{"code":"25605","sect":"Central America","sect_slug":"central-america","hits":"667","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/en\/202107\/centroamerica\/25605","link_edit":"","name":"\u201cIt\u2019s Hard to Find an Honest Judge in Guatemala Now\u201d","slug":"-ldquo-it-rsquo-s-hard-to-find-an-honest-judge-in-guatemala-now-rdquo-","info":"","mtag":"Corruption","noun":{"html":"\u003Cspan class='tint-text--dark' data_href='\/user\/profile\/rgressier'\u003E Roman Gressier\u003C\/span\u003E","data":{"roman-gressier":{"sort":"rgressier","slug":"roman-gressier","path":"roman_gressier","name":"Roman Gressier","edge":"0","init":"0"}}},"view":"667","pict":{"cms-image-000036113-jpg":{"feat":"1","sort":"36113","name":"cms-image-000036113.JPG","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036113.JPG","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036113.JPG","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036113-jpg","text":"<p>Helen Mack has witnessed the backsliding of the fight against corruption since the expulsion of the CICIG in 2019. Now, she says, the Special Prosecutor's Office against Impunity (FECI) is under similar siege. In her office in Guatemala City. Photo: Simone Dalmasso\/Plaza P\u00fablica<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EHelen Mack has witnessed the backsliding of the fight against corruption since the expulsion of the CICIG in 2019. Now, she says, the Special Prosecutor's Office against Impunity (FECI) is under similar siege. In her office in Guatemala City. Photo: Simone Dalmasso\/Plaza P\u00fablica\u003C\/p\u003E"}},"pict_main__sort":36113,"date":{"live":"2021\/07\/15"},"data_post_dateLive_YY":"2021","data_post_dateLive_MM":"07","data_post_dateLive_DD":"15","text":"\u003Cp id=\"docs-internal-guid-4722ff95-7fff-49d4-fb24-dc8fd16f4481\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202107\/centroamerica\/25606\/%E2%80%9CAhora-es-dif%C3%ADcil-encontrar-jueces-honestos-en-Guatemala%E2%80%9D.htm\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003ELeer en espa\u00f1ol\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWhen corruption scandals embroil Guatemala\u2019s political class, Helen Mack invariably takes her place on the scrum. A leading Guatemalan human rights advocate, she has spent decades in legal fights over not only government corruption, but also cases of impunity from the four-decades-long civil war ending in 1996 \u2014 \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.plazapublica.com.gt\/content\/helen-mack-la-incombustible-en-el-pais-de-la-impunidad\"\u003Ebeginning with her sister Myrna\u2019s death\u003C\/a\u003E at the hands of the Guatemalan military in 1990.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAnd when systemic corruption and open attacks against independent judges this year seemed to jeopardize U.S. interests, even Kamala Harris asked for her opinion. \u201cTheir priority is immigration, and if that means conceding on other topics where Guatemalan civil society won\u2019t, then they will concede,\u201d Mack says of the Biden administration. \u201cOur challenge is reaching a win-win agenda.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EFor Mack, that winning agenda will include justice for civil war-era crimes, as well as accountability for President Alejandro Giammattei\u2019s handling of the pandemic.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ELast November, \u003Ca href=\"\/en\/202011\/internacionales\/25046\/The-Afternoon-Giammattei-Unleashed-the-Fury.htm\"\u003Ewhen flames engulfed the Guatemalan Congress\u003C\/a\u003E amid protests over the government's \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/mailchi.mp\/elfaro.net\/el-faro-english-new-migrant-caravan-attacks-against-press-4588560?e=cee329e6af\"\u003Emid-pandemic cuts to health and other spending\u003C\/a\u003E, Giammattei narrowly sidestepped calls for his resignation. Eight months later, a politically bruised but recalcitrant Giammattei \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.prensalibre.com\/guatemala\/politica\/alejandro-giammattei-anuncia-que-implementara-estado-de-prevencion-en-todo-guatemala-protestas-en-su-contra-breaking\/\"\u003Eannounced he would summon security forces\u003C\/a\u003E, yet again, to stamp out renewed street protests against his handling of the pandemic.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe administration paid $80 million for eight million doses of the Sputnik-V vaccine in April, which have yet to arrive from Russia.\u00a0Foreign Minister Pedro Brolo \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/lahora.gt\/mientras-incumplen-rusia-dice-que-viaje-de-brolo-fue-positivo\/\"\u003Etraveled in late June\u003C\/a\u003E to allegedly renegotiate the terms of the contract as the Guatemalan government threatened to demand a refund. Upon his return, Brolo \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.soy502.com\/articulo\/brolo-no-esperen-al-llegar-rusia-me-reciban-vacunas-32419\"\u003Eoffered no vaccine delivery timeline\u003C\/a\u003E and \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/lahora.gt\/vacunas-sputnik-v-giammattei-y-brolo-sugirieron-a-los-rusos-ministra-firmo-contrato\/\"\u003Etold congressional inquirers\u003C\/a\u003E that he hadn\u2019t read the vaccine contract. The Public Prosecutor\u2019s Office \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.prensalibre.com\/guatemala\/comunitario\/fiscalia-contra-la-corrupcion-investiga-proceso-de-compra-de-vacunas-rusas-sputnik-v-y-esto-dice-salud-breaking\/\"\u003Eopened a criminal investigation\u003C\/a\u003E in May \u2014 though, to the extent of public knowledge, the Health Ministry \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.prensalibre.com\/guatemala\/comunitario\/salud-se-resiste-a-entregar-al-mp-el-contrato-de-las-vacunas-sputnik-v\/\"\u003Ehas yet to hand over the contract\u003C\/a\u003E to investigators.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe Myrna Mack Foundation, which Helen founded and named in honor of her sister, is one of the most high-profile civil society organizations to \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/lahora.gt\/piden-renuncia-de-giammattei-por-su-indiferencia-ante-el-sufrimiento-de-los-guatemaltecos\/?utm_source=DB+El+Faro+_English&utm_campaign=f62e340aa4-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_04_22_01_08_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3ec9190c89-f62e340aa4-\"\u003Eissue a joint call for the resignation\u003C\/a\u003E of Giammattei, Brolo, and Health Minister Amelia Flores.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThis isn\u2019t the first time that Mack faces off with the juggernauts of Guatemalan politics. When the Guatemalan state and United Nations negotiated the creation of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) in 2006, she gave input as a representative of civil society. In its 13 years of sweeping high-level corruption probes before it was dismantled in 2019, the CICIG sent former president Otto P\u00e9rez Molina to prison for customs fraud and briefly convicted former dictator and retired general Efra\u00edn R\u00edos Montt of a 1982 genocide against the Maya Ixil people.\u00a0\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ETimes have changed, and Mack suggests that anti-corruption work is now more precarious than when the CICIG was created. Since the commission left the country, Mack notes an \u003Ca href=\"\/en\/202106\/centroamerica\/25580\/Guatemala\"\u003Eopen, systematic courtroom retaliation\u003C\/a\u003E against judges, prosecutors, and human rights advocates who took part in the Guatemalan Spring. And she is one of them.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EMack sat down with El Faro in early July to discuss the current state of the country. From her office in Guatemala City\u2019s upscale Zone 14, she offers the somber reflections of an advocate seeing decades of work in the streets and courts crumble.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EWhy are you calling on Giammattei, Chancellor Brolo, and Minister Flores to resign?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe state is obligated to follow the constitution. This has to do with your right to health and the common good. Its pandemic response, specifically with the vaccines, has been too shadowy and left us without access to health services. Zero transparency. How can you believe that the foreign minister went on the trip to Russia but didn\u2019t read the contract? He can\u2019t claim that it\u2019s confidential, because when the state is conducting a criminal investigation they have the constitutional responsibility to turn over the information. What we have here is ill will from the government.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EDo you think that ill will amounts to criminal behavior?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EOf course there have been crimes, but he has an attorney general who covers them up. He has co-opted the justice system. The common phenomena in the region are asymmetries in political and economic power, which cut across the different sectors of society and lead to the distortion of democracy and a co-opted justice system \u2014 which is what the president did most recently here, by co-opting the Constitutional Court. So they\u2019ve secured their impunity. But I think Guatemala has been the most blatant because they\u2019re unwinding the gains of corruption cases investigated by the CICIG and FECI.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EMagistrates from the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court of Justice appeared on the Engel List, a roster of targeted State Department sanctions on Central Americans found to have undermined democracy or engaged in corruption. How far would you say the co-optation has reached in the justice system?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EFor their friends, candidates, magistrates, and judges who are taking their instructions from them, there\u2019s no punishment for wrongdoing and the law doesn\u2019t apply. We citizens and judges who aren\u2019t aligned with the government face the full force of the law.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E \u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E \u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36113 class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"Helen Mack has witnessed the backsliding of the fight against corruption since the expulsion of the CICIG in 2019. Now, she says, the Special Prosecutor's Office against Impunity (FECI) is under similar siege. In her office in Guatemala City. Photo: Simone Dalmasso\/Plaza P\u00fablica\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E \u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E \u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003E Helen Mack has witnessed the backsliding of the fight against corruption since the expulsion of the CICIG in 2019. Now, she says, the Special Prosecutor's Office against Impunity (FECI) is under similar siege. In her office in Guatemala City. Photo: Simone Dalmasso\/Plaza P\u00fablica \u003Cdiv class=\"photographer text_italic rule--ss_l tint-text--idle\"\u003E \u003C\/div\u003E \u003C\/div\u003E \u003C\/figcaption\u003E \u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn my case, I\u2019m facing 11 or more criminal suits. There are also categories of enemies, because it\u2019s the very state that is persecuting you. In the cases of \u003Ca href=\"\/en\/202106\/centroamerica\/25580\/Guatemala\"\u003EGloria Porras, Juan Francisco Sandoval, \u00c9rika Aif\u00e1n, Jord\u00e1n Rodas\u003C\/a\u003E, and all of the judges from high-risk courts, 80 percent of the criminal charges against them come from the Foundation Against Terrorism, with Ricardo M\u00e9ndez Ruiz and Ra\u00fal Falla, who are on the Engel List for obstructing justice. They use social media to discredit and delegitimize you socially, and kill you civilly through malicious litigation where you have judges and prosecutors who can mount a case against you in a day, but when it comes to investigating corruption there\u2019s never enough time or it\u2019s very complicated. The rule of law does not exist and the justice system is being used as a tool of persecution.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EGuatemalan prosecutors are looking to pin down those responsible in the Diario Militar case, involving the systematic forced disappearances, torture, and executions of 183 perceived political dissidents from 1983 to 1985. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.corteidh.or.cr\/docs\/casos\/articulos\/seriec_253_esp1.pdf\"\u003Efound the Guatemalan state guilty\u003C\/a\u003E of the crimes in 2012. What can we expect, in terms of the fight against impunity, from this case?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ETo me, the Diario Militar case is well-founded. You have survivors who recognize their torturers. You have 183 stories there, and I think it\u2019s been sufficiently demonstrated in the various human rights cases, as it was in the genocide trial, what the [military\u2019s] plans were. So I think that the evidence is strong enough to lead to a conviction. As for whether that will happen, the problem is cleansing a justice system which no longer respects prosecutorial autonomy. Members of the intelligence system of that time period are the same people who founded the political parties associated with the Foundation Against Terrorism, which lived and lives on corruption.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EWhat\u2019s the current influence of the military in Guatemalan politics?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe intelligence system is a tool for decision-making. In the case of Guatemala, those formerly and currently part of the intelligence system, because of the volume of information and control they possess, are a much stronger power than any of the Army\u2019s weapons.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EYou had a hand in the proposal to create the CICIG in 2006. How does that moment contrast with the present, in terms of the fight against corruption and impunity?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EBack then, you had honest career judges. What you needed to find was a courageous judge. It\u2019s hard to find an honest judge now, because the courageous are being persecuted. During the armed conflict, there was a military dictatorship. They killed judges. Today, the problem is that many judges are involved in corruption. You see it, for example, in the case of Mynor Motto, where it\u2019s obvious that he rules in return for nomination to the Constitutional Court. This co-optation of allied institutions is becoming more complex because you\u2019re mixing legal with illegal, public with private, and the grey area makes the phenomenon multi-layered. Organized crime and drug trafficking have permeated the entire political system.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EThere\u2019s a lot of talk about creating a regional anti-corruption commission. How might that come about, and do you think it\u2019s the right move?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ERegionally, I don\u2019t think any of the three countries in northern Central America have the political conditions right now to approve an international commission. But I do think that, globally, we\u2019re seeing a game of geopolitical positioning of China, Russia, the United States, and Europe, in which the notions of kleptocracy and corruption will be a through-line. The fact that, in the case of Guatemala, we have become a threat to the United States means that in Europe and other parts of the world kleptocracy will be a topic of discussion, because these are the weapons used by those who want to become world powers.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EYou met recently with Vice President Harris and USAID Administrator Power. Do you believe that the United States can be a reliable partner to civil society in the region?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EEveryone has their own agenda and interests. Their priority is immigration, and if that means conceding on other topics where Guatemalan civil society won\u2019t, then they will concede. Look how we are now. Look how many of us \u2014 those of us with the means to do so \u2014 are leaving to get the vaccine in other countries. How will people not migrate if there\u2019s no solution for them? It\u2019s not enough for you to tell them, \u2018Don\u2019t come,\u2019 like the vice president did. They understand that, but they have to weigh it with other considerations. Our challenge is coming to a win-win agenda.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EIn the medium and long term, is there a political alternative to those in power in Guatemala?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EI don\u2019t know how the people will take power back. Part of the reasoning for maintaining these asymmetries of poverty and fear is precisely so that they can stay in power. We\u2019ll never manage to rise to power. That\u2019s why, even though it makes no sense for them to speak of communists and socialists, they continue to do so because they\u2019re harking back to the era of the genocide when you are either with or against me, to instill fear and control the population.\u003C\/p\u003E"}