guatemala’s ex-Vice President Roxana Baldetti.
Monzón, who investigators say once went by the name “Robacarros” or “Car thief,” was obviously familiar with how to steal long before he met Baldetti sometime in 2011.
But under the tutelage of Baldetti, and her Patriotic Party (Partido Patriota – PP), he took it to a new level for both himself and his bosses, Baldetti and President Otto Pérez Molina.
During the campaign that year, Monzón helped secure political contributions. Baldetti promised the donors she would return the favor in government contracts and other favors. Most of the money, upwards of 95 percent, moved through personal rather than party accounts, making it impossible to know how much the PP pocketed in the process.
Once in power, the real game began. Contributors arrived to collect on their contributions and contracts were handed out. The pay-for-play schemes reached absurd levels, investigators would later say – hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts and kickbacks.
Monzón managed many of his boss’ schemes, including with his own company, which he had put in the name of his wife. Construction, telecommunications, media and other companies participated.
Investigators would later say that the Pérez Molina administration worked, in essence, like a mafia. All the power flowed through the top; Pérez Molina and Baldetti collected money from every scheme.
It also looked like a mafia. Every year for Pérez Molina’s birthday, Monzón collected money and gifts from the politicians, the businessmen and other beneficiaries of the corruption. The gifts included a Harley Davidson Motorcycle, a yacht, a beach house, and a $3.5 million helicopter.
It didn’t last. It couldn’t. (Well, it could have…) Eventually, Guatemalan prosecutors – working with the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG) – went public with a case against the administration and specifically, Monzón, in April 2015.
At the time, Monzón was in South Korea, traveling with his boss, ex-Vice President Baldetti. They cried, as they tried to figure out what to do. There was no way out, or was there?
Hosted by Héctor Silva Ávalos and Steven Dudley. Edited by María Paola Martínez. Produced by Steven Dudley.
Listen to the Podcast here: