{"code":"26082","sect":"Central America","sect_slug":"central-america","hits":"1054","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/en\/202203\/centroamerica\/26082","link_edit":"","name":"Judge Aif\u00e1n, from Exile: \u201cMy life was in danger in Guatemala\u201d","slug":"judge-aifan-from-exile-ldquo-my-life-was-in-danger-in-guatemala-rdquo-","info":"","mtag":"Politics","noun":{"html":"Jos\u00e9 Luis Sanz \/ Washington","data":{"jose-luis-sanz-washington":{"sort":"","slug":"jose-luis-sanz-washington","path":"jose_luis_sanz_washington","name":"Jos\u00e9 Luis Sanz \/ Washington"}}},"view":"1054","pict":{"cms-image-000035509-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"35509","name":"cms-image-000035509.jpg","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000035509.jpg","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000035509.jpg","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000035509-jpg","text":"<p>Erika Aif\u00e1n, during the first hearing in a case known as \u201cParallel Commissions 2020: Political and Judicial Control in the Hands of a Prisoner\u201d on February 18. Seated before her is businessman Gustavo Alejos, the former private secretary to ex-president \u00c1lvaro Colom, convicted for corruption. Photo: Simone Dalmasso\/Plaza P\u00fablica<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EErika Aif\u00e1n, during the first hearing in a case known as \u201cParallel Commissions 2020: Political and Judicial Control in the Hands of a Prisoner\u201d on February 18. Seated before her is businessman Gustavo Alejos, the former private secretary to ex-president \u00c1lvaro Colom, convicted for corruption. Photo: Simone Dalmasso\/Plaza P\u00fablica\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000037316-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"37316","name":"cms-image-000037316.jpg","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000037316.jpg","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000037316.jpg","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000037316-jpg","text":"<p>Erika Aif\u00e1n, a former High-Risk Tribunal judge in Guatemala, in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo: Jos\u00e9 Luis Sanz\/El Faro<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EErika Aif\u00e1n, a former High-Risk Tribunal judge in Guatemala, in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo: Jos\u00e9 Luis Sanz\/El Faro\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000037317-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"37317","name":"cms-image-000037317.jpg","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000037317.jpg","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000037317.jpg","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000037317-jpg","text":"<p>Erika Aif\u00e1n during an interview with El Faro in February 2022 in her office in Guatemala City's Palace of Justice. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EErika Aif\u00e1n during an interview with El Faro in February 2022 in her office in Guatemala City's Palace of Justice. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000037319-jpg":{"feat":"1","sort":"37319","name":"cms-image-000037319.jpg","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000037319.jpg","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000037319.jpg","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000037319-jpg","text":"<p>Erika Aif\u00e1n, a former High-Risk Tribunal judge in Guatemala, in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo: Jos\u00e9 Luis Sanz\/El Faro<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EErika Aif\u00e1n, a former High-Risk Tribunal judge in Guatemala, in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo: Jos\u00e9 Luis Sanz\/El Faro\u003C\/p\u003E"}},"pict_main__sort":37319,"date":{"live":"2022\/03\/21"},"data_post_dateLive_YY":"2022","data_post_dateLive_MM":"03","data_post_dateLive_DD":"21","text":"\u003Cp\u003E\u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202203\/centroamerica\/26081\/Aif%C3%A1n-desde-el-exilio-%E2%80%9CEn-Guatemala-estaba-en-riesgo-mi-vida%E2%80%9D.htm\" target=\"_blank\"\u003ELeer en espa\u00f1ol\u003C\/a\u003E.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp\u003EWhen Erika Aif\u00e1n last visited Washington, the former Guatemalan attorney general Thema Aldana half-joked that she hoped not to see her again soon. Aldana, who gained political asylum in 2019, choked down a knot in her throat: by then, last November, it seemed inevitable that Judge Aif\u00e1n would soon join the growing community of Guatemalans exiled in the U.S. capital.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAs the head of Guatemala\u2019s High-Risk Tribunal D, a court specialized in handling complex high-stakes criminal cases, Aif\u00e1n spent six years trying dozens of the most powerful business people, politicians, judges, and capos of Guatemala on charges of corruption, money laundering, and drug trafficking. For that work she has faced constant threats, espionage, and judicial persecution.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn February, El Faro revealed that a witness in her court accused President Alejandro Giammattei of \u003Ca href=\"\/en\/202202\/centroamerica\/26008\/Witness-Accuses-Guatemalan-President-of-Funding-Campaign-with-Construction-Bribes.htm\"\u003Efinancing his electoral campaign with $2.6 million in bribes\u003C\/a\u003E from construction firms. It was reason enough for Attorney General Consuelo Porras, converted into Giammattei\u2019s enforcer, to file seven motions to repeal Aif\u00e1n\u2019s judicial immunity from prosecution and look to incarcerate the judge who may otherwise have put the president of Guatemala behind bars.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn the evening on Wednesday, March 9, and without warning her team of bodyguards, Erika Aif\u00e1n crossed the land border into El Salvador to fly via Costa Rica to the United States. This morning her attorneys formally tendered her resignation from the Guatemalan judiciary. Her departure makes fifteen justice system operators to have abandoned Guatemala in the last 11 months.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EHave you decided to exile yourself?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EYes. I see no other way to guarantee my physical safety. I need to ask another country for the protection that I should have been granted by the Guatemalan state and the judicial branch.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\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=37316\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"Erika Aif\u00e1n, a former High-Risk Tribunal judge in Guatemala, in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo: Jos\u00e9 Luis Sanz\/El Faro\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\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\"\u003EErika Aif\u00e1n, a former High-Risk Tribunal judge in Guatemala, in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo: Jos\u00e9 Luis Sanz\/El Faro\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\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003ETwo weeks ago, someone close to you told me that you had made the opposite decision, that you were going to face the charges against you in Guatemala and were ready to go to prison.\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThat was my initial decision. I imagined myself in prison and prepared a plan of action if it were to happen. But it\u2019s obvious that I would not receive due process and the guarantees of a democratic justice system. My life was in danger in Guatemala, so in consultation with my family and attorneys, we determined that I should look for new spaces to defend myself.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EDid you also fear for your safety if you were imprisoned?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EEspecially if I were imprisoned. I received precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and since 2006 the Supreme Court of Justice has granted me a security detail that has grown over time amid imminent threats against my life. But that protection would be removed the moment that they impeach me, and there is no prison in Guatemala that would be safe for me. Since 2016 my courtroom has seen cases against operationally and militarily powerful national and transnational criminal organizations, and I have ordered pre-trial detention for individuals in almost all of the prisons in the country.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EIs it that you do not believe that the Guatemalan state can guarantee your safety, or do you really fear the state itself?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EMy work has taught me that in Guatemala there are criminal groups embedded in the three branches of government. In fact, I have held the only trial to include investigations into high-profile individuals in the three branches. Far from receiving support, what I have received from the state are attacks, harassment, and threats. An attack against me could undoubtedly come from the Guatemalan state.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EIncluding from President Alejandro Giammattei?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EI don\u2019t want to name names. It could come from any of the people accused in trials that I have handled, and among them are accusations against the president.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EAmong them, the testimony that connects the president to the cash found in Antigua Guatemala and accuses him of financing his campaign with bribes from construction firms. Is it true that Giammattei asked you for a copy of Witness A\u2019s testimony?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EYes, the president requested a copy of the recording of that testimony. He said that he knew that it implicated him. I rejected his request because he is neither plaintiff nor defendant in the trial. I want to be emphatic in clarifying that the trial is sealed from the public, but the president\u2019s request is not, and that is precisely because he is not part of the investigation. That is why I can speak about his request.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EIn your final days in Guatemala you defended your innocence behind closed doors before a judge who must evaluate whether to recommend that the Supreme Court remove your judicial immunity. What happened in those hearings?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThere were two hearings for me to exercise my legal right to defense. They lasted for many hours because my attorneys and I laid out an extensive analysis to disprove each point in the accusations against me. I have been accused of ordering an investigation into magistrates and judges with judicial immunity, so during the first hearing I asked that the investigating magistrate show me the resolutions that I supposedly signed to order those investigations, but he could not do so, and even indicated that no resolution signed by me had been submitted as evidence. Days later, in the second hearing, he tried to change that point of the courtroom record.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EI believe that he rejected my request to open the hearings to the public precisely so that he could manipulate the courtroom record. We objected, of course, and both what happened in that first hearing and his attempt to change the accusations entered into the record, because I obviously cannot be held responsible for alleged actions if there are no resolutions with my signature. He could not present them because none exist. I don\u2019t know if they are currently fabricating them.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EThat\u2019s a serious allegation.\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIf the hearing had been public, Guatemala would have seen that there was no resolution signed or issued by me relating to an investigation into judges or magistrates with judicial immunity. And they would have heard each of the arguments and seen the proof that debunks the Institute of Magistrates\u2019 accusations. In private it is easier for the investigating magistrate to generate impunity and corruption. Another example: the plaintiff asked for the court to hear witness testimony, and I asked to be present to inform my defense. But the magistrate was emphatic in stating that, should he decide to hear it, he will not allow me to be present. This is why I believe he had already made a decision against me before the hearings, and it would be illogical to expect that he could rule in my favor after all of these efforts to violate due process.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EWas it what happened in those hearings that pushed you to leave Guatemala?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EI had already made my decision. I postponed my plans because the second hearing had been scheduled, and had there been a third, I would have delayed again. I wanted to lay out my defense at this phase of the impeachment proceedings, no longer with the trial in Guatemala in mind, but rather the international arena. While the latter is slower, I still think it is viable, and that is where I will continue my fight. I have requested measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and am analyzing other legal actions against the Guatemalan state.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EDo you believe that the Supreme Court has also judged you in advance?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EUnquestionably. I requested that various magistrates recuse themselves for conflicts of interests, but they have not responded and will rule on my case without processing my request, despite the fact that the law requires them to do so. They are infringing on my right to an impartial, independent judge.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EYou are referring to the fact that many of the magistrates who will determine whether to revoke your immunity are defendants in an ongoing trial in your court.\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe case is known as Parallel Commissions 2020, an investigation into the possible co-optation of the judicial appointment process. Seven of the 13 Supreme Court magistrates are defendants in the case. Also named in the case are some appellate court magistrates who would fill in for temporary absences on the Supreme Court. The accusations against me are for supposed abuse of authority in Parallel Commissions. It\u2019s obvious that the magistrates have a direct conflict of interest in determining whether I continue trying the case.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\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=1354&ImageHeight=902&ImageId=35509\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"Erika Aif\u00e1n, during the first hearing in a case known as \u201cParallel Commissions 2020: Political and Judicial Control in the Hands of a Prisoner\u201d on February 18. Seated before her is businessman Gustavo Alejos, the former private secretary to ex-president \u00c1lvaro Colom, convicted for corruption. Photo: Simone Dalmasso\/Plaza P\u00fablica\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\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\"\u003EErika Aif\u00e1n, during the first hearing in a case known as \u201cParallel Commissions 2020: Political and Judicial Control in the Hands of a Prisoner\u201d on February 18. Seated before her is businessman Gustavo Alejos, the former private secretary to ex-president \u00c1lvaro Colom, convicted for corruption. 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\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAnd there are other conflicts: the Institute of Magistrates, the plaintiff in the case against me, has met privately with the Supreme Court, something prohibited by law. The Supreme Court president has paid, according to its financial department, at least 20,000 quetzales to the Institute. In addition, the lead plaintiff is the president of the Institute. The head prosecutor is the secretary of the Institute, and its treasurer is a Supreme Court magistrate. In summary: the lead plaintiff, investigating magistrate, and one of the judges sit on the board of the Institute that has accused me. It would be illogical to think that they could rule in my favor.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EIn the last ten months, fifteen justice system operators have fled the country after the attorney general presented accusations against almost all of them \u2014 people like Juan Francisco Sandoval, who, had he not left Guatemala, would probably be in prison.\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EHe would probably be dead. There is a palpable, deep-seated hatred for Sandoval and me in the statements in court and on social media of some individuals that we have investigated or tried. Sandoval\u2019s \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/lahora.gt\/se-desconocen-avances-en-pesquisa-por-plan-de-estrada-para-asesinar-fiscales\/#Echobox=1644775616-1\"\u003Estatements to the U.S. Embassy\u003C\/a\u003E about a sophisticated plot to kill him easily establish that he faced not only detention, but death.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EWhy the hatred? What nerve have you touched?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWe simply did not impede investigations or convictions of people with political or economic power. I equally judged people with a high profile and those without power. We strived to always maintain the objectivity afforded by due process. We touched spheres of power not accustomed to finding themselves in the snares of justice.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EI have heard multiple times that high-profile business people felt humiliated by being forced to publicly apologize for corruption. Did this exacerbate the hatred?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EYes, those perceptions exacerbated the hatred toward us. I\u2019m aware of multiple comments relating to the circumstances you mention, and I must clearly indicate that I had nothing to do with them.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EAre you referring to the \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.prensalibre.com\/guatemala\/justicia\/empresarios-se-pronuncian-por-caso-de-financiamiento-electoral-ilicito-a-fcnnacion\/\"\u003Epress conference where businessmen apologized\u003C\/a\u003E in 2018? There are those who attribute it to you. They say that the conference twisted the arm of the business sector.\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EPeople say that there could have been pressure or coercion for it to happen, but I was not involved. Part of that hatred toward me are distortions of information. In this case I was only aware of what happened in the court hearings. I found out about that situation at the same time as the rest of Guatemala, through the news media.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EWhat has happened for Guatemala to get to this point?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe state has been co-opted by criminal networks. We have said so for a long time, in multiple judicial opinions. The democratic order has been undermined and the networks have made a major effort to obtain impunity by co-opting the judiciary. When we see that not even the highest courts uphold due process, that is an indication that the justice system has collapsed.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EHow would you describe those criminal networks?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIt is a megastructure including international actors, roots in Guatemala\u2019s past, and many sectors of the country.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EPeople tied to the Armed Forces, politicians, business people, illicit economies?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EYes. The case file 359 alone, which some detractors have called the \u201cmulticausa\u201d (\u201cmulti-indictment\u201d), touches many of the sectors that you mention. It is a historic case file, because the investigation revealed a criminal network with ties to politics, the judiciary, and the economy. The military does not appear in this case file, though other open cases allow us to infer the involvement of drug traffickers, the military, etc.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003ECase file 359 led to Parallel Commissions, to corruption networks in the executive and legislative branches, and even to the money laundering case derived from the cash found in Antigua Guatemala and the testimony against President Giammattei. All of those cases are related.\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EYes, they all surged from one case file. These cases surged from the inevitable findings of the investigations sparked by that file.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EWill you claim asylum in the United States?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EI\u2019m weighing different options.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EThat means that you will leave the judiciary.\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EYes.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EWhat will become of the cases that you have worked on, including the one that touches President Giammattei?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EI don\u2019t know. The Supreme Court should name an independent judge, but right now, as it has forced into exile someone who has done nothing more than work objectively, honestly, and independently, I don\u2019t expect that they will.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EThree years ago, you said in an interview: \u201cThe day that I stop believing will be the day that I stop fighting.\u201d Have you stopped believing? Are you no longer fighting?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ENo. I\u2019m leaving the judiciary, which is different. It was a difficult decision. It\u2019s 20 years of work. But I haven\u2019t stopped believing. I\u2019m changing the arena of my fight. I will focus on international procedures and other spaces.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\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=3000&ImageHeight=2000&ImageId=37317\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"Erika Aif\u00e1n during an interview with El Faro in February 2022 in her office in Guatemala City's Palace of Justice. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\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\"\u003EErika Aif\u00e1n during an interview with El Faro in February 2022 in her office in Guatemala City's Palace of Justice. Photo: V\u00edctor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro\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\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EIn 2015, Guatemala took to the streets to defend justice system actors like the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and the Special Prosecutor\u2019s Office against Impunity (FECI), and that led to the resignation of then-president Otto P\u00e9rez Molina, who has spent the past six years in prison and is now on trial. Where is that citizenry today?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe context of the country is complicated. The pandemic, poverty, and present circumstances have led to disappointment and exhaustion in the population. There are frequent demonstrations against the actions of the three branches of government, but now they take place on social media. A strategy of terror has been instituted in the country that we can also see in the attorney general\u2019s persecution those of us who were involved in the fight against corruption and impunity. There\u2019s a lot of fear.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EDo you see a way out of this situation?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ENot in the short term, but no situation, whether good or bad, is sustainable in the long term. I hope that Guatemala will one day recover the rule of law and strengthen its justice system. An important opportunity would have been the election of the attorney general, but I also see corruption in that process. I\u2019m not sure that the person designated to lead the Attorney General\u2019s Office in the coming years can restore the institution\u2019s credibility.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EIt could be said that you\u2019re not impartial. You wanted to apply for the position but the Constitutional Court did not allow you to.\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EI\u2019m not speaking from a personal perspective, but rather from that of many judge colleagues who would have done an exceptional job as attorney general and who have had that opportunity closed off, precisely because Congress is not looking for someone on the basis of merits or independence. Many judges have extensive knowledge of criminal law and a training that would have elevated the competition in the selection process. On other occasions, my colleagues have made it to the final list of six candidates submitted to the president, but this time no judges were allowed to compete. That is a grave violation of judicial independence, because it is a punishment for the fact that our rulings do not respond to spurious political interests.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EWhat does your future hold?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThat is the toughest question. I don\u2019t know. Right now I only know the decision that I made: to leave my career as a judge in Guatemala in search of other spaces to defend justice and the rule of law, which I still believe in.\u003C\/p\u003E"}