Guatemala Arrests Anti-Corruption Lawyer, Sparks International Outcry | Corruption News

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The US has been criticizing Claudia Gonzalez, a lawyer who worked with a UN-backed anti-corruption commission.

Guatemala has arrested a former member of a United Nations-backed anti-corruption mission, the latest in a series of legal actions taken against those who have accused the government of wrongdoing and crime organized.

Guatemalan lawyer Claudia Gonzalez told reporters on Monday that she is facing charges of abuse of authority by a public servant, despite the fact that she was not a government employee when she served the Inter Commission -National Against Freedom in Guatemala (CICIG).

Her arrest sparked an international outcry, including the UN and its member nations.

“The United States certainly condemns the abuse of prosecutorial powers by [Guatemala’s Public Ministry]”, the US State Department said in a social media post.

In its statement, the US State Department credited Gonzalez and anti-corruption prosecutors for seeking “transparency and accountability in their country”.

Among the people named in the post were Eva Siomara Sosa – who was arrested in 2022 – and Juan Francisco Sandoval, who fled Guatemala in 2021 because of fears for his safety.

At a briefing on Monday, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres “also noted with concern reports of recent raids and arrest warrants against Guatemalan prosecutors”, naming Gonzalez among them.

Lawyers, judges and legal experts involved in anti-corruption efforts in Guatemala, in turn, have faced lawsuits in recent years, with around 30 legal professionals being charged leave the country.

Critics claim that the government has used heavy spending to attack former anti-corruption professionals in an attempt to weaken control and consolidate power.

Gonzalez recently served as a defense attorney for prosecutors and other officers facing similar charges.

Before that, she worked as a legal representative for CICIG, a commission established in 2006 as part of an agreement between the UN and Guatemala.

His goal was to eliminate organized crime in the country and within its government. The agency is credited with major investigations that led to more than 400 convictions, including one against former President Otto Perez Molina.

While CICIG won widespread support in Guatemala for its anti-corruption work, it also sparked a backlash, with some political figures working to dismantle the group.

The commission was finally dissolved in 2019 by former President Jimmy Morales, who himself was under investigation.

But critics warn that the persecution of anti-corruption advocates goes beyond CICIG.

Progressive speaker Bernardo Arevalo also campaigned for president in 2023 on an anti-corruption platform.

But after emerging as a front-runner in the first round of voting in June, Arevalo and his party faced legal challenges and office raids led by Guatemala’s Attorney General María Consuelo Porras.

The US has sanctioned Porras for “gross corruption”, accusing her of using her position “to protect her political friends and obtain undue political favors”.

Nevertheless, Arevalo won a landslide victory in Guatemala’s August 20 presidential runoff election.

But critics warn that he continues to receive threats that could jeopardize a peaceful transition of power. Last week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) asked the Guatemalan government to provide additional security to Arevalo, citing death threats against him and Vice President Karin Herrera.

And on Monday, as the election results were confirmed, the government of outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei suspended Arevalo’s party, the Seed Movement, raising questions about his political future.

Arevalo is expected to take office on January 14.

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