By Ted Hesson and Daina Beth Solomon
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States on Thursday banned Guatemalan lawmaker Boris España Cáceres and his immediate family from entering the U.S. due to "his involvement in significant corruption," the State Department said.
The sanctions stem from alleged bribery and "interfering with public processes" in ways that undermined the stability of Guatemala's democratic government, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has made combating corruption a focus of its strategy to tackle the so-called "root causes" of migration in Central America as the number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border has reached the highest levels in two decades. In addition, Biden issued a memorandum earlier this month that called on agencies to take steps to combat corruption worldwide.
Samantha Power, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), visited Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador this week to promote U.S. efforts to deal with poverty, crime and corruption in the region.
The visa sanctions announced on Thursday come after the State Department released a report in May naming officials from the three countries who were "credibly alleged" to be corrupt.
España Cáceres was among the current and former government officials named in that report, which said news reports indicated he "was a key intermediary in an influence peddling and active bribery corruption ring."
The United States in April also blacklisted another Guatemalan congress member and a chief of staff under former President Alvaro Colom.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the two had tried to interfere in judge appointments in Guatemala and secure rulings that would protect them from corruption charges.
Recent U.S. sanctions against the ruling elite in Nicaragua, where President Daniel Ortega’s government has cracked down on opponents, have so far appeared to have had little impact, raising questions about the effectiveness of such rebukes.
(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington and Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Chris Reese, Kristina Cooke and Dan Grebler)