In our April 5 Facebook Live session, Project Manager Héctor Silva Ávalos and Spanish Editor Ronna Rísquez discussed InSight Crime’s latest investigation into Guatemala’s complicated process for selecting a new attorney general.
This year, the Central American nation will choose a new top prosecutor, in part by means of a postulation commission made up of 12 university law school deans. While this academic filter may seem like the perfect method of choosing the best candidates for the position, InSight Crime’s investigation, "University Deans and Guatemala’s Convoluted Road to a New Attorney General," shows that deliberation and transparency does not prevail at some of these universities.
While conducting fieldwork in Guatemala, the InSight Crime team, including Silva and Head of Research Felipe Puerta, found that a number of institutions represented in the postulation commission were actually “shell" universities that seem to be aimed not at achieving academic excellence, but other objectives, particularly securing votes on the postulation commission to influence the selection of the attorney general.
Ties to corrupt elites loom over these universities and could affect which names are added to the six-candidate list the commission will send to President Jimmy Morales, from which the president will make the final decision on who will serve as the country's top prosecutor.
In the first half of the conversation, Silva described what the investigative team found after visiting several shell universities. They discovered some of the universities did not have actual campuses, and some of their offices were housed in small stores in local malls. Others barely had enough students or professors to function.
The second part of the discussion explored the different connections between Guatemalan elites investigated by the Attorney General's Office and university founders and administrators. The targets of the Attorney General's Office investigations have included President Morales; former president and current mayor Álvaro Arzú; and the so-called “Tennis Shoe King,” attorney and businessman Sergio Roberto López Villatoro. The Attorney General's Office recently arrested López Villatoro on charges of corruption for his alleged role in influencing supreme and high court judge selections.