The commission tasked with vetting candidates for Guatemala's next attorney general has selected the list of names it will submit to the president for nomination. Claudia Paz y Paz, the country's highly-praised top prosecutor, isn't on it.
Yesterday afternoon the nominating commission finished issuing scores to applicants based on a rubric that took into account their professionalism, experience and academic qualifications. Prior to the vote, supporters of Paz y Paz took solace in the fact that the current attorney general had received the second highest score, 69 out of 100. She had also been endorsed by the committee for her "honorability," along with other top candidates.
El Periodico reports that the motion to finalize the six-name list to send to President Otto Perez was a surprise, as the commission was not scheduled to begin voting yesterday. But even more surprising was the fact that, when the vote was complete, Paz y Paz was not among the applicants selected. She was backed by only four of 13 voting commission members.
This is despite her high score, and the fact that both the candidates above her (Judge Thelma Aldana) and below her (Judge Maria Consuelo Porras) made the cut. The list also ignores a petition compiled by a human rights coalition, signed by nearly 7,000 individuals calling for Paz y Paz's name to be included. Citing a contested law, the petition's organizers claim that a candidate must be included on the nomination list if they are supported by 5,000 people. Her exclusion also clashes with the findings of a report published this week by the Center of Justice Studies in the Americas (CEJA), which credited Paz y Paz with drastically improving the country’s justice system.
Civil society has been quick to react to the vote. El Periodico has a collection of reactions from various human rights advocates in the country, each of whom voiced degrees of discomfort with the news. Diego Alvarez, spokesman for the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), expressed surprise at the list’s makeup. “We do not understand the evaluation system,” Alvarez told EFE. “Civil society has been observing this election for two months, and in the end we do not understand if the scores are used or not.”
The exclusion of Paz y Paz is sure to fuel speculation that the nomination process was rigged against her from the start. And remarks from its president, Supreme Court Judge Jose Arturo Sierra, have done little to alleviate these concerns. When asked by Siglo21 whether there may have been an “arrangement” against Paz y Paz, the judge (who voted for her) responded vaguely: “It is possible. In these matters there is a bit of everything, we can’t prove or disprove it.”
Now that the current attorney general is out of the running, the question for champions of judicial reform in Guatemala becomes whether any of the six candidates can fill her shoes. Prensa Libre has a quick overview of the backgrounds of each, as well as a record of which commission members voted for them. News site Plaza Publica offers a more complete summary of each of their professional careers, as well as a complete list of the total 26 candidates, ranked by their scores.
The commission will submit the list to the president’s office today. El Periodico notes that it will be received by Vice President Roxana Baldetti, because Perez Molina is currently in Mexico on an official visit.
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