Guatemala’s former leader Portillo extradited to US

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GUATEMALA CITY: Guatemala extradited ex-president Alfonso Portillo to the United States US on Friday to face charges of laundering $70 million, sending him on a plane under the escort of US agents in a first for Latin America.

“Hasta luego (see you later), people of Guatemala,” Portillo, 61, said as he boarded the small plane at the air force headquarters south of the capital.

Portillo, who was president from 2000 to 2004, is the first former Latin American leader to be extradited to the US. Panama’s former dictator Manuel Noriega was ousted by US troops in 1989 and jailed in Miami for 20 years on drug charges.

Wearing a black sweater jacket and holding two books, the former president described his extradition as a “kidnapping” and accused the Guatemalan government of breaking the law since he still had cases pending in his country

“They have acted illegally against me from the beginning. They have violated all my rights,” he declared after being taken from the military hospital where he was being treated for health problems.

“They are taking me away sick, so I hold the government and the interior minister responsible for anything that may happen to my health. I’m not well,” he said, adding he had fluid in one lung and an abnormal heart beat.

The US welcomed the extradition as “an important affirmation of the rule of law and due process in Guatemala.”

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