GUATEMALA CITY – Former Guatemalan presidential candidate Manuel Baldizon, who was taken into custody by US immigration authorities on the weekend, asked on Sunday for political asylum there, the Guatemalan government said.
The Foreign Ministry confirmed to EFE that Baldizon asked US authorities for political asylum out of “fear” of being returned to Guatemala.
Although his visa and papers were in order, Baldizon was detained upon his arrival in Miami, where he traveled from the Dominican Republic, “because there was an international (arrest order)” against him,” the Foreign Ministry said.
The Attorney General’s Office and the UN-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) issued the arrest warrant for Baldizon in connection with the Odebrecht corruption case, officials said Sunday.
The warrant was issued following the execution of 10 search warrants and the arrests of four people linked to the former presidential candidate, prosecutors and the CICIG said in a statement.
Baldizon tried to enter the United States “without legal permission to do so” and will be deported by immigration officials “in the short term,” the statement said.
The 47-year-old Baldizon, who ran for the presidency in 2011 and 2015, will be arrested on criminal conspiracy, bribery and money laundering charges as soon as he arrives in Guatemala, officials said.
Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, according to the US Justice Department, paid $788 million in bribes to officials in 12 Latin American countries, including Guatemala.
The company paid $18 million in bribes to Guatemalan officials between 2013 and 2015, US prosecutors said.