Guatemala’s new top prosecutor begins term amid graft probes
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Maria Consuelo Porras began work as Guatemala’s new chief prosecutor Thursday, taking over responsibility for corruption investigations that have already landed a number of officials in prison.
Porras, a career jurist and former alternate magistrate on the Constitutional Court, replaces Thelma Aldana, who won international renown for aggressively pressing graft cases, including one involving then-President Otto Perez Molina.
“What I ask the Guatemalan people for is trust,” Porras said in a news conference. “Not only in the new chief prosecutor as a person highly committed to strengthening justice in Guatemala, but also in the team we bring.”
Porras was chosen by current President Jimmy Morales, who is the subject of an ongoing probe involving purported illicit campaign financing. He denies wrongdoing.
On Tuesday night Aldana publicly revealed new details about the case and said the material was enough to again seek to have Morales’ immunity from prosecution withdrawn within two weeks, putting Porras in the position of potentially having to decide early on whether to pursue the case against the president who picked her for the job.
The new prosecutor vowed to follow up on all pending cases and said, “What we will do is work independently without being compromised in any way.”
“I will be a guarantor that the law is followed, she added.
Some civil society groups have raised concerns about Porras over her ties to Guatemala’s powerful military, of which her husband is a member.
She also met with the head of a U.N.-sponsored investigative commission operating in the country that has been a key actor in pushing corruption prosecutions in cooperation with the prosecutor’s office under Aldana.
Those include the case against Perez Molina, who is behind bars on accusations he led a criminal network that allegedly bilked the government out of millions of dollars, and former President Alvaro Colom, over possible embezzlement and fraud involving bus concessions during his 2008-2012 administration. Colom is also in jail where he awaits an outcome of the investigation.
Both have denied the charges.
Ivan Velasquez, the head of the U.N. commission, described their encounter as cordial and productive.