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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Guatemala’s attorney general reappointed despite US corruption allegations

Guatemala re-appointed on Monday as attorney general Consuelo Porras, who hours later was again accused of corruption by the United States.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced in a note Porras’ “pattern of obstruction” in corruption investigations developed during her first term as prosecutor (2018-2022).

“Porras repeatedly obstructed and undermined anti-corruption investigations in Guatemala to protect his political allies and obtain undue political favors,” Blinken said in a note.

Both Porras and her immediate family members were ineligible to enter the United States. Her husband was also sanctioned.

The prosecutor was since September 2021 on a list of “corrupt actors” drawn up by Washington and her appointment for another four years was announced Monday by President Alejandro Giammattei. 

“This has not been a simple decision taken lightly,” the president said.  “The media or political finger-pointing that may exist according to our Constitution (…) have no value to strip a person of his capacity, suitability and honesty,” added the ruler. 

Upon taking office for the period 2022-2026, Porras said that he will work “without bias or ideologies” and that he was the object of “attacks” from “people who seek a biased justice”.

Selective justice

Both the president and the prosecutor, agreed that the institution was co-opted by sectors opposed to impartial justice. 

“The Public Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalía) has suffered media attacks due to the fact that unfortunately the institution had been instrumentalized to undertake a selective criminal prosecution”, assured Giammattei. 

He also pledged to strengthen the independence and autonomy of the Prosecutor’s Office with the objective “that never again will the institution be used by national or foreign individuals who seek to impose a political or ideological agenda”.

Earlier, during the report on his first four years (2018-2022), Porras assured that a priority of his administration “has been the fight against corruption.”

The United States contends otherwise.

“Porras’ pattern of obstruction allegedly includes ordering prosecutors in Guatemala’s Public Ministry to ignore cases based on political considerations and firing prosecutors investigating cases involving acts of corruption,” Blinken said.

Under Sanction

During her first term, Porras was the target of criticism from human rights organizations, civil society, student, indigenous and peasant associations that accused her of favoring the interests of powerful groups and the president himself.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office, under Porras’ orders, ordered in recent months the arrests of at least six jurists who worked in anti-mafia bodies in Guatemala, accusing them of irregularities in their work. 

For the accused, these arrests are “revenge” against those who fought against corruption. The Public Prosecutor’s Office rejects these accusations.

Among those arrested are former members of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) and a representative of the now defunct UN International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which operated between 2007 and 2019.

One of the actions that prompted Washington’s sanction of Porras was the removal last year of Juan Francisco Sandoval, then head of FECI and considered an “anti-corruption champion” by Washington. He is now in exile in the United States, after denouncing threats against his life.

Sandoval told AFP in March that he was removed from his post after it became known that he had information “of a possible bribe from Russian businessmen” to President Giammattei to operate a port on the Caribbean.

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