Guatemalan authorities arrested a mayor accused of stealing over $1 million in municipal funds, a case that is representative of how certain politicians have successfully created small fiefdoms of crime and corruption, allowing them to cling to power for years.
Edgar Medrano Menendez has served as mayor of Chinautla municipality in central Guatemala for the past 27 years. According to La Hora, throughout this time he has faced multiple accusations of corruption, most recently in July 2015, when the United Nations-backed anti-impunity body — known as the CICIG for its Spanish initials — requested he undergo pre-trial proceedings for illicit enrichment, money laundering, and other charges.
On October 19, Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office, known as the Public Ministry, had Medrano arrested on charges that he stole from the municipal budget. He allegedly had several checks wired to collaborators, who then deposited the cash in Medrano’s personal accounts. Medrano is also accused of transferring another portion of the stolen money to two non-governmental organizations. These NGOs then shifted the cash to four construction companies, which then transferred the money back to Medrano. Another chunk of municipal funds was laundered via several public works contracts, the Public Ministry said.
The accusations by the CICIG kept Medrano from running for office again in September. Instead, his niece ran — and won — in his place. She is due to assume office in January, as La Hora reported.
InSight Crime Analysis
The CICIG has had a very busy year in Guatemala, culminating with the resignations of the country’s president and vice president due to a corruption scandal. With Medrano’s arrest, it now appears that the CICIG and Public Ministry have turned their attention towards pursuing more regional politicians who have long enjoyed impunity, despite multiple accusations of malfeasance.
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Medrano’s case is not an isolated one. In its July report, the CICIG asserted that Guatemala’s political parties derive half of their financing from corruption or from criminal groups. This dependence on corruption is, in part, what has made Guatemala function almost like a mafia state. As seen with Medrano, politicians create corrupt networks that operate similarly to criminal groups, sourcing illicit funds from kickbacks, bogus public works contracts, and occasional alliances with local drug traffickers. This gives them a powerful base from which they can maintain their fiefdoms of crime and corruption for years.
This is a hard cycle to break, but with Medrano’s arrest it appears that the Public Ministry is prepared to finally try and do just that.