Judicial Persecution of Anti-Corruption Prosecutors Increases


Six Prosecutors Investigating High-Level Corruption Arrested

Since February 10, the Guatemalan Public Ministry has issued seven arrests warrants for attorneys  connected to the former International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) who work or have worked with the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI). Six such prosecutors have been arrested and await trial. Attorney Leyli Indira Santizo Rodas, former President of the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG), and Eva Xiomara Sosa, former prosecutor with FECI, were arrested on February 10; Willy Roberto Racanac Lopez, an assistant prosecutor with FECI, was  arrested on February 16, along with Paola Escobar, also an assistant prosecutor with FECI. Aliss Moran, a former assistant prosecutor with FECI who resigned in January, had her house raided on February 16 and was arrested, after presenting herself voluntarily, on February 17; and Rudy Manolo Herrera Lemus, a former FECI prosecutor, has an arrest warrant pending but is no longer in Guatemala. The female prosecutors/former prosecutors are awaiting their trials in prison, where they fear for their safety. Racanac Lopez, due to medical concerns, is awaiting trial under house arrest. 

The latter four persecuted prosecutors mentioned above are linked to the 2020 Parallel Commissions case, in which prosecutors uncovered a corruption plot between lawyers, politicians, and businessmen to elect judges.

On February 23, Virginia Laparra, the head of FECI’s Quetzaltenango office, was arrested on charges of providing false testimony, abuse of authority, and encroachment of functions. She apparently fainted as she was informed of the arrest and was taken to a health clinic before being turned over to the court.

Five prosecutors working on corruption cases have resigned due to pressure during the month of February. Carlos Antonio Videz Nava, who as a prosecutor with FECI oversaw important cases involving money laundering and wrongdoing by government officials, announced on February 20 that he is now in exile. He stated that he feared for his life and feared unjust persecution. He had participated in the questioning of Witness A, who has accused Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei of receiving bribes (see more about this case below). Three additional prosecutors with FECI resigned on February 21, and the resignation of one more assistant prosecutor became public on February 23. On February 25, former FECI prosecutor Lorenzo Alberto Bolaños Sanchez announced that he had gone into exile, as he feared for his life and his freedom.

The UN Rapporteur on judicial independence in a February 13 statement denounced the acts of persecution against judges, prosecutors, and lawyers, as did the European Union in a February 11 statement, expressing “its utmost concern over the ongoing deteriorating of the rule of law in Guatemala, where the Supreme Court of Justice and the Prosecutor-General have initiated legal action against independent judges, lawyers and prosecutors, resulting in arrests and loss of judicial immunity.” The US Department of State in a February 16 statement expressed deep concern about “the Guatemalan Public Ministry’s unacceptable mistreatment and persistent abuse of current and former independent prosecutors” and said “the Public Ministry used searches and arrests based on sealed indictments and selectively leaked case information with the apparent intent to single out and punish Guatemalans who are combatting impunity and promoting transparency and accountability.”  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on February 22 called for the “cessation of any interference against the independence of the Judiciary in order to guarantee independent and impartial justice” and expressed concern that these incidents were occurring “in a context of severe setbacks in the fight against impunity and corruption in Guatemala.” The IACHR reminded the Guatemalan government of its “obligation to protect justice operators from attacks, acts of intimidation, threats, and harassment, and to investigate and effectively punish those who commit violations of their rights.” National and international nongovernmental organizations also condemned these recent acts of criminalization. According to the Unit for Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala, the persecution of the prosecutors “puts at risk the freedom to practice law and the right to defend human rights.” 

Witness Testimony Indicates Giammattei Financed Campaign through Bribes

Evidence has surfaced implicating Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei in illegal campaign financing. According to the testimony of a protected witness, Giammattei agreed to receive $2.6 million in bribes from construction companies to finance his 2019 presidential campaign. Reports first published in the Salvadoran daily El Faro indicate that the witness said a deal was struck between Giammattei and close associates Giorgio Bruni, then the Secretary General of former President Morales’ political party, Vamos, and José Luis Benito, the Minister of Communication, Infrastructure, and Housing under Morales administration. According to the testimony of the witness, who says he was present at a July 2019 meeting where the deal was discussed, Benito–in exchange for being allowed to retain his position as minister of communications in the new administration–arranged $2.6 million in contributions to the Giammattei campaign from construction companies, who in turn benefitted by receiving additional contracts and advance payments. A second source within the Giammattei administration reportedly confirmed to El Faro the existence of this deal. Although Benito was not kept on as minister in Giammattei’s administration, a number of these construction projects that allegedly formed part of the corruption scheme are in progress. Twelve highway construction projects worth more than $191 million are allegedly linked to this pact. According to El Faro, official documents show that eleven of them are underway and the last is accepting proposals.

Potential corruption in infrastructure projects of this sort is particularly relevant in light of international investment in infrastructure projects in Guatemala. In February 2019, the Inter-American Development Bank provided the Guatemalan government a $150 million loan for the building of roads.

The evidence gathered from the sealed testimony of Witness A was recorded in May 2021 as part of an ongoing investigation opened by FECI in response to the discovery in October 2020 of suitcases full of cash amounting to nearly $16 million, stashed in a house in Antigua, Guatemala rented by Benito. Benito, after a period on the run, was arrested on January 21, 2022, in connection with the case, pursuant to an arrest warrant issued in October 2020 for money laundering after the suitcases were discovered.

The testimony of the witness is in the care of Judge Erika Aifán, of High Risk Court “D.” Aifán has been subjected to intense pressure from the Attorney General’s Office but has refused to turn over the testimony or reveal the identity of the witness. In a written response to the Attorney General’s Office, Aifán explained her refusal to turn over the information, noting that the testimony is already part of a judicial process beyond the attorney general’s control, and the recording and the identity of the witness are now evidence in the court’s custody. 

As the El Faro article points out, the New York Times referenced the existence of Witness A last October in an article that revealed that another witness told FECI in July that he had delivered to Giammattei’s house a rug rolled with cash inside. The cash was allegedly part of a bribe by a Russian-backed mining company for the rights to operate part of a Guatemalan port in Izabal. When former leading anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval left Guatemala to go into exile in July 2021, he told El Faroin an exclusive interview that one of the reasons for his removal was that the investigation of the money found in a house in Antigua led back to Giammattei and to “payments from contractors” to finance a political campaign.

As the El Faro article points out, the New York Times referenced the existence of Witness A last October in an article that revealed that another witness told FECI in July that he had delivered to Giammattei’s house a rug rolled with cash inside. The cash was allegedly part of a bribe by a Russian-backed mining company for the rights to operate part of a Guatemalan port in Izabal. When former leading anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval left Guatemala to go into exile in July 2021, he told El Faro in an exclusive interview that one of the reasons for his removal was that the investigation of the money found in a house in Antigua led back to Giammattei and to “payments from contractors” to finance a political campaign.

According to El Faro, both the US State Department and the FBI have had a copy of Witness A’s testimony for months, as international transactions between the individuals or companies involved may have passed through US banking institutions. According to reports, one construction magnate implicated has been cooperating with US authorities. 

Attorney General Consuelo Porras Seeks Re-Election.

The call for applications for the upcoming Attorney General election closed on February 21. From this list, the Nominating Commission will choose six candidates to present to President Alejandro Giammattei, who will select the new Attorney General in mid-May. This week, the commission released a preliminary list of  26 candidates for consideration, including current Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras.  

As the current head of the Public Ministry, Consuelo Porras has been criticized in recent weeks both nationally and internationally for her persecution of anti-corruption prosecutors. The United States removed her visa and placed her on the Engel List in September 2021 for her “obstruction of justice” in cases of high-level corruption in Guatemala. Former Attorney General Thelma Aldana tweeted, “The candidates for attorney general of Guatemala included on the Engel List for corrupt and anti-democratic actions and linked to organized crime should not receive votes from the Commission,” arguing that they are “unfit at the national and international level.” Porras’ candidacy was accepted by the Nominating Commission on February 23. The outcome of this election holds significant implications in the fight against corruption and US-Guatemala relations.    

A number of potentially strong candidates, such as independent judges, were excluded from the Nominating Commission’s list after a decision was made by the Constitutional Court not to count the years a judge has spent in service of the law in the tally of requisite years as a lawyer stipulated for eligibility for the attorney general position. International organizations, including GHRC, issued a statement of concern about a number of circumstances affecting the conditions of impartiality and transparency that must be guaranteed in the process.

Judge Pablo Xitumul at Risk for Arrest after CSJ Removes his Immunity

On February 9, the Guatemalan Supreme Court ruled to remove the judicial immunity of Judge Pablo Xitumul.  The International Observatory for Human Rights in Guatemala denounced the decision by the Supreme Court, condemning it as a “grave attack on his independence and an unacceptable action that seeks to frighten and intimidate justice operators in the country.” Judge Xitumul told the Associated Press that those he has sentenced are seeking revenge. The High Risk Court “C” judge–known for his decisions in favor of victims in transitional justice cases–can now be removed from his position and forced to face charges related to a 2019 incident in which a National Police officer demanded to search Xitumul’s car. Xitumul’s vehicle was not moving at the time; Xitumul was sitting in the car with his family. Judge Xitumul asked the reason for the search and the officer refused to give a reason. An altercation ensued, and the officer, José Cuxaj, grabbed the judge by the neck. Judge Xitumul filed charges against the officer, who answered with a lawsuit against the judge for “abuse of authority.”

Judge Xitumul is one of several high-court judges who has faced consistent harassment and suffered surveillance and other forms of intimidation. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted Xitumul precautionary measures in 2013 after he began recieving threats related to his work overseeing the Rios Montt genocide trial. In September of 2021, the IACHR expressed concern over the weakening of the  judicial system, reminding the state of Guatemala “of its duty to protect those who work in the field of justice from attacks, intimidation, threats, and harassment.” The removal of Judge Xitumul’s immunity, according to international NGOs, forms “part of a systematic pattern that has been worsening and that has as a common denominator the use of the criminal justice and disciplinary systems to undermine the independence of judges and prosecutors.”

CODECA Leader Murdered in Jalapa .

Human rights defender Álvaro Marco Román was fatally shot while returning home to Tierra Blanca, Santa María Xalapán, Jalapa early in the morning on February 6th. Román–who dedicated his life to the struggle for community land rights–served as the president of his community board and a leader within the Campesino Development Committee (CODECA). In a public statement CODECA demanded that “the Public Ministry and national and international human rights organizations seriously investigate this repression against CODECA leaders.” The Human Rights Ombudsman also called for a prompt investigation to identify and prosecute all parties responsible for Román’s murder. Earlier this year, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts released a joint letter sent to the Guatemala government denouncing the harassment, death threats, armed attacks, and assassinations of CODECA leaders and demanding the government address the “systemic repression against members of CODECA.” His death marks the 23rd assasination of a CODECA member since 2018. 

Criminalizing Human Rights: August 17th hearing continues the campaign to discredit journalist Anastasia Mejía and other women defenders from Joyabaj, Quiché.

Today’s hearing will determine whether the Public Prosecutor’s Office can continue the case against Maya K’iche’ journalist, Anastasia Mejía, as well as Petrona Siy Castro, Sebastiana Pablo Hernández, Micaela Solis, and Tomasa Pastor. All are facing charges related to protests that took place outside of the Joyabaj municipality building on August 24, 2020.  

Officers from the Specialized Investigative Division (DEIC) as well National Civil Police arbitrarily arrested Mejía on September 22 of last year. Without being promptly brought before a judge, as required under Guatemalan law, she was held in the women’s prison in Quetzaltenango for 36 days before posting bail and being moved to house arrest. Sebastiana Pablo remains imprisoned after ten months, in spite of a lack of evidence against her. 

Charges of sedition, aggravated assault, arson, and aggravated robbery were lodged by Joyabaj Mayor Florencio Carrascoza Gomez. Carrascoza is one of the politicians included in the “Engel List,”  which identifies government actors who are denied entry visas to the United States because they are “engaged in significant corruption and the undermining of democratic institutions.” Carrascoza, according to the US State Department, has undermined democratic processes or institutions “by intimidating and unjustly imprisoning political opponents.”

This is not the first time Mejía faces trumped-up charges from the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Joyabaj; attempts to criminalize her began in 2016. Her career as a journalist, as well as her term as a Municipal Councilor from 2015-2019, often put her at odds with the mayor, but her anti-corruption investigation of the municipality of Joyabaj made her a target. She found evidence of the embezzlement of public funds funneled through overvalued projects contracted to ghost companies–and patterns of violence against women–in the ten-year administration of Carrascoza. In return, the mayor treated her with hostility, refused to share public information with her, denied her credentials as a journalist, and openly used racial slurs against her.            

In 2016, Mejía submitted several complaints to the Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding verbal and physical attacks against her, in addition to participating with other women in the filing of 24 criminal complaints against Carrascoza for violence against women, fraud, embezzlement, and illicit enrichment. The Public Prosecutor’s Office stalled legal proceedings and five years later no ruling on any of the complaints has been made.          

Meanwhile, the charges filed by Carrascoza against Mejía and the others continue to move forward with the cooperation of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and without due process. By law, a preliminary hearing must take place within 24 hours of arrest, but Mejía did not receive a preliminary hearing for 29 days. Moreover, the Public Prosecutor’s Office failed to conduct a preliminary investigation, imprisoning these defendants without proper evidence.

When asked about her case, Mejía told our team, “Justice is very selective.  I’m indigenous and a woman, so who will listen to me?” She continued, “They’re in control of everything: the prosecution, the judges, the witnesses. They are doing this to keep me quiet, to stop me.” 

While the Biden administration temporarily shut off funding to the Public Prosecutor’s Office after the illegal removal of the head of the Guatemalan Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI), Francisco Sandoval, defenders like Mejía and the others accused continue to face persecution at the hands of a system co-opted by corruption.   

Today’s hearing will determine whether or not the Public Prosecutor’s Office can continue with the case. The GHRC team in Guatemala will accompany the defenders and continue monitoring the deteriorating situation. We at GHRC are increasingly concerned for the safety of defenders, journalists, and civil society groups in Guatemala and condemn the weaponization of the criminal justice system, as well as the recent attacks on the independence of the  judiciary.

Guatemala News Update: March 26-April 1

Genocide Case: Expert Forensic Anthropologist confirms horrors committed

On the 4th day of the closed-door debates against Jose Efraín Ríos Montt and Jose Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez,  they listened to the testimonies of  forensic anthropologists who carried out the exhumations in the Ixil area and confirmed the horrible crimes the army committed there against the unarmed civilian population.

Ríos Montt is represented by a third party in the closed-door special proceedings; the Court does not have the power to impose a prison sentence due to Rios Montt’s physical health.

In a recent public statement, GHRC and partner organizations expressed concern about the case and called for the trial against Rodríguez Sánchez to be public.

Judge Gálvez declassifies 8 military plans from the armed conflict

Judge Miguel Angel Gálvez declassified eight plans from the military campaign which were used as strategies during the internal armed conflict between 1983 and 1990. These can now be used in in-progress investigations related to the Military Diary and cases of extra-judicial executions, forced disappearances, and massacres.  Copies of these documents have been given to plaintiff groups including, FAMDEGUA and the Association for Justice and Reconciliation.

CERIGUA: Poverty is worsening in the country

Currently 79.2% of the population in Guatemala is living in poverty, while 46.6% are below the extreme poverty line. This situation principally affects indigenous and rural communities, and, according to CERIGUA, the State has not adequately addressed this issue and in fact there has even been regression on progress on these issues since the start of Morales’ presidency.

Ex-President Otto Pérez Molina’s Hearing Suspended

Judge Miguel Angel Gálvez has suspended the scheduled hearing of the former president due to an appeal from the Attorney General’s Office, and it was not clear when the trial would resume. Both the former president and former vice-president, Roxana Baldetti resigned last year after a corruption scandal involving both came to light. Former Vice-President Baldetti arrived late to the proceedings due to health problems according to her lawyers, and the judge ordered she undergo medical examinations.

Following the March 28th court appearance, former President Pérez Molina was quoted as stating “I am innocent, and everyone must respect that.” He has also blamed the U.S. Embassy for interfering in the internal affairs of Guatemala through the CICIG.

Guatemala News Update: March 1-25

Assassinations of Human Rights Defenders

Environmental Activist Killed
A prominent environmental activist, Walter Méndez Barrios, was shot and killed March 16th in Guatemala. He had fought against deforestation and hydroelectric projects within Central America, was part of the Petenero Front against Dams – an organization opposing hydroelectric projects in the Usumacinta River- and led the Association of Forest Communities in Petén. His association released a statement saying that Méndez had been receiving death threats for his work.

The assassination came not long after two environmental activists were killed in Honduras – including world-renowned activist Berta Cáceres – leading to increased criticism of US and Central American plans to build more hydroelectric dams without consultation and to the detriment of local communities.

Radio Station Director Killed
On March 17th, Mario Roberto Salazar Barahona, the director of EstéreoAzúcar in the department of Jutiapa was killed. According to CERIGUA, Salazar had been inside his car after returning from meetings at another radio station when he was shot. Police believe hit men had been following him, yet the motive for the murder is still unknown. Salazar had worked in the field of journalism for over a decade. UNESCO and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have both condemned the attack. They stated, “we reaffirm the absolute need to develop a comprehensive public policy for protection of defenders of human rights, including journalists to enable them to carry out their work in an environment where their security and integrity are guaranteed.”

Transitional Justice Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: Feb. 15-19

Analysts Critique President Jimmy Morales´ First Month in Office

A series of scandals and non-transparent actions have generated strong critique of the new Morales administration. Martin Pellecer, writing for Nomada, describes four areas in which Morales has been an obstacle to fighting impunity, including his poor management of donations of medical supplies and cozy relationship with a major Guatemalan palm oil company. Iduvina Hernández, in Plaza Pública, adds concerns about Morales´ cabinet and advisers.

The new administration takes office as the US ramps up it’s new Central America Strategy under the Alliance for Pro. Acisclo Valladares Urreula, Guatemalan Presidential Commissioner for Competitiveness and Investment, stated that the funds for Alliance for Prosperity wouldn´t be arriving until October of this year. He says he plans to visit 51 communities to get their input. Valladares also mentioned the donation of US $28 million from the Millennium Challenge Corporation to improve education and increased tax efficiency.

“Racism and Sexual Violence has served to suppress the indigenous populations”

This week in the Sepur Zarco trial, survivors and expert witnesses take the stand. “In 1982 the arrival of the soldiers began and they were grabbing people to bring them to the outpost and many were never seen again. The soldiers came from Puerto Barrios,” said Agustín Chen, one of the survivors from a community close to the military base Sepur Zarco. He told of how they brought him to a cell and beat him every day. “They killed seven people, throwing two grenades into the pit where they had put them.” The anthropologist Irma Alicia Veláquez Nimatuj stated that “The military outposts were installed in the region to give security to the landowners’ farms and to take possession of the lands.” For the women in the communities, “racism and sexual violence had come hand in hand in the subduing and controlling of indigenous populations.” she explained.

Minister for the Environment has “No information” on River Diversion

The Ministry for Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) recently admitted having no knowledge or control over private companies´s diversion of public tributaries of the rivers Madre Vieja and Achiguate in Escuintla. Ernesto Moscoso, Director of Watersheds and MARN’s Strategic Programs for the Department of Hydraulic Resources, stated in response to being questioned: “We do not have information regarding the diverted rivers, because there is no monitoring at this moment.” Dialogue has initiated between government offices and the companies, Hame Agroindustries and the sugar refineries Madre Tierra, El Pilar, Magdalena, Palo Blanco, Santa Ana, San Diego, Pantaleón and Bananera. Community members have noted that water no longer reaches communities downriver and with it, the fish and wildlife are disappearing.

Military Veterans Protest in front of U.S. Embassy

A “protest of ex-soldiers” blocked transit at midday on Feb. 18 on the front sidewalk of the U.S. Embassy in Zone 10 of Guatemala City. The dissidents detained vehicles for a few moments and then afterwards left. They also protested in front of the Supreme Court, where the Sepur Zarco trial is being held. The group had printed banners with a photo of the US Ambassador´s recent meeting with the Human Rights Law Firm, with the statement “the friends of our enemies are our enemies.”

Rural Development Law Encounters More Obstacles

The Congressional Committee on Agriculture is set to analyze Bill 4084, the rural development law, a proposal that has been on the table for years. The spirit of the law is to benefit impoverished and excluded communities, but the Minister for Agriculture says the law would conflict with international treaties.

Police Clash with Dozens Protesting Water Fee Hike in Guatemala, 20 Injured

Protesters demonstrating against a rise in water and garbage collection costs blocked off major highway between Guatemala City and Villa Nueva. The police used tear gas and petrol bombs to break up the protest after dialogue failed. Several civilians were also injured in violent confrontations with the police officers.


Guatemala News Update: Feb. 6-12

Public Prosecutor’s Office presents skeletons as evidence at the Sepur Zarco hearings

In the seventh day of hearings by the judges of the Sepur Zarco case, the Public Prosecutor’s Office presented as evidence boxes with the skeletons of 48 people. One expert, Juan Carlos Gatíca, explained where the bones had been exhumed and the analysis that had been done to identify them. Another expert, Óscar Ariel Ixpatá, described the types of wounds found on the exhumed bones, explaining that what they found indicated that the victims had bullet wounds and had been beaten. Furthermore, the victims had been blindfolded, bound, and gagged.

Campesinos March for Political Change in Guatemala

Thousands of Guatemalan rural workers protested in the streets of Guatemala City on Wednesday, blocking traffic to pressure President Jimmy Morales into passing political and economic reforms. The campesino organizations listed a variety of demands, including the respect of the constitutional rights of Guatemalan cities, wage levels, environmental protections, and national sovereignty.  Concerning environmental issues, protesters want an end to projects that displace communities and exploit natural resources. They also criticized agreements with transnational organizations, arguing instead for nationalized energy resources to benefit Guatemalans.

The protesters also demanded justice for those who intimidated community leaders, and the freedom of human rights defenders who had been jailed and criminalized. Furthermore, they called for resolution of 135 land conflicts, and housing guarantees.

Minister of Energy and Mining denied new moratorium on mining and will accelerate process to grant licensing

The Minister of Energy and Mines will not maintain a moratorium on new mining licenses and instead seeks to speed up the process of granting requests for licenses. The past two administrations had abstained from granting new licenses. The new officials argue that these projects can help to reduce the high levels of poverty within the country if attention is paid to social and environmental issues, explained the Vice-minister of Sustainable Development, Roberto Velasquez. In contrast, communities who live next to resource extraction projects such as mines, as well as hydroelectric dam projects have almost unanimously opposed them as environmentally harmful, socially destructive, and as driving factors of increased violence and repression in their communities. Continue reading

Guatemala’s Presidential Race Headed to Runoff; Comedian Jimmy Morales Leads the Vote

Residents vote at a center in Guatemala City. Photo: Dania Rodríguez

Residents vote at a center in Guatemala City. Photo: Dania Rodríguez

Just days after former President Otto Pérez Molina resigned and was subsequently sent to prison, Guatemalans were faced with the next chapter in an ongoing political saga: the opportunity to elect a new leader.

When polls closed on September 6, votes had been cast not only for the new president and vice president — who will take office in January 2016 — but also for members of congress and the Central American Parliament, as well as for municipal leaders throughout the country.

FCN candidate Jimmy Morales — a comedian with no political experience, but who has marketed himself as a “new option” — led the presidential race alongside Manuel Baldizón (LIDER) and Sandra Torres (UNE). However, since no candidate secured the required 50% of the vote needed to win, a runoff election will take place in October between the two top candidates. [Read more about the leading candidates here].  Continue reading

Excerpt from Nómada interview with Ambassador Todd Robinson

The below excerpt is part of an interview with Todd Robinson, the US Ambassador to Guatemala, published in Nómada (in Spanish). With increasing calls for President Pérez Molina’s resignation, Ambassador Robinson has come under fire recently by Guatemalans who accuse him of helping to “prop up” a corrupt administration. The interview contemplates the role of Robinson and the US in Guatemala.

Selected questions and answers from the interview, translated to English:

Question 1: Right now, no one wants to be seen with President Otto Pérez, and you do. What message would you like to send with your appearance at the Presidential House? Aside from the issue of polygraphs.

Photo: Carlos Sebastián

A: None. The government has asked us to help with the SAT [Guatemala’s tax collection agency] and we had polygraph equipment [and technicians]. There was a team of Guatemalan businessmen who were in Washington to discuss the Alliance for Prosperity and they asked for help with several institutions from the State Department. It was a happy coincidence that we had that equipment. I don’t believe that it’s a secret that we work very closely with the government. We don’t have the luxury of choosing the Guatemalan government—it’s the decision of the Guatemalan people. And of course, because we are good partners, or want to become good partners with the Guatemalan society and the government, when they ask us for help and we can help, we’re going to do it. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: May 25-29

One Year After Violent Eviction, La Puya Under Threat Again

On May 26, almost exactly one year after police violently broke up the peaceful anti-mining blockade at La Puya, approximately 300 police officials arrived again at the site. Police officials claimed that they were responding to an allegation that members of La Puya had illegally detained several mine works — an accusation that community members say is “totally false,” and that a justice of the peace could find no evidence to substantiate.

Police threatened to evict protesters, but lacked the required eviction order to forcefully remove them. While community members have let workers in to the mine and no longer block the road, a contingent of police remain, and a new police camp has been set up on company land right across from La Puya. Read more about recent events at La Puya on our blog.

Vice President Baldetti’s Properties Raided

On May 28, Guatemalan authorities and CICIG officials raided 14 properties associated with former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, whose press secretary has been linked to the tax fraud scandal that resulted in the resignation of several top Guatemalan officials earlier this month. Baldetti resigned on May 8 due to increasing public pressure, although she denies any involvement in the scandal. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: May 18-22

Protests Continue; Government Officials Resign Amid Corruption and Bribery Probes

On Saturday, May 16, an estimated 60,000 people gathered at the national palace in Guatemala City to denounce corruption and call for the resignation of top officials, including Otto Pérez Molina. In other regions of Guatemala, as well as in other countries, groups held simultaneous protests as part of the #RenunciaYa movement. Photos from the event are available here.

Then, on May 20, at least 15 more people were arrested in a separate fraud and bribery probe into the Guatemalan Social Security Institute (IGSS), including the central bank governor and the head of the  IGSS (who also used to be Pérez Molina’s private secretary). The investigation was also conducted jointly by Guatemalan prosecutors and the CICIG. On the same day, a large protest of campesinos took place in Guatemala City as part of the ongoing #RenunciaYa movement.

Yesterday, Pérez Molina dismissed the Guatemalan intelligence chief, as well as the ministers of the interior, environment and energy, in a move to address citizens’ calls to root our corruption. Calls for the president to also resign continue, but Pérez Molina has stated that he will serve out his term. 

Updates about the ongoing protests and political crisis will be made on our initial explainer.

Maya Q’eqchi’ seek justice in Guatemala and Canada

This in-depth article by Sandra Cuffe tells the story of the struggle of a group from Izabal to seek justice — both in Guatemala and Canada — for shooting community members protesting the Guatemala Nickel Company’s (CGN) Fenix ferro-nickel mining project. Mynor Padilla, the former head of private security for CGN (then a subsidiary of Canadian company HudBay Minerals) is currently standing trial in Guatemala for homicide and assault causing bodily harm.

A separate article also looks at the legal cases against the Guatemala Nickel Company.

The 14-year-old music prodigy who left his home in Guatemala for Los Angeles

This article, part of a series that looks at the aftermath of last summer’s “migration crisis,” details the journey of a 14-year-old Guatemalan boy from his home in Peten to the US.