Nominating Commission Considers Objections to Attorney General Candidates Ahead of Public Interviews

Guatemala is in the process of selecting its next attorney general to serve a four-year term: May 2018-May 2022. Because the process and result could have tremendous implications for grave crimes trials and the rule of law in Guatemala, the International Justice Monitor is providing regular situation reports.

Thirty Candidates Remain Viable

Thirty candidates to become Guatemala’s next attorney general remain in the running. After the Nominating Commission narrowed the field of applicants from 39 to 25 in late February, it reinstated four candidates following consideration of their appeals against exclusion. A fifth candidate, Mynor Francisco Hernández Castillo, successfully appealed to the Constitutional Court to be reinstated. (A list all 30 remaining applicants is at the end of this post.)

Controversial Objections

From March 13-15, the Commission received formal objections (tachas) to 14 candidacies. It then met on March 19 and 20 to decide which tachas it would agree to consider, ultimately accepting 23 of 34 of them, still against 14 candidates, with some candidates the subject of multiple objections. On March 21, the Commission gave notice of its decisions to the affected candidates and those who had submitted tachas. The window for candidates to contest tachas was March 22 to April 2. During this time, the Commission sought information from relevant public institutions about the complaints. These institutions include the Attorney General’s Office, the courts, the Comptroller General of Accounts, and the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

The Commission accepted information on official complaints, demands, or court proceedings against candidates. This is contrary to the internal rules it adopted in January, according to which such complaints could only be considered if administrative, court, or other proceedings had already exhausted all possible appeals.

A variety of stakeholders in Guatemala submitted tachas for consideration. Those objecting to certain candidates included human rights organizations, such as the Myrna Mack Foundation; private citizens; and the Foundation Against Terrorism (FCT). The FCT, led by Ricardo Mendez-Ruiz, has led many of the efforts to oppose grave crimes trials pursued by the former and current attorneys general. It has done so through litigation against prosecutors and victim representatives and through well-funded public media campaigns. (Mendez-Ruiz’s father, Colonel Ricardo Mendez Ruiz Rohrmoser, served as interior minister under the military dictatorship of Efraín Ríos Montt.)

The Nominating Commission accepted five of the six proposed tachas against former Constitutional Court President Roberto Molina Barreto. It also found sufficient merit in three objections against former Supreme Court of Justice President Érick Álvarez in relation to alleged excessive spending of state funds while on an official trip.

Tachas against two candidates generated the most debate within the Commission. The Foundation Against Terrorism lodged a complaint against High Risk Court Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez for allegedly meeting privately with a civil party to a case before his chamber. The organization Convergence for Human Rights (Convergencia por los Derechos Humanos) charged that former narco-prosecutor Brenda Muñoz was responsible for human rights violations in the course of two cases.

Next Steps

Up until April 2, the 14 candidates with objections lodged against them could file information with the Commission to contest them. On Tuesday, April 3, the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala will conduct psychometric tests of the 30 candidates in the justice ministry building. Then from April 4-6, the Nominating Commission will publicly interview all of the candidates in the Supreme Court of Justice. Finally, the Commission will conduct its final evaluation of the candidates from April 9-11, before voting on the final six candidates from which President Jimmy Morales will select an attorney general.

The Thirty Remaining Candidates

  1. Yaquelin Alejandra Azmitia Poroj, Head of the office of permanent attention of the Attorney General’s Office
  2. Mayra Yojana Véliz López, General Secretary of the Attorney General’s Office
  3. Ilsea Magalía Álvarez Ortiz de Espada, private lawyer, specializing in forensics and criminology
  4. Édgar Estuardo Melchor Solórzano, Head of the Criminal Investigations Office of the Attorney General’s Office
  5. Erick Alfonos Álvarez Mancilla, former President of the Supreme Court of Justice
  6. Gladys Verónica Ponce Mejicanos , former Prosecutor at the Attorney General’s Office
  7. Edgar Enrique Lemus Orellana, former Board Member of the Attorney General’s Office
  8. Claudia Lisette Escobar Mejía, former magistrate of the Appellate Court
  9. Óscar Arturo Shaad Pérez, former Head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity and Current Head of the Prosecutor’s Office for Electoral Offenses
  10. Oscar Adolfo Morales Montúfar, litigant lawyer
  11. Thelma Shayne Ochaeta Argueta, ex-lawyer for CICIG
  12. Ranulfo Rafael Rojas Cetina, former President of the Supreme Court of Justice
  13. Roberto Molina Barreto, former President of the Constitutional Court and former General Comptroller
  14. Wilber Gerardo Enríquez Jocol, litigant lawyer, previously served 12 years at the Attorney General’s Office
  15. María Consuelo Porras Argueta, Alternate Magistrate of the Constitutional Court
  16. Eliseo Rigoberto Francisco Quiñonez Villagrán, Prosecutor for Special Cases
  17. Miguel Ángel Gálvez, Judge of the High Risk Court B
  18. Marcos Antonio Turcios Ruiz, Prosecutor of the Public Minister in Amatitlán
  19. Manfredo René Velásquez Gallo, litigating lawyer
  20. Brenda Dery Muñoz Sánchez de Molina, Deputy General Director of Antinarcotics Analysis and Information of the National Police
  21. Franc Armando Martínez Ruiz, Magistrate of the Second Chamber for feminicides
  22. Rolando López Morán, laywer
  23. Roaldo Isaías Chávez Pérez, Chamber Magistrate
  24. Acisclo Valladares Molina, Guatemalan Ambassador to the United Kingdom
  25. Patricia Elizabeth Gámez Barrera, Judge of the Criminal Court of First Instance of Antigua Guatemala
  26. Walter Paulino Jimenez Texaj: Peace judge and president of the criminal court
  27. Fausto Corado Morán: former magistrate of the Second Chamber of the Court of Appeals of the Criminal, Narcoactivity and Crimes against the Environment
  28. Heidi Tamara: Former Prosecutor of the Administrative Court
  29. Mynor Alberto Melgar Valenzuela: Private lawyer, specializing in criminal law and human rights.
  30. Mynor Francisco Hernández Castillo: Deputy Prosecutor, on Narcoactivity crimes in Quetzaltenango