After a compromised electoral process that resulted in a list of candidates with links to corruption and illicit networks, Guatemalan President Giammattei has reelected María Consuelo Porras as the country’s next Attorney General. This appointment will help Giammattei continue to secure impunity, just as Porras has done in the Public Prosecutor’s Office during this past term.
This election was marked by irregularities and influenced by illicit networks, comprised of military, political and economic elites, and organized crime. For example, the Nominating Commission – made up of representatives from academic, judicial, and professional sectors who are responsible for handling several key judicial selection processes, including that of the Attorney General – failed to abide by the Constitution by not disregarding corrupt candidates and allowing Porras to be included in the final list of candidates due to external pressure. Additionally, U.S sanctioned Raúl Falla Ovalle from the Fundación contra el Terrorismo (Foundation Against Terrorism) filed a spurious motion before the Constitutional Court that was granted, which blocked the possibility of judges to be considered candidates by arguing that serving on the judicial branch does not qualify as “practicing law”, a requirement for serving as Attorney General. According to many experts this action is unconstitutional since it unjustifiably excludes judges with relevant experience.
“President Alejandro Giammattei failed the people of Guatemala who deserve an Attorney General who will uphold the rule of law,” said Ana María Méndez Dardón, Director for Central America at WOLA. “This will have serious consequences for the protection of human rights and the fight against corruption and impunity in the country.”
This election has been a test for the Biden administration’s commitment to fighting corruption in Central America and serves as a warning regarding the future of this fight. Guatemala was the first country in the Northern Triangle to have an international commission against impunity that worked with the national prosecutor’s office to fight corruption, which the U.S. recognizes as one of the root causes of migration.
For decades, illicit networks have worked to interfere in most political and democratic processes in Guatemala, and this has intensified since the exit of the Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG by its Spanish acronym) in 2019. Additional bodies to address impunity in Honduras and El Salvador have also been dismantled. In a bid to fight this, civil society organizations and some political sectors in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are trying to revive these initiatives. However, these have not prospered in the face of the great influence of corrupt military, economic, and criminal elites, which has been highlighted once again by this election process.
The Attorney General holds the highest authority in ensuring adherence to the rule of law, combating endemic corruption, and protecting human rights in Guatemala. The new AG could play a leading role in reconstructing the country’s judicial system and protecting the legitimacy of the 2023 presidential electoral process.
“With this election, Guatemala has further entrenched a justice system that continually fails to enforce justice operators’ duty to make impartial decisions according to the law and facts, and instead rejects the right of justice operators to not be subject to pressure and shifting political interests,” adds Méndez Dardón. “Guatemala’s justice system is in need of a complete restoration and the international community should put this need at the forefront of their policies toward the region as well as support civil society and the few government actors that remain on the right side of justice.”