The Guatemalan Congress is attempting to appoint an individual with serious allegations against him to be a constitutional court magistrate. The allegations include conspiracy to obstruct justice and evidence of past engagement with Gustavo Alejos, a former presidential aide whom the Department of State previously publicly designated for his involvement in significant corruption that undermined the rule of law in Guatemala. On February 1, as a result of a case filed by Guatemala's Public Ministry, a judge issued an arrest warrant for this potential constitutional court magistrate for obstruction of justice.
The connection with Gustavo Alejos is concerning. In 2020, the Guatemalan Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity exposed gross interference in the justice system. The investigation found that Gustavo Alejos, a Guatemalan businessman and former Chief of Staff to former President of Guatemala Álvaro Colom, who is currently in detention for corruption, had set up a scheme to influence the selection process for appellate and Supreme Court magistrates. According to press reports, Alejos had contact with at least 41 people involved in the judicial selection process; including 10 legislators, two of whom are part of the current leadership in Guatemala.
Accordingly, the U.S. State Department designated Alejos and his immediate family members as ineligible for entry into the United States in June 2020 for his involvement in significant corruption. In his official capacity as the Chief of Staff to former President of Guatemala Álvaro Colom, Alejos was involved in undermining the rule of law and the Guatemalan public’s faith in their government’s democratic institutions, officials, and public processes.
The Guatemalan Congress’ attempt to appoint to the Constitutional Court an individual closely associated with Alejos and who faces serious corruption allegations calls into question the integrity of Guatemala’s highest court, thereby weakening the rule of law and undermining a key U.S. priority for cooperation with Guatemala to strengthen democratic governance, said State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a statement.
The United States is committed to supporting Guatemala’s fight against endemic corruption and impunity — a necessary step toward the prosperous and secure future the people of Guatemala deserve. The fair and transparent selection of justices to the Constitutional Court is critical for the integrity of Guatemala’s democratic institutions.