Two Prosecutors’ Offices have opened three investigations into the political party that led Jimmy Morales to the presidency in 2015.
By Ferdy Montepeque of El Periódico
This article originally appeared in Spanish on elperiodico.com.gt and is republished here with permission.
The Public Ministry’s Money Laundering Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the political party FCN-Nación for a contribution of $500,000 that accused drug trafficker Marlon Monroy Meoño, also known as el Fantasma (The Ghost), allegedly made to the party during the 2015 election campaign, said Sara Sandoval, the head of that agency. It has also opened two other investigations into FCN-Nación, the party of President Jimmy Morales and Vice President Jafeth Cabrera, for hiding information and illegal campaign financing.
Sandoval explained that the investigations began automatically after analysis of 2016 press reports that Jafeth Cabrera Cortez, the vice president’s son, received money from el Fantasma. She added that she could only speak generally of the case because the Law Against Money Laundering (la Ley Contra el Lavado de Dinero) states that specifics of this kind of case must be withheld.
Before Monroy Meoño was extradited along with his wife, Cynthia Cardona, to the United States in November 2016, he told elPeriódico that during the presidential campaign he personally gave Cabrera Cortez cash in a watch store in Zona 10 of Guatemala City. In the same conversation the alleged cartel boss also said that every drug trafficker had to pay “dues” to FCN-Nación so that authorities “wouldn’t bother them” under their government.
Cabrera Cortez has not yet commented on el Fantasma’s accusations. Vice-President Cabrera, meanwhile, has repeatedly and testily denied the accusations. “It’s another lie that they’re associating with me. They should investigate him [Cabrera’s son]; there’s absolutely nothing there, nor do we know [el Fantasma],” said the vice president in October, 2016.
The Public Ministry’s Prosecutor’s Office Against Electoral Crimes has also opened two other investigations into FCN-Nación. The first is based on a complaint presented last November by the Inspector General of the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), after FCN-Nación did not present complete reports of its 2015 campaign financing.
The TSE also presented another complaint that neither of the party’s two reports accounted for financing that Morales received from abroad. Yesterday, TSE President María Eugenia Mijangos said that the accusation was made based on “evidence of illegal election funding from abroad.”
TSE Inspector General Óscar Sagastume explained that the complaint was made this past July so that it would become clear whether anything illegal happened. He said, “There was a campaign outside of Guatemala with the slogan, ‘We don’t vote, but we do count.’ The complaint warned the MP that, yes, there was activity related to the electoral process outside of Guatemala.”
The “We don’t vote, but we do count” campaign was a simulation of the 2015 election held in the US, which Jimmy Morales “won.” The campaign was organized by former Presidential Commissioner for migration issues Claus Marvin Mérida Jiménez, the fundraiser for publicity for then-presidential candidate Morales.
Mérida Jiménez is a friend of the president, and was his publicist before 2015. The former Commissioner arranged a contract worth Q7.2 million (around $1 million) as a representative of the Guatemalan government with the lobbying firm Barnes & Thornburg to improve relations with the US. He also lobbied for the removal of the US Ambassador to Guatemala Todd Robinson.
The report that FCN hid
elPeriódico had access to the report that FCN-Nación presented to the TSE on February 23, which reported a spending total of Q4.3 million during 2015. The documents were declared void by the TSE’s auditor. Still, according to Mijangos, “it’s very probable” that the panel of judges will order the TSE to audit the party’s reports, which it has not done.
The report for November and December states that Hotel Adriatika donated 79 days of lodging to Morales and his family at a cost of Q120,000 ($16,490). The cost per night of a master suite in the Adriatika is $280 (Q2,000), which would add up to Q160,812 ($22,104). Extended-stay rates are subject to discounts, a hotel assistant said.
In the second round of the elections, Morales used two armored vehicles for transport. The rentals are valued at Q60,000, but it is not clear who paid this amount. The report also states that “supporters and candidates for other offices” paid Q267,840 ($36,816) for billboards, but the report does not give details about this funding either.
The head of the Public Ministry’s Electoral Crimes Prosecutor’s Office, Óscar Schaad, stated that this agency is investigating the party, and that he still cannot say whether Jimmy Morales, formerly FCN-Nación’s secretary general, is responsible for the campaign finance irregularities.
“We will establish criminal liability after analysis, but for the moment it’s the party that we are investigating,” the prosecutor said.
TSE must analyze reports from UNE
TSE judges also announced that they would analyze the Citizen Registry resolution that was used in the decision not to penalize the UNE political party and archive the case, even though irregularities were also found in UNE’s financing. Edie Cux, an analyst of Acción Ciudadana (Citizen Action), said the TSE should thoroughly analyze this report and repeat its audit.