On Saturday, July 24th, El Faro published a breaking news note regarding the sacking of Guatemala’s leading prosecutor and chief anti-corruption figure, Juan Francisco Sandoval, and his subsequent flight to safety.
Needless to say, these events will have serious consequences for justice and the rule of law in Guatemala.
Last night, Juan Francisco Sandoval, a leading Guatemalan prosecutor who the U.S. State Department labeled an “anti-corruption champion,” was ousted from the top spot of the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI) by attorney general Consuelo Porras.
Immediately after speaking with the international press late into Friday night, Sandoval, escorted by the ambassador of Sweden, fled the country to El Salvador.
The FECI, the most independent wing of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, is widely considered the last bastion of anti-corruption efforts in a judicial system increasingly aligned with President Alejandro Giammattei. Sandoval is the latest judge or public prosecutor — most recently, former chief magistrate of the Constitutional Court Gloria Porras earlier this year — to abruptly flee the country amid intensifying persecution or removal from office.
“The decision taken by Madam Attorney General today hasn’t taken me by surprise,” Sandoval told a packed press room at the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office late Friday night. “I knew she was planning something for months, but in recent days the details, planning, and execution of the plan were accelerated because of what we were working on.”
Under Sandoval, the FECI has prosecuted dozens of high-level officials for corruption in government and the private sector, including the case that sent former president Otto Pérez Molina to prison in 2015 for customs fraud. As a result of this work, Sandoval and the FECI were subject to at least 55 lawsuits from advocacy groups with close ties to the ruling right wing and Guatemalan military. These suits include ongoing efforts to dismantle the FECI entirely.
You can read the full release here, Guatemala’s Top Anti-Corruption Attorney Flees Country.
Al Jazeera featured the story over the weekend and you can read more here, Guatemala attorney general fires top anti-corruption prosecutor, and here, Guatemalan anti-corruption prosecutor flees country after sacking.