José Luis Sanz interviews Judge Erika Aifán after she had gone into exile after a long, and concerted, series of attacks on her integrity and the integrity of the Guatemala judicial system. It is available in El Faro, as is the original Spanish version.
When Erika Aifán last visited Washington, the former Guatemalan attorney general Thelma Aldana half-joked that she hoped not to see her again soon. Aldana, who gained political asylum in 2019, choked down a knot in her throat: by then, last November, it seemed inevitable that Judge Aifán would soon join the growing community of Guatemalans exiled in the U.S. capital.
As the head of Guatemala’s High-Risk Tribunal D, a court specialized in handling complex high-stakes criminal cases, Aifán spent six years trying dozens of the most powerful business people, politicians, judges, and capos of Guatemala on charges of corruption, money laundering, and drug trafficking. For that work she has faced constant threats, espionage, and judicial persecution.
In February, El Faro revealed that a witness in her court accused President Alejandro Giammattei of financing his electoral campaign with $2.6 million in bribes from construction firms. It was reason enough for Attorney General Consuelo Porras, converted into Giammattei’s enforcer, to file seven motions to repeal Aifán’s judicial immunity from prosecution and look to incarcerate the judge who may otherwise have put the president of Guatemala behind bars.
In the evening on Wednesday, March 9, and without warning her team of bodyguards, Erika Aifán crossed the land border into El Salvador to fly via Costa Rica to the United States. This morning her attorneys formally tendered her resignation from the Guatemalan judiciary. Her departure makes fifteen justice system operators to have abandoned Guatemala in the last 11 months.
You can read the full interview here, Judge Aifán, from Exile: “My life was in danger in Guatemala”.