The Exile of Guatemala’s Anti-Corruption Efforts

Jonathan Blitzer writes in The New Yorker on the group of judges and prosecutors who had been investigating Guatemala’s most powerful officials and who had been forced to flee their homeland. It shows the willingness of the State, and the elites, to use whatever means are at its disposal to maintain their immunity as regards the massive corruption that had been highlighted by these prosecutors and judges.

One morning in January, Rudy Herrera, a thirty-seven-year-old federal prosecutor, was working in his office on the fourth floor of the Public Ministry, in downtown Guatemala City, when a colleague pulled him aside to ask about a case. They stepped into a nearby bathroom, where no one else was around. The case in question, known as “comisiones paralelas,” involved a group of political operatives and public officials who illegally conspired to place favorable judges on two high courts. The country’s élite anti-corruption unit, where Herrera worked, had exposed the perpetrators, and brought them to trial. But some members of the current government were clearly agitated. Herrera’s colleague asked if there had been anything irregular about the investigation. Eventually, it became clear that he wanted damning information about two people in particular. One of them was Herrera’s former boss, Juan Francisco Sandoval, who’d been in charge of the anti-corruption unit at the time of the investigation. The other was the judge hearing the case, Erika Aifán, one of the most respected jurists in the country. “Either you give up something on them, or you’re going to be in trouble,” Herrera’s colleague said.

By then, Herrera told me, “there wasn’t a night when I wouldn’t get a message from someone telling me that the next day the authorities would be coming after us [anti-corruption] prosecutors.” He and his wife had developed a routine. Before dawn, Herrera would drive to a nearby gas station and wait in the parking lot with a cup of coffee until around six, when his wife would send him a text confirming that there weren’t any police cars in the driveway. Only then would Herrera return to get dressed and head into the office. “The whole thing had us in a kind of psychosis,” he said.

You can read the full article, with links, and portraits by Greg Kahn , here, The Exile of Guatemala’s Anti-Corruption Efforts.

Categories: Corruption, Criminalisation, Guatemala, Human Rights, Impunity, Justice, Solidarity in Action, Solidarity in Action/Guatemala, Violence

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