Acts of Corruption in Guatemala Push Canada to Enact New Sanctions Regulations Under the SEMA

February 20, 2024

Canada has enacted new sanctions regulations against Guatemala under the Special Economic Measures Act, effective retroactively on February 16, 2024. The new Special Economic Measures (Guatemala) Regulations (the “Guatemala Regulations”), are intended to “support Canada’s ongoing efforts to support the democratically-elected Arévalo government and the people of Guatemala in their fight to strengthen democracy and human rights”.

General elections were held in Guatemala on June 25, 2023 to elect the President, Vice President, and various members of the Central American Parliament. Shortly after on June 30, 2023, several political parties brough a lawsuit before the Constitutional Court alleging that fraudulent voting had impacted the election. On August 20, 2023, Bernardo Arévalo won Guatemala’s presidential election.

According to Canada, “corrupt public officials worked relentlessly to annul the democratic victory of President Bernardo Arévalo, and to silence the will of the Guatemalan people that was clearly conveyed at the elections”. While President Arévalo took office in January 2024, “the corrupt public officials that remain in positions of power continue their efforts to undermine the democratically-elected government”.

Canada announced the imposition of sanctions against four individuals under the Guatemala Regulations, who Canada describes as “undemocratic public officials who have already attempted, and/or continue to attempt to prevent President Arévalo from fulfilling his mandate”. Canada imposes these sanctions alongside the European Union and the United States, who “recently imposed measures targeting undemocratic Guatemalan individuals”.

The Guatemala Regulations impose a prohibition on dealings related to the four individuals, effectively freezing any asset they have in Canada. These individuals are also rendered inadmissible to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Our team will continue to closely monitor new developments in Canada’s sanctions regimes, providing updates to keep clients informed. We have significant experience in the design and implementation of sanctions-related compliance programs and internal investigations. Where breaches are identified, we work closely with clients in making voluntary disclosures and in engaging with the ensuing investigations conducted by the RCMP and Global Affairs Canada. We also regularly assist clients with the application for delisting process as well as applications for exemption permits.


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