Nominating Commission Narrows Attorney General Applicant Pool to 14, but Critics Question Methods and Results

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.

Last week the Nominating Commission eliminated 16 applicants to be Guatemala’s next attorney general, leaving 14 ahead of its expected vote on Monday, April 16, that will determine the six finalists it submits to President Jimmy Morales. Critics have called into question the Commission’s objectivity based on how it conducted interviews with the candidates, designed its “gradation table” to assess candidates, and how it applied those criteria to decide on the advancement or elimination of candidates.

Interviews

The Commission interviewed 30 candidates from April 4 through 6. The interviews were open to the public and live-streamed on the internet, making them widely accessible. However, an analysis from the Due Process of Law Foundation [PDF, in Spanish] shows that Commissioners had little time to question the candidates and that the interviews lacked a systematic approach. Each candidate sat before the Commission for only 15 minutes, with 10 minutes of this time reserved for the candidate to summarize their proposed work plan for the Attorney General’s Office, which they had previously submitted in writing. This allowed only five minutes for questions, and each candidate received from one to four questions. Not only did candidates receive different numbers of questions, but the questions posed to candidates also varied widely in subject matter.

Gradation Table

The interviews counted for 10% of each applicant’s score, according to the Commission’s “gradation table”. The table allowed a maximum of 100 possible points, with the following components:

Area Max points
Academic merit 30
Academic degrees 14
Teaching 9
Publications 2
Participation in Academic Events 1
Drafting of reports, law proposals, research 1
Awards obtained 2
Professional experience 65
Professional law practice 35
Administrative professional practice 10
Public policy 3
Public relations 2
Interview 10
Psychometric test 5
Human projection 5
Participation in human development activities 2
Participation in nonprofit associations 2
Promotion and protection of human rights 1
TOTAL 100

Without explanation, the Commission decided that only candidates with 60 or more points could pass to the next round.

Results

When the Commission applied the gradation table to the applicants last Thursday, only 14 candidates scored higher than 60 points. Some of the results raised eyebrows.

Judge Claudia Escobar, who in October 2014 helped to expose corruption in the nominating process for senior judgeships, was among those eliminated. The Commission gave her particularly low marks for professional experience, while at the same time giving higher marks to Ilse Álvarez, whose main legal cases have been in defense of pharmaceutical companies.

The candidate with the highest score (75) was Judge Marie Consuelo Porras, a substitute judge for the Constitutional Court. Judge Porras is reported to be supported by those who oppose the work of the of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), although she herself has not publicly opposed CICIG.*

*This article was amended to reflect that Judge Porras is only supported by those who oppose CICIG. She has not stated that she is opposed to the work of CICIG.

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