Citizens Suffer The Consequences Of An Inefficacious Ministry of Public Services
by Samuel Álvarez Morales, Director of Visión Legislativa
In May of 2022, President Alejandro Giammattei selected Consuelo Porras to serve four more years as Attorney General of the Ministry of Public Prosecutor (MP) in spite of her questionable administration. The public criticized the decision on social media and organized demonstrations. There was also indifference present among the many who are not aware of how the lack of an independent Office of Public Prosecution can affect them.
It’s important to review history in order to explain how damaging the work of an attorney general can be to the everyday citizen. The Ministry of Public Prosecutor was created by the constitutional reforms of 1993. It was created as a means of limiting interference in the justice system and to avoid abuses of power like those committed by authoritarian military governments.
The MP has specific functions such as preserving rule of law and respecting human rights besides initiating criminal prosecution. It is autonomous and is hierarchical with the attorney general, appointed by the President/Executive Branch for four years, at its head.
Simply stated, the designated attorney general (AG) will decide on what the priorities are for the Ministry which might be investigating gangs, crimes of gender violence, human trafficking, corruption, narco-trafficking or other types of criminal activity. Additionally, the AG names the attorneys assigned to investigations and prosecution of those responsible for criminal activity.
To Whom does the Attorney General Answer?
This question raises an important issue for us, i.e. the legitimate or illegitimate administration of the agency by its head, someone who holds the position based on authorization required to come from the president. That would not be a problem if there were certainty that the designee were going to respect and guarantee the autonomy of the institution. But to be appointed, candidates aspiring to hold the position must guarantee that there will be nothing “uncomfortable” for the president, his/her inner circle or financial supporters. One must take into account that the president is empowered to appoint without putting in place any clear or pre-established parameters for the appointee.
What happens when the MP’s interests are directed towards protecting monopolies, oligopolies, when it flirts with protection for those actors who promote systemic corruption within their own state and when it protects organized crime? Then the institution moves against its own attorneys or judges who don’t align themselves with powerful players in the establishment. The assault extends to the citizenry which resists and provides evidence against an oppressive system that limits fundamental liberties.
In Guatemala defending human rights is criminalized e.g. Bernardo Caal, Rigoberto Juárez, Nanci Cinto, all defendors of human rights have been targeted. Another persecuted group is journalists such as Sony Figueroa and those in the legal professions, e.g. Miguel Ángel Gálvez, Juan Francisco Sandoval, Ericka Aifan and Virginia Laparra.
On May 20th of 2022 the EFE (Spanish international news wire) made public that the former attorney general of Guatemala, Thelma Aldana, assured them that during the last few years 24 individuals working in the legal system have had to flee the country due to their key roles in the fight against corruption between 2014 and 2021.
For the ordinary person this can be irrelevant. But the international community observes and confirms the lack of clean government which disincentivizes investment, resulting in unemployment and migration. All this adds up to ideal conditions for criminal groups to establish themselves, threatening life, liberty and private property.
Regarding how this situation is seen in other countries–Giammattei’s appointment provoked European Union concerns about Guatemala having agreed to combat corruption.
The MP was created to break up a powerful government and to stop atrocities being committed by the state’s military, a goal which was not achieved. What actually happened is that power is concentrated leaving us without a true republic and living in a situation ripe for establishing an authoritarian-totalitarian government which threatens human dignity and liberty. It violates the notion of a just state and the Constitution of Guatemala. The MP facilitates political and private interests which are harmful to everyone.