GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemala's lead prosecutor against impunity who helped put three former presidents and a raft of other officials behind bars said Wednesday that current President Jimmy Morales has made the country's fight against corruption a joke and he fears for his safety.
Juan Francisco Sandoval said the office he leads has only a fraction of the investigative power it once had. In an interview with The Associated Press, Sandoval said that Morales' government has done everything to block his investigations into high-level corruption, including of the president himself.
Sandoval worked under internationally praised chief prosecutor Thelma Aldana until last May. Aldana now seeks the presidency and was replaced by a new chief prosecutor chosen by Morales.
He led corruption investigations against the former presidents Alfonso Portillo, Álvaro Colom and Otto Pérez Molina. Sandoval said he hopes to present at least five more high-impact cases by September.
"This government has been terrible, disastrous and a joke for the people in the fight against corruption," Sandoval said. He noted the irony since Morales won office with a slogan of "neither corrupt, nor a thief."
The 36-year-old prosecutor has led the office for a decade, working closely with the United Nations' anti-corruption mission in Guatemala. Sandoval's office and the U.N. mission have alleged corruption by Morales, but seen their pursuit of charges blocked by the country's congress.
The leader of the U.N. body, Ivan Velasquez, has not been allowed to return to Guatemala and Morales has said he will not renew the mission's mandate when it expires in September.
Sandoval himself is under legal fire by the targets of his investigations. There are 18 legal actions against him that seek his imprisonment or firing. Usually accompanied by bodyguards, Sandoval said he fears for his safety and that of his family, but plans to continue working.
"I still have hope that things are going to change," he said.