Guatemala Judge Slams Corrupt Selection Process

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A high court judge resigned from her post in Guatemala, denouncing the corrupt process by which justice officials are selected, in one of the most outspoken critiques yet from a Guatemalan judge. 

Claudia Escobar Mejia, one of the three judges who sit on Guatemala’s Fifth Appellate Court, announced her resignation in a press conference on October 6. She was re-elected to the position just a week ago, but said that the selection process was “perverse” and “corrupt,” as elPeriodico reported

Guatemala recently selected candidates for its appellate and Supreme Courts via a system that — as InSight Crime reported in a special series, “The War for Guatemala’s Courts” — has been co-opted by special interests. Escobar is the most prominent appellate judge yet to criticize the process, which she called a “spoils system.”  

“I’ve been re-elected for another five years, but in light of how seriously corrupted the process is, and out of respect for the job that I’ve been elected to do and respect for the Guatemalan people, and after a long period of reflection, I quit,” she said. 

By her assessment, only 25 percent of the candidates who were nominated as judges had the necessary experience, she added. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Escobar probably had something else on her conscience besides the corrupt selection process. The day before the appellate court judges were approved by Congress, the Fifth Appellate Court — where Escobar served — overturned a ruling by Guatemala’s highest electoral authority that Vice President Roxana Baldetti could not serve as secretary general of her political party and vice president at the same time, as this goes against Guatemala’s Constitution. During her press conference, Escobar confirmed that she and the other judges came under pressure from Guatemala’s executive branch to rule in favor of Baldetti. 

SEE ALSO: Backroom Justice: the War for Guatemala’s Courts

Notably, Escobar singled out the postulation committees — made up of university law school deans, judges, and others — as a primary reason why the selection process for judges should be considered illegal. As InSight Crime has reported, these committees have been hijacked by special interests and have contributed to Guatemala’s transformation into something close to a mafia state.

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