Press in Guatemala have confirmed one of the main players in appointing the country’s new attorney general is under investigation for financial crimes after InSight Crime’s report into the process revealed his central role and murky connections.
Newspaper Prensa Libre has revealed that three open investigations into Gustavo Herrera — the details of which were previously unknown — are related to an alleged multi-million dollar fraud involving the Guatemalan Social Security Institute (IGSS) and for embezzlement and misappropriation of funds.
Anti-corruption prosecutor Aura Marina Lopez told Prensa Libre the IGSS case was pending the resolution of a civil trial, and until then no decision would be taken on whether to proceed with a criminal investigation.
Prosecutors who did not want to be named told the newspaper that the IGSS had requested the case against Herrera be closed on several occasions.
The report also details how Herrera built political alliances by sourcing financial backing for campaigns.
Prensa Libre secured an interview with Herrera himself, who told them, “I am an unknown, what interest could there be in me?”
InSight Crime Analysis
As InSight Crime has documented, Herrera is a critical power broker in the commissions that will appoint the next attorney general after a court ruling brought the term of Claudia Paz y Paz to a premature end. While it remains unlikely, Paz y Paz could yet be reappointed to the role.
In addition to the allegations of financial crimes, Herrera has also been accused of involvement in drug smuggling. In 2004, current Guatemalan President Otto Perez accused Herrera of collaborating with drug cartels in Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala, allegations Perez recently told InSight Crime he still stands by.
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Yet despite the suspicions and accusations of criminality, Herrera he has not only managed to garner enormous influence, he has also, until now, managed to do so while retaining a low public profile.
The publicity now surrounding Herrera is unlikely to derail his role in appointing the new attorney general, but as a figure that has favored operating in the shadows, it will make his position as one of Guatemala’s murky power players more difficult to sustain.
However, US authorities told InSight Crime that Herrera is not currently a person of interest to them, meaning any possible prosecution would take place in Guatemala, where impunity levels remain sky-high for such top level operators. The irony of the situation is that the future of the one person who has done the most to reduce such impunity levels — Claudia Pay y Paz — is in no small part, now in Herrera’s hands.