N.Y. Judge Gives Ex-Guatemala President Prison

NEW YORK (AP) -
Ex- Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo shortly after he took office in 2001.
Ex- Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo shortly after he took office in 2001.

Guatemala’s ex-president was sentenced Thursday to nearly six years in prison for accepting bribes, as a U.S. judge rejected leniency and said government corruption must be stamped out worldwide.

The $2.5 million in bribes Alfonso Portillo admitted accepting from the government of Taiwan to continue to recognize the Asian nation diplomatically should be “bothersome to the government of Guatemala and all the other countries in the United Nations convention against corruption,” U.S. District Judge Robert P. Patterson said.

Patterson sentenced Portillo, 62, to a term of five years, 10 months — a month short of the top of federal sentencing guidelines. The Federal Bureau of Prisons must now decide how much of the time Portillo spent in Guatemala lockups can be credited toward his sentence.

Portillo was Guatemala’s president from 2000 to 2004. He was extradited to the United States a year ago and remains in custody after pleading guilty to money laundering conspiracy in March.

Brian Su, deputy director general of Taipei’s economic and cultural office, has said that Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan’s president since 2008, “rejects checkbook diplomacy.”

Friends and family of Portillo who flew to the United States from Guatemala and Mexico attended the more-than-four-hour sentencing hearing, where they heard Portillo apologize for his crime.

“I feel profoundly remorseful and embarrassed not only because of the crimes I committed but because of the consequences borne by other people and institutions,” he said, speaking through a Spanish interpreter.