On June 3, 2021, President Biden issued a memorandum declaring corruption as "a core United States national security interest" and directing interagency coordination to develop a presidential strategy to "significantly bolster the ability of the United States Government... to combat corruption." The memorandum states that corruption contributes to extremism and migration and provides the necessary means for authoritarian leaders to undermine democracies and to threaten the rule of law. Days later, in connection with a visit to Mexico and Guatemala, Vice President Harris announced that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) would increase its efforts against transnational bribery in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
On July 1, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken issued the list naming several individuals, including current and former government officials, suspected of corruption and antidemocratic conduct in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Mr. Blinken referred to this list in compliance with section 353 of the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act.1 This list - known as the "Engel list" for its author, former U.S. Representative Eliot L. Engel - is composed of 55 names:
- Guatemala: The list names 20 individuals, including high-ranking public officials who are currently in office or who served in previous periods. There is a former president, former ministers, current and former congressmen, magistrates of the country's high courts, various lawyers, and leaders of non-governmental organizations.
- El Salvador: The list includes 14 names among which are high-ranking public officials, including members of the current government such as ministers, members of the Legislative Assembly, government advisers, a former member of the Supreme Elector Court, a former mayor, and some businessmen.
- Honduras: There are 21 individuals listed, most notably a former first lady, current and former congressmen, and a former director of Inversión Estratégica de Honduras (INVEST-H).
The Engel list is compiled based on an analysis by the Department of State of classified and non-classified information and a subsequent determination that the named individuals have (1) knowingly participated in actions that affect democratic processes or institutions, (2) have knowingly engaged in significant acts of corruption, and (3) have knowingly engaged in obstructing investigations of such acts of corruption, including those related to government contracts, bribery and extortion, facilitation payments, as well as money laundering, violence, harassment, and intimidation of investigators of governmental and non-governmental corruption.2 As a result, the individuals named may face sanctions, including (1) ineligibility to receive visas or other documentation to enter the U.S., (2) ineligibility to be admitted or paroled into the United States or to receive any other benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.), and (3) revocation of current visas.3
What steps should businesses and investors take if they are associated with the people listed?
- Carry out a risk assessment focused on potential points of contact between your organization and the individuals listed.
- Evaluate all aspects of the relationship between your business
and the relevant individual(s), including:
- Level of authority and influence toward or within your organization
- All points of contact, including involvement in transactions involving your organization
- Payments made to and received from the listed person
- Any business determinations or cases involving current or former government officials (e.g., pending cases with judges or magistrates who have been enlisted)
- In the event compliance risks are identified, develop a plan for remediation and evaluate the need for further internal investigation.
- U.S. Releases Section 353 List of Corrupt and Undemocratic Actors for Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador - United States Department of State
- Section 353 Corrupt and Undemocratic Actors Report - United States Department of State
1.The United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act passed in December 2020 (included in the omnibus appropriations and COVID-19 relief package) to support the people of Central America and strengthen the national security of the United States by addressing the fundamental causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (the Northern Triangle). In accordance with this law, strategies will be developed for economic development, to combat corruption and to deal with other problems in these countries. See All Information (Except Text) for H.R.2615 - United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act; U.S. House of Representatives Comm. on Foreign Aff., Engel U.S.-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act Passes Congress.
2.See Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, Pub. L. No. 116-260, § 353(b), 134 Stat. 1182, 3130 (2020).
3.Id. § 353(c)-(d), 134 Stat. at 3130-31.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.