A CRY FOR GUATEMALA: U.S. Republicans have helped facilitate the destruction of the Central American nation's anti-corruption efforts.

AuthorAbbott, Jeff

Once a beacon in the fight against corruption, Guatemala has seen the systematic stifling of efforts to hold economic and political elites accountable. Nearly three years after Guatemala's then-President Jimmy Morales, with support from U.S. Republicans, expelled the internationally renowned United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), the country's independent judges and anti-corruption investigators are under attack.

"Guatemala no longer has a rule of law," Erika Aifan, a former judge who presided over one of Guatemala's high-risk courts and was forced into exile, says in a phone interview from Washington, D.C. "[There is] only an appearance of legality." Aifan had presided over corruption cases against Guatemalan business people, officials, judges, and lawmakers, and she was slated to oversee a case against Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei.

But over the last two years, Aifan has faced a systematic campaign to charge her criminally, orchestrated by those she had ruled against for acts of corruption.

As the accusations against her increased, Aifan drew support from international organizations. The New York City Bar Association issued a statement in her support, and U.S. Ambassador William Popp accompanied Aifan to a hearing in the country's Judicial Towers, a gesture met with cries of meddling by Guatemala's far right.

But it was not enough. In March, the judge officially resigned and crossed the border into El Salvador, where she boarded a flight that took her to Washington, D.C. She is among the latest in an exodus of former investigators, lawyers, and judges associated with the fight against corruption in Guatemala, all of whom have fled the country out of fear for their safety.

Since February, the Guatemalan public prosecutor's office, led by Maria Consuelo Protesters rally in Guatemala City in support of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala in January 2019.

The commission, prior to its demise, had won international recognition for its investigations into official corruption.

Jeff Abbott is a freelance journalist based in Guatemala and a regular contributor to The Progressive.

Follow him on Twitter at @palabrasdeabajo.

Porras, has stepped up these attacks, opening investigations against judges, investigators, and lawyers associated with anti-impunity and anti-corruption cases.

Among those targeted is Virginia Laparra, who worked in the Special Prosecutor's Office Against Impunity (FECI) in Quetzaltenango and was arrested in mid-February after accusing a judge of corruption. Sixty days later, she was still incarcerated, awaiting a hearing...

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