Mexico extradites ex-Guatemalan leader
GUATEMALA CITY: Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo was extradited from Mexico on Tuesday to face corruption charges and the ex-leader said he was confident he would receive a fair trial in his homeland.
Portillo, who governed from 2000 to 2004 before fleeing to Mexico, arrived in Guatemala on a Mexican government plane. He is accused of authorizing US$15 million in transfers to the nation's Defense Department, where officials close to him allegedly pocketed most of the cash.
Portillo appeared before a Guatemalan judge later Tuesday and his bail was set at US$133,000. The judge ordered him not to leave the country.
Portillo said he plans to pay the bail so he can visit his mother and tour the country to talk about "the hurtful truth about Guatemala."
He denied the charges of corruption and fraud that he faces.
"In order to prove fraud, one must show that the accused had control over the money and we have account receipts from the controller general showing the president was not in charge of any funds," he said.
In a statement to reporters, Portillo said he decided to return home and face justice because he trusts the courts under President Alvaro Colom more than under the government of former President Oscar Berger.
"They savagely and indiscriminately hunted me for four and a half years," he said of Berger's government.
Colom took office in January and has said little about Portillo's case.
Mexico's Foreign Relations Department ordered Portillo extradited in 2006, but the ex-Guatemalan leader fought the order for years. His lawyers took the extradition order to the Supreme Court and argued that the department didn't have the constitutional authority to decide extraditions.
The court disagreed with Portillo, but Portillo's extradition still inched through the Mexican legal and diplomatic system.
In the end, Portillo sent the Mexican government a letter on Friday saying he would no longer fight extradition, according to a statement by the federal Attorney General's Office.
Portillo came to Mexico days after leaving office, got a work visa and began working as a financial adviser for a construction materials company. He remained free while in Mexico.