Miami-Dade County

Interpol alert leads to arrest at Miami airport of former Guatemala presidential candidate

Guatemala presidential candidate Manuel Baldizón gives a campaign speech in Villa Nueva, Guatemala, in 2015. Baldizón was detained by immigration authorities at Miami Airport on Saturday, Jan. 20.
Guatemala presidential candidate Manuel Baldizón gives a campaign speech in Villa Nueva, Guatemala, in 2015. Baldizón was detained by immigration authorities at Miami Airport on Saturday, Jan. 20. AFP/Getty Images

A former Guatemalan presidential candidate accused of corruption in a case involving Brazilian construction company Odebrecht was arrested by immigration authorities in Miami over the weekend and remains at Krome Detention Center.

Manuel Antonio Baldizón Méndez requested asylum to remain in the United States after being detained by agents of the Department of Homeland Security when he tried to enter the country through Miami International Airport. Baldizón was traveling on a flight from the Dominican Republic, according to Reuters.

Authorities arrested Baldizón after an Interpol alert was activated related to an arrest warrant in Guatemala, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in that country.

Baldizón, a businessman, must now appear before a federal immigration judge. El Nuevo Herald was unable to contact an attorney representing Baldizón on Monday.

The former congressman who ran for president of Guatemala twice, in 2011 and 2015, faces charges of bribery, money laundering and illicit association with the Brazilian company Odebrecht SA, according to a statement from the Prosecutor’s Office of Guatemala.

The charges against him are part of a broad investigation into corruption linked to Odebrecht.

Public officials and businessmen in several Latin American countries have been imprisoned in connection with corruption cases involving the company, such as bribery and embezzlement. Odebrecht has admitted that it paid millions of dollars in bribes.

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala said that the United States “will follow the international protocols established for the return of Mr. Baldizón to Guatemala to face justice,” newspaper Prensa Libre reported.

“The United States strongly supports Guatemala’s fight against corruption and will continue our cooperation with Guatemala to achieve transparency and good governance,” the statement said.

Follow Brenda Medina on Twitter: @BrendaMedinar

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