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Guatemalan judge linked to graft case ascends to top court

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GUATEMALACITY – A Guatemalan judge accused of ties to an influence peddling scheme was sworn in to the country’s top court on Thursday, just days before a visit by the U.S. vice president that is expected to focus on regional anti-corruption efforts.

Judge Nester Vasquez took the oath to serve on the five-member Constitutional Court in front of lawmakers in Congress who ratified his controversial appointment earlier this week.

Vasquez’s appointment came after an autonomous anti-corruption prosecutor alleged in February that his prior appointment to a lower court in 2014 was tainted by illicit lobbying of officials and lawmakers..

Vasquez has made no public remarks on the accusation and is now immune from prosecution.

In an interview with Reuters published on Wednesday, President Alejandro Giammattei criticized the graft prosecutor, Juan Francisco Sandoval, for what he described as politicizing the administration of justice.

Giammattei also defended Vasquez in the interview, arguing that he enjoyed the support of thousands of lawyers who voted for him to be their representative on the Constitutional Court.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is leading Washington’s efforts to tackle the root causes of mass migration from Central America, which includes a major anti-corruption focus along with a possible $4 billion regional aid package.

She is set to arrive in Guatemala on Sunday and meet with Giammattei on Monday.

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