Prosecution of Ex-Guatemala Attorney General Smells of Retribution

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In a decision that most local media ignored, a judge prohibited former Guatemala Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz from leaving the country, and froze her bank accounts, in what appears to be a backlash against the former prosecutor for bringing judicial cases against the country’s elites.

As reported by Nomada, a new Guatemala media outlet, the decision by Judge Jisela Reinoso came June 20, after a company called GlobalCorp International filed suit against Paz y Paz and the Attorney General’s Office for not paying the company for a contract signed in the year 2000 for equipment, licenses and training. The eleven charges brought against Paz y Paz include abuse of authority, disobedience, and conspiracy, reported Nomada. 

The case has been appealed by the Public Ministry, as the Attorney General’s Office is known in Guatemala, and Prosecutor Eva Sosa Perez voiced her opposition to the ruling. She said there was no investigation in place to justify the actions taken, and that Paz y Paz’s personal property should not be affected by accusations related to her public post. 

Paz y Paz, it appears, has already left the country, even while the case continues to snake through the judicial system.

InSight Crime Analysis

Although Judge Reinoso might deny it, this case is clearly a political attack, meant to send a message to all judicial employees who pretend to bring cases against the country’s elite.

That’s what Paz y Paz did. As chronicled by InSight Crime, Paz y Paz gained international recognition for her work in obtaining the conviction of former General Efrain Ríos Montt on genocide charges. She also took action against Mexico’s brutal Zetas criminal group, worked to gain justice for the country’s female victims, and pushed for institutional reforms. 

SEE ALSO: Guatemala: The War of Paz y Paz

However, Paz y Paz’s attempts at reform earned her powerful enemies within the Guatemalan elite. The historic Rios Montt decision was quickly overturned by the Constitutional Court. Conservative politicians, former soldiers and businessmen accused her of having a political agenda, and in a February 2014 decision, she was forced out of her post early based on a technicality. 

In her run for a second term this year, Paz y Paz was excluded from the short list of six names given to President Otto Perez Molina, from which to select the new attorney general.

The attempt to prosecute her on administrative grounds is like rubbing dirt in her wounds. To begin with, the contract dates back to the year 2000. Paz y Paz was attorney general between 2010 and 2014. There are have been numerous other attorney generals in that time period who neither paid the contract nor faced a lawsuit.

Secondly, in a civil suit against a former public sector employee, it is rare to freeze assets, much less prohibit the movement of the accused. 

Thirdly, as Nomada points out, Judge Reinoso has suspicious ties to the very elite and criminal interests that vilified Paz y Paz. The judge, according to a United Nations organization cited by Nomada, has favored money launderers and ex military personnel accused of human rights abuses. 

“The system will not pardon Claudia Paz y Paz for defying it,” Nomada wrote. 

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