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AP exclusive as fired anti-corruption prosecutor flees Guatemala

Juan Francisco Sandoval, center, dismissed as Guatemala’s anti-corruption prosecutor, arrives in Las Chinamas, El Salvador, early July 24, 2021, as he fled Guatemala en route to the U.S. AP reporter Sonia Pérez D. accompanied the convoy as the only journalist present.. (AP Photo / Sonia Pérez D.)

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Guatemala City reporter Sonia Pérez D. had spent years cultivating a rapport with Juan Francisco Sandoval, Guatemala’s special prosecutor against corruption, who had won praise from U.S. officials for work that rattled Guatemala’s most powerful citizens, including President Alejandro Giammattei.

Her efforts paid off when Sandoval was abruptly fired, a move that would lead the U.S. to temporarily suspend cooperation with the office of Guatemala’s attorney general. After attending post-firing news conference, Pérez was ushered into the office of the country’s human rights ombudsman and invited to be the sole journalist to accompany Sandoval in his small convoy of armored SUVs as he fled the country. Across the border in El Salvador, Pérez reported on his comments and took photos and video, agreeing for safety reasons to publish only once he had safely boarded a flight to the United States hours later.

Pérez’s story moved early the next morning and was used by major national and international outlets; a competitive agency didn’t report Sandoval’s exit until later that day and did so citing the human rights ombudsman.

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