Global News

This article first appeared in Chicago Tribune on July 19, 2021

The Guatemalan prosecutor’s office confirmed on Monday that it initiated an ex officio investigation against 20 individuals named in a U.S. State Department list of undermining the rule of law and participating in corruption in the Central American country.

The press department of the institution said that the administrative crimes prosecutor’s office will hear the cases, without going into detail on the progress of the investigation.

Twenty people, among them 18 who are already being prosecuted and investigated in Guatemala for corruption, were named in the so-called Engel List on July 1 and their entry visas to the United States were revoked.

On the list appear characters such as the magistrate of the Constitutional Court, Néster Váquez Pimentel, investigated for the rigging of the election of Justice magistrates. Also Manuel Duarte Barrera, current magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice, who abused his authority to influence and manipulate the election of judges, according to the State Department.

It also named congressmen Jorge Estuardo Vargas Morales, Felipe Alejos Lorenzana and former congressmen Boris España Cáceres and Delia Bac, accused of acts of corruption that undermine democratic institutions and processes with bribes, coercion and influence peddling, according to the State Department.

It also included ultra-right-wing activists Raul Amilcar Falla Ovalle and Ricardo Méndez Ruiz for obstructing criminal proceedings against former officials and military officers accused of committing acts of violence, harassment and intimidation against government or non-government officials investigating corruption cases.

Human rights activist Helen Mack gave little credence to the prosecutor’s announcement after considering that Attorney General Consuelo Porras has demonstrated that she does not support justice.

“How is she going to advance if she is part of the co-optation of the state and the justice system by the mafias,” Mack told The Associated Press.

In June, Porras refused to authorize the request to remove the immunity of Magistrate Vásquez Pimentel and did so just one day after he was sworn in by Congress to occupy a constitutional magistrate’s post and was under constitutional immunity protection.

“With the Attorney General we are lost because she is an accomplice of those mafias and especially her commitment obeys everything that has to do with former President Jimmy Morales (who appointed her) and President Alejandro Giammattei, (who has said that she is his friend and could re-elect her to the post),” Mack stressed.

Porras has also validated several allegations that ultra-right activists Falla and Méndez Ruíz have made against the head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity, Juan Francisco Sandoval, one of the most nationally and internationally recognized prosecutors for his fight against impunity and corruption.

In addition, the State Department also included in the list 30 other officials, businessmen and politicians from El Salvador and Honduras.

Ricardo Zúñiga, special envoy for Central America, has said that this is the first of several lists that will be presented about people in the region who are involved in corruption, which, according to the US government, has an impact on Central American migration to the United States.