Guatemala’s new crime fighter

From Larry Luxner in The Tico Times, we have Guatemala top prosecutor Thelma Aldana speaks out against corruption and impunity.

In the end, Thelma Esperanza Aldana Hernández de López surprised everyone.

The 60-year-old magistrate, appointed in May 2014 by then-President Otto Pérez Molina as Guatemala’s attorney general, was viewed at the time with deep suspicion by those upset over the ouster of her left-leaning predecessor, Claudia Paz y Paz – who had tried unsuccessfully to prosecute former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with AG Aldana. However, it’s not just that her predecessor was removed in a way that was inconsistent with the rule of law in Guatemala. Aldana’s selection, and those of the CSJ and appeals courts, was fraught with irregularities. Many of use were skeptical for good reason. Until she proves otherwise, I’m happy to support AG Aldana’s work.

According to the Guatemala-based Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Fiscales (ICEFI), corruption cost the country more than $530 million in 2015 – equivalent to the budget of the attorney general’s office for the last four years.

“We have one million primary school students without notebooks, 500,000 pregnant women not getting pre-natal care, 300,000 mothers not getting child care and 5,000 high-school scholarships that haven’t been distributed,” Aldana said. “So in that context, anyone would understand and justify the need for the government in 2006 to request the presence of an international commission against impunity in Guatemala.”

As I’ve said, CICIG more than pays for itself.

“For the first time in Guatemala’s history, the president had his immunity stripped,” Aldana said. “The press played a crucial role in this, clearly naming those who had engaged in acts of corruption. There was general amazement that the person who had been elected by the people to run the country was precisely the leader of a criminal organization to defraud the state.”

I, for one, mistakenly believed that no matter how corrupt Perez Molina might have been before taking the presidential office that he would not be so brazen as to do the same with CICIG and the world watching. Fool me once, I guess…