President Arévalo Acts to Remove Attorney General Consuelo Porras

In the February 2024 additions to The Violence of Development website we included an article describing the award of ‘Corrupt Person of the Year’ to María Consuelo Sánchez, Guatemala’s Attorney General. The award was made by the OCCRP (the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project) for 2023. In its most recent of its regular updates on happenings in Guatemala, the Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC) gave more information on the battle of the new Guatemalan President (Bernardo Arévalo) to dismiss the corrupt Attorney General (appointed by the previous administration of President Alejandro Giammattei, himself accused of being “involved in significant corruption” by the USA).

We are grateful to the GHRC for their regular updates on the situation in Guatemala and for its generalised permission for the reproduction of its information.

By the Guatemala Human Rights Commission
By the Guatemala Human Rights Commission
Ghrcusa, May 7, 2024

As the four-month mark of the Bernardo Arévalo administration approaches, the battle between the president and Attorney General Consuelo Porras has intensified. In recent weeks as Porras has remained in office, the criminalization of human rights defenders and others has increased. A prosecutor who was shot at and injured in March and whose mother was killed in the assassination attempt has been arrested; criminal cases against Indigenous environmental leaders have been reactivated; and violence against defenders has increased. The young son of an Indigenous environmental defender was gunned down and killed by assassins in mid-April. On May 6, Arévalo took a bold step and submitted to the Guatemalan Congress a proposal that would allow the law governing the Public Ministry to be changed so that he can remove Porras from office. Porras has asked the Constitutional Court to block the action. More details are given below.


Arévalo Makes a Bid to Remove Attorney General Porras

On May 5, in a televised message, President Bernardo Arévalo announced that he would ask Congress for a reform so that the Attorney General can be removed from her position. He said the proposed law would re-establish parameters already in the Constitution for the removal of the attorney general. He pointed out that she is stalling investigations of corruption, such as the purchase of Sputnik vaccines and the relationship of former government officials with confessed drug traffickers, while prosecuting and jailing those who denounce corruption. He also noted that she led the attack against democracy by attempting to question election results without having the competence to do so. He had already invited Consuelo Porras to resign, and she had refused. Hours before his announcement, Consuelo Porras filed an appeal before the Constitutional Court to try to avoid her removal, alleging that the president was exceeding his authority and that his actions represented a true and imminent threat to the rule of law. On May 6, a crowd of supporters accompanied Arévalo to Congress to present the bill.

Arévalo’s First Hundred Days Focus on Corruption but Fall Short of Hopes

On April 23, President Bernardo Arévalo held a ceremony to mark his first hundred days in office. Speaking to the crowd gathered in Guatemala City, he outlined seven areas that his administration has addressed, including security, education, wildfire response, health care, and transparency. He announced he was lowering the president’s salary by 25 percent and signed the decree before the crowd. Prior to this, as Jeff Abbott points out in The Progressive, the Guatemalan president was one of the highest paid heads of state in the hemisphere, earning nearly $20,000 dollars per month prior to the decrease by Arévalo.

In February, Arévalo’s administration launched the National Commission Against Corruption (CNC), which worked with ministries to expose acts of corruption linked to former president Alejandro Giammattei’s cabinet. The CNC reviewed over 1,400 public works contracts, most of which were left incomplete by the previous administration. During Arévalo’s initial hundred days in office, the CNC has filed 17 allegations of government corruption with the Guatemala Attorney General’s office.

In the first 59 days of Arévalo’s presidency, Guatemalan authorities reportedly seized nearly 5 tons of cocaine, doubling the amount confiscated in the entirety of 2023.

María del Carmen Aceña, associate researcher at the National Economic Research Centre (CIEN) and former Minister of Education, stated that the first hundred days have been complicated and this is due, in her opinion, to the fact that Guatemalans forget that in the first days of government, progress is slow. A chief complaint is that Arévalo has been unable to oust Attorney General Consuelo Porras, recognized as corrupt by the European Union, the United States, and now Switzerland, as well.

On April 10th, Switzerland announced sanctions against Porras, as well as against the Secretary General of the Public Ministry, Ángel Pineda; head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity Rafael Curruchiche Cucul; prosecutor Leonor Eugenia Morales Lazo de Sánchez; and Judge Fredy Orellana.

On the occasion of President Arévalo’s first one hundred days in office, the 48 Cantones of Totonicapán held a press conference to address the primary concerns affecting the Maya, Garífuna, and Xinka communities. Edin Zapata Tzul, the president of the 48 Cantones, described the presidential period as “one hundred days of a spring that has yet to bloom.”

The 48 Cantones emphasized the rising prices of basic necessities such as food and gasoline, increases which disproportionately affect Indigenous groups. Additionally, the 48 Cantones called for the immediate dismissal of prosecutor Consuelo Porras and allied judges due to concerns regarding impunity and corruption. They also stressed the importance of inclusion in the decisions of the government. “It is important that the Maya, Xinka and Garífuna peoples be included in the decisions of the current government for the betterment of our peoples, in economic, agricultural, natural resources, energy and mining, education, health, infrastructure and the priorities of the nation’s budget,” said Zapata Tzul.