Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, arrives this Sunday at a Guatemala In Washington’s crosshairs due to questionable appointments of judges passed by Congress allied with President Alejandro Giamatti, but also due to obstacles in the fight against corruption in the Central American country.
The White House, social organizations, and the opposition have both warned about measures Parliament is taking to promote impunity, particularly in the selection of judges and harassment of independent judges and prosecutors.
On Friday, in a phone call with Guatemalan Foreign Minister Pedro Prulo, the head of US diplomacy Anthony Blinken “expressed deep concern about any effort to abolish anti-corruption bureaus such as FECI [Promotoria Especial contra a Impunidade]”.
“Maintaining independent institutions that fight corruption and impunity is critical to meeting the challenges of Guatemala’s security, prosperity, and governance,” Blinken noted.
For Aliança Americas coordinator Hazel Contreras, Guatemala has reached a point of concern due to the “weakening of the institutional framework” organized by the Corruption Pact.
If the course is not corrected, Contreras says, Guatemala could face a situation similar to that in El Salvador, where Congress allied with President Najib Bukele have sacked judges and the attorney general, leading to international condemnation and opposing sectors, denouncing the government’s disrespect. separation of forces.
After this decision, Washington redirected the cooperation funds allocated to the state to civil society.
Representative Samuel Perez of the center-left Simila party directly accuses Giamatti of the recent actions against the judiciary.
“What they have done is to completely co-opt all ‘justice’ institutions for the purpose of impunity,” Peres told AFP.
Parliament recently took the oath before the judges of the five-member Constitutional Court, the country’s highest judicial body. According to critics, people associated with the government and allied parties were selected.
The last person to be sworn in was Judge Nestor Vasquez, accused of a corruption case in the High Court of Justice, despite pending appeals to his appointment.
However, in April, arguing that appeals were pending, Congress dropped Judge Gloria Porras of CC, recognized for fighting corruption and re-elected to the position by San Carlos University.
The exclusion drew criticism from Washington, which saw it as a weakening of the independence of Guatemala’s judiciary.
Public Prosecution Against Impunity
For the Washington Bureau of Latin America (Wola) Analysis Center, the rule of law in Guatemala “rapidly deteriorated” after the closure in 2019 of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a United Nations anti-mafia body that had been working for 12 years and investigating With the Public Prosecution Office in several corruption cases.
One of the main cases found was the exposure of customs fraud that led to the resignation of then-President Otto Pérez (2012-2015) in 2015, accused of leading the scheme.
Perez’s successor, Jimmy Morales (2016-2020), who had previously praised the commission’s work, refused to request another extension of the commission’s mandate after the court asked to investigate allegations of electoral corruption and prosecute prominent businessmen.
FECI continues the work of CICIG, whose president, Juan Francisco Sandoval, is under constant criticism by those being investigated for trying to discredit its work.
Walla added that Kamala should be aware of the “alarming attacks on the independence of the judiciary by corrupt elites and criminal networks” that have occurred in Guatemala in recent months.
Wola noted that these groups “seek to ensure impunity for their crimes and to reverse progress made in establishing the rule of law.”
Also of concern is the delay by Congress in renewing the leadership of the Supreme Court of Justice, a process that was delayed nearly two years after the Constitutional Court’s decision to exclude suspects from the list of candidates.