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Guatemala's ex-president Alvaro Colom dies at 71

(AFP)

Guatemala’s ex-president Alvaro Colom, who was named in a US list of Central American officials accused of corruption, died on Monday at the age of 71, one of his former ministers said.

Colom’s cause of death has not been specified but he was undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer.

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“President Alvaro Colom has passed away. I regret his passing and join in prayer for his eternal rest,” former interior minister Carlos Menocal said on Twitter.

“Working and learning alongside him has been a privilege. I understood and got to know Guatemala thanks to him. A just man, who dared to make the invisible visible (…) Farewell, President Colom,” tweeted former presidential spokesman Fernando Barillas.

Current President Alejandro Giammattei tweeted to express his “heartfelt condolences” to Colom’s family and friends.

Colom, who was in office from 2008 to 2012, was sanctioned in July 2021 by Washington, which placed him on the so-called “Engel List” of “corrupt and undemocratic actors” in Central America.

He was banned from entering the United States after being arrested in 2018 for fraud and embezzlement over a 2009 contract for several hundred public buses.

According to Guatemala’s judicial authorities, the $35 million bill for the buses had been inflated.

The former president was released after posting bail. 

The case was also investigated by the UN-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala.

His ex-wife, Sandra Torres, is running for president in Guatemala’s June 25 general elections.

“May a noble man who always carried Guatemala in his heart rest in peace,” Torres wrote on Twitter.

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