December 14 (Reuters) – The United States wants to see more action against corruption in Guatemala, a senior American diplomat said on Tuesday, expressing concern over the blocking of anti-corruption efforts in that country, and also signaling concerns about alleged deals with gangs in El Salvador.

Brian Nichols, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, made the comments during a call with reporters focused on corruption in Latin America.

“We have great concerns that the fight against corruption has not progressed as we would like,” Nichols said. He stressed the need for “concrete measures against corrupt individuals and institutions” in Guatemala.

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In the northern triangle of Central America of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, rampant corruption contributes to increasing levels of migration to the United States, along with other factors, including acute unemployment , gang violence and natural disasters.

Nichols also pointed to investigations by the US Department of Justice showing alleged deals between the government of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and at least one major gang.

At the end of last week, Reuters reported that US authorities were preparing criminal proceedings against Deputy Justice Minister Osiris Luna and Carlos Marroquin, head of a government welfare agency, in which the two men are accused. for negotiating a secret truce with gangs. Read more

Nichols said US prosecutors “had exposed joint negotiations between government officials and the MS-13 criminal organization,” adding that the United States was “extremely concerned” about the actions of the two Salvadoran officials involved.

Last week, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on the two men, accusing them of making a deal with the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and Barrio 18 gangs, in which the gangs would reduce violence in El Salvador and provide a political support in exchange for money and easier detention conditions. Read more

Bukele has repeatedly denied that his government negotiated a truce and denounced the sanctions.

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Reporting by David Alire Garcia and David Toro; Editing by Sam Holmes and Stephen Coates

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