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Concern Over Arrest of Guatemalan Prosecutors


Lawyer Leily Santizo, former head of U.N.-backed anti-corruption commission CICIG (International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala), is escorted by a police officer after arriving at the Supreme Court of Justice building in Guatemala City, Guatemala February 10, 2022.

“The United States is deeply concerned by the Guatemalan Public Ministry’s unacceptable mistreatment and persistent abuse of current and former independent prosecutors,” wrote State Department Spokesperson Ned Price.

Concern Over Arrest of Guatemalan Prosecutors
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“The United States is deeply concerned by the Guatemalan Public Ministry’s unacceptable mistreatment and persistent abuse of current and former independent prosecutors,” wrote State Department Spokesperson Ned Price in a statement.

The United States expressed its concern on February 16 after the Guatemalan Prosecutor’s Office confirmed the arrest of several independent prosecutors connected with the uncovering of official corruption in Guatemala.

On February 10, authorities arrested Leily Santizo, a former prosecutor for the now-ended United Nations-backed anti-corruption mission, called the International Commission against Impunity, or CICIG. The Morales administration allowed CICIG’s mandate to expire in 2019. On February 15, Eva Sosa, a former lawyer with the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity, known as FECI, was also detained. On February 16, the Public Ministry secured arrest warrants for four additional former prosecutors, Aliss Morán, Paola Escobar, Willy Racanac López, and Rudy Herrera.

Spokesperson Price said, “Under the leadership of Attorney General Consuelo Porras, 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 combating impunity and promoting transparency and accountability.”

In July 2021, Attorney General Porras fired Juan Francisco Sandoval, the head of the FECI, which worked closely with the UN-backed CICIG. Sandoval fled into exile. At the time, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter said the decision by Porras to fire Sandoval, “fits a pattern of behavior that indicates a lack of commitment to the rule of law and independent, judicial, and prosecutorial processes.”

The United States later designated Attorney General Porras for obstructing “investigations into acts of corruption by interfering with criminal investigations.”

After the most recent arrests of independent prosecutors in Guatemala, the European Union also expressed its “utmost concern” over the Guatemalan authorities’ “legal action against independent judges, lawyers and prosecutors.”

Brian A. Nichols, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, wrote, “These concerning actions undermine the rule of law.”

Without the rule of law, the corrosive scourge of corruption spreads. As Secretary of State Blinken has said, corruption “stifles growth, it discourages investment, it deepens inequities. But maybe its greatest toll is on citizens’ trust in government.”

The people of Guatemala, like people everywhere, need their government to work to end corruption, not silence the brave individuals who take up the fight.

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