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Arrest Warrent Issued for Former Guatemalan President - 2002-06-04

A Guatemalan judge Tuesday issued an international warrant for the arrest of former President Jorge Serrano, who has been living in exile in Panama since 1993. Charges against Mr. Serrano include embezzlement and fraud.

International arrest warrants were issued Tuesday for Mr. Serrano and his former cabinet minister who have been living in Panama since Mr. Serrano's failed attempt to usurp power by shutting down congress and the courts.

Guatemala has already tried three times to get Mr. Serrano extradited, but was each time rebuffed by the Panamanian government, which maintains that the charges against the former Guatemalan president are political and that he is protected by his exile status. Now, prosecutors have charged Mr. Serrano with common crimes, not political ones.

Still, prosecutors in Quatemala City say they do not expect Panamanian authorities to arrest Mr. Serrano. They say they suspect that Mr. Serrano, who is accused by workers at his Pamana company of violating labor laws, may leave Panama.

The prosecutor handling the case, says the arrest warrant could be served in any other country he might travel to. Mr. Serrano said in a radio interview there was no proof against him.