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U.S. sanctions officials close to El Salvador“s Bukele for alleged corruption


El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele speaks during a decoration ceremony to the Apostolic Nuncio to El Salvador Santo Gandemi, in San Salvador, El Salvador, October 26, 2022. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

The United States sanctioned several Central American officials it accused of possible corruption in their respective countries on Friday, including two politicians close to El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele.

U.S. authorities sanctioned over 40 people under the Magnitsky Act, which authorizes the government to sanction foreign officials for human rights offences, freeze their assets and ban them from entering the United States.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in a statement Salvadoran Labor Minister Rolando Castro engaged in “misappropriated public funds for his personal benefit,” and used his position to influence unions.

“To the people of the United States, my respect and appreciation. To your government, go ahead, I authorize you to freeze my bank accounts in your country!” Castro said in a tweet with laughing emojis.

The U.S. Treasury Department accused the Salvadoran presidency’s legal secretary, Conan Castro, of obstructing investigations into misappropriation of public funds intended to fight the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Neither El Salvador’s presidential office nor Castro responded to a request for comment.

The United States also sanctioned two Guatemalan lawmakers and a former minister, none of whom immediately replied to a request for comment.

It accused Allan Rodriguez, former president of Guatemala’s Congress, of facilitating and receiving bribes in exchange for favoring public contracts and backing a state of emergency bill.

The United States accused Guatemalan congressman Jorge Vargas of leading a network that controlled contracts and operations in government-run ports for personal gain.

The United States also sanctioned Guatemala’s former Minister of Energy and Mines Luis Alfonso Chang, accusing him of asking for “bribes and other favors in exchange for not revoking an oil exploitation license.”