Guatemala’s Attorney General Elections: Judicial Independence and Democracy at a Crossroads

Ana María Méndez Dardón and Julia Aikman Cifuentes write in WOLA on the challenges facing an independent judiciary and the consequences for Guatemala’s commitment to fighting impunity when these are essential components of a democratic state.

The persecution of independent operators within the judicial system is part of a strategy to prevent high-level corruption cases from proceeding and the Foundation Against Terrorism (FCT) is at the forefront of this strategy. In addition, the President, the private sector, and the economic elites, have all played a key role in maintaining the status quo. An examination of the candidates, and the election process, for Attorney General, goes some way to encapsulate the rottenness within the state.


In March 2022, former Judge Erika Aifán, one of Guatemala’s most important high-risk judges who played an integral role in the country’s anti-graft efforts, was forced to flee Guatemala due to threats from the country’s political-criminal networks. She is the 15th high-profile judge or prosecutor to leave Guatemala in less than a year. As of March 22, 2022, 24 former Guatemalan justice operators were forced into exile to protect their lives as well as their physical and judicial integrity. In addition, 10 prosecutors faced spurious legal proceedings, were in preventive detention or had a warrant for their arrest. 

While this recent wave of attacks against independent justice operators under attorney general María Consuelo Porras is part of a ramped up effort to facilitate a complete take over of Guatemala’s institutions, it is both rooted in and facilitated by the country’s long tradition of cooptation of the state that dates back to the internal armed conflict (1960-1996).

Through the infiltration of judicial bodies and the nefarious criminal persecution of justice operators committed to fighting corruption and protecting human rights, those at the helm of Guatemala’s illicit networks ensure impunity for their crimes, aided by an entire state apparatus that has, for decades, worked to benefit them. The level of backsliding that has taken place since the expulsion of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG by its Spanish acronym) in late 2018 and that has continued at a rampant pace under Consuelo Porras places that much more importance on this year’s attorney general election that began in January 2022. The Public Prosecutor’s Office’s (MP) commitment to fighting impunity and strengthening the rule of law is an essential component of Guatemala’s return to democracy.


You can read the full article, including links, here, Guatemala’s Attorney General Elections: Judicial Independence and Democracy at a Crossroads.



Categories: Corruption, Criminalisation, Guatemala, Human Rights, Impunity, Justice, Legal, Lobbying, Solidarity in Action

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