Guatemala Renews Criticized Attorney General for a Second Term

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemala’s president reappointed the attorney general whom the United States called last year an “anti-democratic actor” to a second term on Monday, a move that disappointed many Guatemalans and foreign governments who criticize its setback in corruption investigations.

President Alejandro Giammattei said that Consuelo Porras deserved another four years as head of the office.

“I am convinced that the Attorney General’s Office should be an independent institution,” said the president, adding that the selection process was transparent.

“It is a sovereign decision,” he added, in an apparent reference to international pressure.

Porras, supporting Giammattei in the announcement, said that he had strengthened the institution, ensuring that it acted without prejudice or ideology.

“In the past it was used for political and ideological purposes,” Porras said.

Critics have accused her of doing the opposite: shielding political figures, including the president, from corruption investigations.

Earlier Monday, Porras, 68, defended his record during his annual report. He said that under his leadership the office had enforced the laws of the country and sought justice for all without exception.

Porras was originally appointed in 2018 by then President Jimmy Morales. This is the first time that Guatemala has given its top prosecutor a second consecutive term.

In August 2019, just over a year after Porras’ appointment, Morales ended the United Nations anti-corruption mission while he was under investigation. Porras, at least publicly, did not back down in defense of the mission.

For 12 years, the mission had supported the Office of the Special Prosecutor against Impunity in dismantling dozens of criminal networks while strengthening its capacity to handle complex corruption cases.

During his tenure, more than 20 prosecutors, judges and magistrates have gone into exile, fearful of being prosecuted in retaliation for their work on corruption cases.

Last year he fired Juan Francisco Sandoval, who headed the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity and who had been applauded for his work. He fled the country.

The US government publicly protested, calling Porras an anti-democratic actor who undermines anti-corruption efforts, and stripped him of his visa. A State Department official said at the time that Sandoval’s removal “contributes to the perception that there is a systematic effort in Guatemala to weaken those who fight corruption.”

On Monday, Porras described his office’s anti-corruption work as a precedent, but offered no explanation as to how.

Porras has been a frequent target of street protests in recent months expressing general discontent with the government and calling for his removal.

Juan Pappier, Human Rights Watch’s senior investigator for the Americas division, said Monday that Porras blocked corruption investigations and pursued meritless cases against journalists, judges and prosecutors.

“This decision is the death blow to the fight against impunity in Guatemala,” said Pappier. “If the international community does not take urgent multilateral action, democracy and the rule of law in Guatemala will be at serious risk during his new term as Attorney General.”

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