RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry informed this Friday that it initiated an investigation of the country’s consul general in Los Angeles, USA, Tekandi Paniagua, for the alleged diversion of donations last year for victims of hurricanes Eta and Iota.
The Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs assured that its Internal Audit Unit would audit the apparent “irregular handling” by the Guatemalan Consulate General in Los Angeles, United States, of donations made to support communities affected by the hurricanes.
“Two officials from the Ministry’s Internal Audit Unit have been instructed to immediately report to the consulate, who arrived yesterday to verify and make an ‘in situ verification of the case and the status of said donation, so it is expected that in the coming days this team will send a report,” the Foreign Ministry said in a press release.
The Audit Unit “will receive information that will allow determining the facts of what happened and at the same time resolve, as soon as possible, the transfer of the donation to the national territory to fulfill its mission.”
According to an investigation by the U.S. newspaper Los Angeles Times, five months have passed since the boxes of donations made by the community in the U.S. city were supposed to go to Guatemala, but allegedly “most of them are still stored in the headquarters of the local consulate.”
In addition, the newspaper asserted that other boxes “have been diverted for other purposes,” such as the donation of surgical masks from the consulate to the Long Beach Convention Center, California, where Guatemalan minors and adults are sheltered.
According to the U.S. newspaper, Paniagua himself assured in a publication in social networks, last December, that the consulate had received “226,000 masks, 17,000 pounds of food, 1,400 pounds of medical supplies and 1,000 pounds of personal hygiene supplies, in a coordinated effort with the consulates of San Bernardino, Seattle, Denver, Tucson, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.”
THE AFTERMATH OF THE STORMS
According to official information, Hurricanes Eta and Iota, which hit Central America in November 2020, left US$780 million in losses in Guatemala.
Government entities consider that the greatest losses were registered with the destruction of private homes, with 2,444 million Quetzals in damages (US$317 million).
According to the final official count, the two hurricanes caused in Guatemala the death of 61 people and 99 missing.
Eta and Iota forced the evacuation of 311,317 people and caused damage to 1.7 million inhabitants of Guatemala, with Alta Verapaz (north) and Izabal (northeast) as the departments with the most incidents.
Most of the missing persons were registered in Alta Verapaz, specifically in the village Quejá, where approximately 150 houses of the community were buried.
Eta and Iota made landfall in Central America during the first two weeks of November. Still, their aftermath lasted in Guatemala until January, as some villages in the north of the country, such as Campur, in Alta Verapaz, were still flooded.
According to official data, the meteorological phenomena aggravated the country’s economic situation, where 59 percent of the more than 16 million inhabitants live below the poverty line.