Guatemala News Update: October 13-17

Process for the Election of Judges in Guatemala in Question

At least 80 actions have been filed with the Constitutional Court related to the process of selecting the magistrates for Guatemala’s Supreme Court and appeals courts.

The United Nations, the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office and several national and international organizations have requested that the Constitutional Court (CC) order a repeat of the process from the very beginning, alleging that there were various violations of the law which governs the process. The CC also ordered that until it is able to rule on the actions, the appointment of the new magistrates is suspended, and the existing magistrates will remain in their positions.

In addition, one judge who was appointed to a court of appeals, Claudia Escobar, resigned in protest claiming that she had been pressured by a member of Congress, Gudy Rivera, to rule in favor of Vice President Roxana Baldetti and the ruling Patriot Party in exchange for the appointment to the court. In response, the CICIG requested the Rivera’s immunity from prosecution be removed.

In a separate process, two lawyers have been charged with abuse of power with the Third Appeals Court Judge, Erick Gustavo Santiago de Leon. The Public Prosecutors Office alleges that the attorneys offered Santiago de Leon Q16 million to reduce a fine for a company from Q93 million to Q3 million. Meanwhile, the magistrate was reelected to the appeals court.

Reparations for Communities in Chixoy Dam Case

After over 30 years of fighting for justice, a reparations plan was finally signed between the Guatemalan government and the communities affected by the Chixoy Dam, with both sides conceding some conditions in order to reach the agreement. The terms of the agreement include a payment of Q1.2 billion as well as annual payments of Q107 million for the next fifteen years.

Two Men Sent to Trial for the Sepur Zarco Case

Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez sent two men, Colonel Esteelmer Reyes Girón and ex-military Commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asij to trial for the violence and abuse they committed against no less than 15 Maya Q’eqchi’ women at a military establishment in Sepur Zarco, Izabal during the internal armed conflict. The decision was made after hearing the testimonies of some of the victims as well as members of a military patrol stationed at Sepur Zarco.

‘Intelligence Report’ Details Role of Guatemala Police in Drug Trade

A report recently printed in elPeriodico details the illegal activities of the “Charola Cartel,” a corrupt group within Guatemala’s National Civil Police. These corrupt officials steal drug shipments and then resell them to traffickers along the Guatemala-Mexico border. The report estimates that the Charola Cartel has over 1,000 members. Although elPeriodico did not name the authors or how they obtained the report, it still highlights the amount of corruption present in Guatemala.

Indigenous Women: Most Vulnerable to Violence in Central America

At the second International Conference about Violence Against Women in Spain, Angélica Valenzuela, the director of the Center for Research, Training, and Support of Women, reported that the indigenous women of Central America are the most likely to suffer gender violence. In addition, many of them are also victims of genital disfigurement.

Thelma Aldana, the current Guatemalan Minister of Finance was also given an award during the conference to acknowledge her hard work in fighting against gender violence.

Trial Against Former Head of the National Police Resumed

The trial against Pedro García Arredondo, one of the people involved in the Spanish Embassy fire of 1980, resumed in Guatemala City with testimonies from several experts.

One of these experts, psychologist Marina Consuelo García, described the policy of terror the Guatemalan government developed after the fire at the Spanish Embassy in 1980, stating: “This and other actions of the time was developed in the context of national security and was implemented against an internal enemy.” This policy resulted in abuses and violence being committed against the people of Guatemala.

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