Jailed Guatemala ex-health minister dies of COVID-19

Jailed Guatemala ex-health minister dies of COVID-19

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A former Guatemala health minister jailed on corruption charges has died of complications related to COVID-19.

Hospital Roosevelt in the capital confirmed the death Monday night of Jorge Villavicencio, who had been admitted July 10 after a medical review requested by the prosecutor's office confirmed that he was infected with the new virus.

The penitentiary system director earlier had opposted Villavicencio's request to be transferred, according to Juan Francisco Sandoval, head of the Special Prosecutor Against Impunity office, who said he regretted the death.

Villavicencio was health minister during the administration of President Otto Pérez Molina from 2012 to 2015. He was arrested in December 2019 when he turned himself in after a period in hiding. Pérez Molina is also jailed on corruption charges, but has been held in a hospital for unrelated medical issues.

Villavivencio was accused of involvement in a system that collected bribes in exchange for government purchasing and construction contracts. Villavicencio always denied the accusations. “We never accept bribes or donations or anything outside the law,” he told reporters the day he turned himself in.

As of Monday, 203 people in Guatemala's prisons had tested positive for the new coronavirus and 18 had died. Several other prisoners being held on corruption charges have been transferred to hospitals.

Guatemala has reported more than 40,000 confirmed infections and some 1,500 COVID-19 deaths.

Updated : 2021-01-27 23:00 GMT+08:00