Judge Erika Aifán leaves Guatemala due to threats “from political and criminal networks” | International

Guatemalan judge Erika Aifán poses for a photo in her office in Guatemala City, in November 2019.
Guatemalan judge Erika Aifán poses for a photo in her office in Guatemala City, in November 2019.Moses Castillo (AP)

Judge Erika Aifán has resigned from her position as head of the High Risk Court D of Guatemala due to the threats she has suffered from “political and criminal networks”, the magistrate denounced this Monday in a video posted on Twitter. Aifán has gone into exile in Washington after stating that he does not have sufficient guarantees to protect his life and physical integrity. The judge has been in the eye of the hurricane because she has handled some of the most notorious cases of corruption, which made her the last target of those who do not want to see independent justice in the Central American country. With Aifán, there are already 14 judges and prosecutors who have had to flee their country to the United States due to the persecution they face.

Aifán, who has been working in the Guatemalan justice system for 19 years —six of them in charge of High-Risk Court D—, has denounced that he received “threats and pressure” for his work, which, he has affirmed, has given him “an almost absolute dedication”. The judge has recalled that from her office she has handled cases of organized crime and corruption structures “at all levels of the State”, which has made her the object of serious threats. “I have decided to present my resignation from the position because I do not have sufficient guarantees of protection for my life and integrity, or the possibility of defending myself with due process,” Aifán reported. “After several emblematic cases of corruption, the political and criminal networks that were affected by the advances in justice decided to co-opt the institutions again and persecute those of us who dared to fight impunity,” she warned.

The resignation and exile of Judge Aifán is the latest sign of open warfare in Guatemala by criminal networks and even high-ranking officials within the judicial system against officials committed to fighting impunity. Several former judges and former prosecutors have singled out Attorney General Consuelo Porras, a controversial character, for hindering her work. At the end of February, the former special prosecutor against impunity, Carlos Antonio Videz, left Guatemala and directly accused Attorney General Porras in a statement of being responsible for his departure. “It has become clear that the attorney general has been making progress in her plan to guarantee impunity to the criminal networks that she should pursue. From the beginning of her mandate, she complicated the function of committed and independent prosecutors, ”said Videz. A similar complaint was made by former Attorney General Juan Francisco Sandoval, who was dismissed last summer from his position as head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity in Guatemala (FECI), an organization that has made great strides in the fight against corruption. In a press conference given before his abrupt departure from the country, Sandoval said that his dismissal was illegal and that it was ordered by Porras to protect friends “who could be involved in the investigations.”

In an interview granted to this newspaper at the end of January, Aifán denounced that Porras has allowed a kind of hunt to take place within the justice system against judges and prosecutors who are handling important corruption cases. “We sent him a letter in June of last year asking him to file and dismiss the processes that have been accumulating against at least four of the highest-risk judges in the country, who have tried the most dangerous cases. impact act since 2015. In the work that she develops, she can archive these processes, because they have no basis. However, we have not found any answers,” said Aifán.

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In Washington, the former attorney general Thelma Aldana, the former judge of the Court of Appeals, Claudia Escobar, the former FECI prosecutor Andrei González and the elected judge of the Constitutional Court (CC) Gloria Porras, among others, have also sought refuge. turned the capital of the United States into a refuge for former justice operators persecuted for their efforts to combat corruption and fight against impunity in the Central American country.

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