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News > Latin America

Guatemalan President Morales to Have Final Say on 'Favorable' General Attorney Pick

  • Jimmy Morales was elected president in 2015 after a series of mass popular protest ousted Otto Perez Molina.

    Jimmy Morales was elected president in 2015 after a series of mass popular protest ousted Otto Perez Molina. | Photo: EFE

Published 14 April 2018

Last year, Morales did everything possible to stop an investigation against him. Now, he gets to pick the investigators.

The Guatemalan president and former black-face comedian Jimmy Morales will chose the next Attorney General for the 2018-2022 period, which could drastically undermine the possibility to investigate his government's corruption cases, but a lawyer is trying to stop him.


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“It's a threat that the president of the republic chooses the new attorney general of the nation from a list compiled by the Nomination Committee as a result of a vicious process, designed to comply with formalities and to elect candidates based on predilection and prejudices, instead of capacity, aptitude, honesty and honor,” said Ramon Cadena, the lawyer who filed an appeal Friday hoping for a better process.

The process to elect the attorney general takes a little more than three months. It started on Jan. 22, with the first meeting of the Nomination Committee, and will end on April 30 when Morales picks up a candidate.

The Nomination Committee is composed of 12 academics from both public and private institutions, 2 members of the College of Lawyers and the president of the Supreme Justice Court . They will choose six candidates taking into account professional merits, academic merits and humanitarian profile, in that order. The committee will then hand a list of six candidates to President Morales on April 23, from which he would pick one without the need of further explanation.

This gives Morales the final say on who will decide on the national prosecution policies for the next four years, which could undermine investigation efforts on corruption cases in the country, including the ones against him.


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Cadena argues that the process has violated the required standards to have a fair election. According to him, the aspiring candidates and their backgrounds were not properly investigated, the chart used to ponder each candidate's merits was biased, each one of them was given the maximum score at the psychometric test, the interviews were insufficient and inadequate, and the committee didn't take into account any of the complaints made against the candidates.

If the appeal is approved, Morales will have to refrain from picking up one of the candidates and wait until the process is carried out again in a proper manner. But even then, he would have the final say.

Guatemala's Public Ministry has a special relation with the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), an independent organism created by the U.N. to fight corruption and illegal activities linked to the state, all under Guatemalan laws and courts.

Both are supposed to work hand-in-hand in the fight against corruption and impunity, but only at the PM request. The current top prosecutor, Thelma Aldana, came into office on 2014, a year before Morales was sworn in, and has been an active collaborator of the CICIG, but this could change if Morales picks a General Attorney favorable to him.

In 2017, Morales was on the verge of impeachment after the CICIG tried to open an investigation against him. The crisis escalated when the president decided to declare Ivan Velasquez, head of the CICIG and a Colombian national, persona non grata to impede his investigation. Nationwide protests erupted afterwards, in what was one of the worst crisis, among many others, of Morales' administration.

At the end, society's pressure forced the government to reverse its decision and Velazquez remained in the country, but the congress voted against removing Morales' immunity and therefore he couldn't be investigated.

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