Guatemala's attorney general said she was under attack from "hidden powers" and feared for her safety for the first time in two years, as her office presses forward with corruption cases implicating members of the country's political and economic elite.
"After two years as attorney general I have always said that I was not afraid," Attorney General Thelma Aldana said June 20 on her Facebook page. "Today, for the first time, I can not give that assurance, but I have entrusted myself to God."
The message comes amid reports in some news outlets alleging Aldana improperly stopped an investigation into customs fraud in 2014 at the request of Roxana Baldetti, the former vice president now in jail alongside former President Otto Pérez Molina as they await trial in several other corruption cases. The allegations against Aldana are derived from testimony given by Baldetti's former private secretary, Juan Carlos Monzón, a key figure in the corruption scandals that brought down Pérez Molina's administration.
Those corruptions cases, as well as other emblematic cases involving human rights violations, have been possible due to the support of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG). The United Nations-backed commission has been operating in the country since 2007.
Aldana acknowledged the accusations against her in a June 19 statement, saying she had met with Monzón in the course of normal duties and that the referenced customs fraud investigation was never shelved. She said the investigation was advanced, and the results of it would soon be made public.
The attorney general said the accusations were an attempt to discredit her by "the hidden powers that proliferate in the country" and attributed them to her work with CICIG to unveil high-level corruption in Guatemala.
InSight Crime Analysis
Attorney General Aldana finds herself at the center of controversy at a time when her office is pursing sensitive investigations related to alleged campaign finance irregularities during Pérez Molina's successful run for the presidency. In addition to political operators, the "Cooptación del Estado" (Cooptation of the State) case has resulted in illegal electoral financing charges against 15 influential Guatemalans.
SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profile
Pressure from Guatemalan political and economic elites have taken a toll on anti-impunity crusaders before. CICIG's first commissioner, the Spanish prosecutor Carlos Castresana, had been the target of personal attacks before he resigned in June 2010. Castresana said he quit due to a lack of cooperation from the Guatemalan government.
In 2013, CICIG commissioner Francisco Dall'Anese quit as the commission came under intense pressure from many sides, including the Guatemalan government and, according to the Open Society Foundations, business elites who hired Washington consultants to lobby against the CICIG.
A source close to CICIG told InSight Crime it was unclear if the pressure would get to Aldana, but added that he was confident current CICIG Commissioner Ivan Velásquez, a Colombian judge, would not succumb. "Aldana might be vulnerable," the source said, but "Velásquez is much tougher" than Castresana or Dall'Anese. "They won't get to Ivan."
That the attorney general is the center of controversy is an indication that CICIG and its local counterparts are once again touching a nerve among powerful elites that traditionally have run the country to their own benefit.