Elsa Coronado has written, in Plaza Pública, about the challenges facing Judge Erika Aifán in her work against corruption. An English version, translated by Max Granger, appears in the El Faro English site.
Judge Erika Aifán may not be as well-known outside of Guatemala, but at home she’s known for the numerous high-stakes corruption cases that have passed through her courtroom. Aifán, 45 years old, convicted nine businessmen on charges of bribing former government minister Alejandro Sinibaldi, for example, and ordered the ministers to apologize to the people of Guatemala and donate 35 million Quetzals toward public works as compensation for the damage they caused to the country.
Aifán is a judge under constant attack. The latest accusation against her involves the death of Guatemala’s former Health Minister, Jorge Villavicencio, arrested in 2019 on corruption charges. Judge Aifán had authorized the home-release of Villavicencio, who had contracted coronavirus in prison, but the Penitentiary System failed to comply. Villavicencio died on June 20 in the intensive care unit of Guatemala City’s Roosevelt Hospital.
In her 17 years as a judge, Aifán has been reported almost 75 times by defendants, lawyers, unions, and her own employees for alleged misconduct. Adding to this long list of accusations is a recent complaint filed by Guatemala’s Institute of Appellate Magistrates, a union representing 127 of the country’s 132 judges.
Despite these regular attacks, she has continued to serve as judge, presiding over high-profile corruption and war atrocity cases and the prosecution of numerous powerful businessmen, drug traffickers, and corrupt government officials. Aifán was one of several recent recipients of the U.S. State Department’s 2021 International Women of Courage Awards, for her role in “the fight against corruption, efforts to increase transparency, and actions to improve independence in [Guatemala’s] justice sector.”
You can read the full article, in Engish, including links and photos, here, A Guatemalan Judge under Siege. The original article, in Spanish, can be found on the Plaza Pública website here, Erika Aifán, la jueza bajo asedio.