Underhanded behavior at the Los Angeles Guatemala consulate leads to an audit and staff expulsion.
Mr. Tekandi Paniagua, now the former Consul General of Guatemala in Los Angeles, was appointed by the Guatemala Ministry of Foreign Relations. His foolish behavior has extended wide among the local California Guatemalan community and abroad.
Though Mr. Paniagua tried to appear to be a victim, he was not. What has been revealed is that he contrived his own undoing.
According to information published, the Guatemala Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Minex) disclosed a special 30-page audit that began on May 14, 2021 and carried out at the consulate of Los Angeles. The audit ratified allegations against the former Consul Mr. Paniagua regarding irregularities in donation management. The donations were received for those affected by November 3, 2020, Hurricane Eta that made landfall as a powerful Category 4 storm and just two weeks later Hurricane Iota, a Category 5 storm. Both storms pummeled most of the Guatemalan territory with heavy rains that caused flooding and dozens of catastrophic landslides and mudflows.
It was reported that part of those donations were diverted and used for other purposes.
Two separate documents that followed, as reported by the Los Angeles Times en Espanãl, recorded missing collected food and a diversion of mask packages.
Mr. Paniagua chose to use Facebook as his hiding place. In posts made on the Guatemalan consulate’s Facebook page he denied the Los Angeles Times en Espanãl’s donation diversions report.
At a certain point Mr. Paniagua stood in the consulate’s parking lot, where the donations were stored, and for 49-minutes publicly denied all allegations for which he was accused. “Everything is documented,” he claimed, stressing that the consulate has acted in a transparent fashion. He was referring to a matter on which he kept silent for five months while the donations remained stored in the consulate office parking lot and never made it on time to their destination.
Where Are the Donations?
According to talk among the Guatemalan community in Los Angeles, part of the donations, especially food, left the consulate without proper tracking documentation, which the audit confirmed. The report indicated a “shortage of 1,334 units, according to the price given by the consulate general estimated at $2,430 value,” were missing.
According to the consular office inventory 227,800 masks were received. However, the audit found 73,525 additional masks, contradicting Mr. Paniagua’s version of the story.
According to a Los Angeles Times en Espanãl report and confirmed by Mr. Paniagua’s post on the consulate’s Facebook page, he gave an order to deliver two batches of masks to San Diego and Long Beach shelters. He claimed that he did not take the masks from the donations to the natural disaster victims.
In an attempt to clarify matters, Mr. Paniagua, now a former Guatemala official, said that the masks delivered to the shelters had “nothing to do with the donations made to Guatemala.”
However, during the audit process, it was reported that Mr. Paniagua took masks “as a loan” to replace the ones he took without the authorization of Minex. Mathematics is an accurate science. Instead of missing masks, a surplus was found. That ratified the point of the investigation.
Additionally, Mr. Paniagua reported receiving donations organized on 40 pallets. Yet, during verification, only 34 1/2 pallets were found.
Problems found in inter-institutional communication to send the donations to Guatemala, the lack of timely guidelines and decision making without authorizations led to the suspension of Mr. Paniagua, for three months without pay. At the end of the suspension period, as stated to the media by the Guatemala foreign ministry press liaison, “Mr. Paniagua was removed from his consul in Los Angeles position,” which he held since June 1, 2020, after he served at the Guatemala Del Rio, Texas office.
Blaming Everyone but Himself
According to Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez of Churches In Action, who is tasked with providing food for the needy, Mr. Paniagua blamed the Bishop for the loss of his consulate position. In his vapid attack on Bishop Mendez, Mr. Paniagua claimed that Bishop Mendez has no standing and no influence, yet, he was the cause he was fired. Locals pointed out that anyone who lacks influence can cause no harm.
The audit documentation appears to show that Mr. Paniagua fired himself because he acted in a dishonest manner, having long arms in a corruption scheme.
Tekandi Paniagua Seeks Asylum in United States
Mr. Paniagua apparently now plans to apply for asylum status in the United States, to avoid Guatemalan law. People familiar with the outcome of the audit suggest that Mr. Paniagua wants to remain in the United States under the pretense of asylum. He should instead, return to Guatemala to face the consequences of his own poor judgment and misconduct.
The United States is no hiding place for dishonest people, and they are not welcome.
Though Tekandi Paniagua claims that Bishop Mendez caused him to lose his prestigious job, the Los Angeles Guatemalan community has no doubt he was the architect of his own downfall.