HomeNewsBriefMagistrate’s Arrest Signals Battle for Guatemala’s Judiciary
BRIEF

Magistrate’s Arrest Signals Battle for Guatemala’s Judiciary

ELITES AND CRIME / 9 FEB 2017 BY TRISTAN CLAVEL EN

The arrest of an influential Supreme Court magistrate from the country's elite indicates that the struggle for control over Guatemala's courts rages on, as an internationally-backed anti-impunity body moves against arguably the strongest remaining pillar of Guatemala's mafia state, the judiciary.

Supreme Court Magistrate Blanca Aída Stalling Dávila was arrested by Guatemalan authorities on February 8 after having lost her immunity by parliamentary vote, announced the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) in two separate press releases.

Revelations that Stalling had pressured the judge handling her son's case surfaced in January 2017 in the form of audio recordings. The judge fled the country and the recordings prompted the Attorney General's Office and the CICIG to launch an investigation.

The arrest promises to further shake the Supreme Court, which has been unsuccessful in electing a president after ten voting rounds, according to Prensa Libre.

The court has been the scene of intense power struggles between rival interest groups that have brought the body to a deadlock. In the latest development, the October 2016 election of Silvia Patricia Valdés Quezada as president was deemed irregular by the Constitutional Court and suspended in January 2017.

InSight Crime Analysis

Stalling's case is emblematic of how Guatemala's powerful elites exploit their office and create influential networks for personal gain. The judiciary -- via its ability to entertain widespread impunity -- is at the heart of this system that the CICIG and the Attorney General's Office are attempting to bring down. And amid this power struggle, the Supreme Court appears to be a central battlefield for rival interest groups.

As Plaza Pública reported, Stalling and her close entourage have been involved in various corruption scandals. The magistrate's name has previously surfaced in recordings concerning the "Law Firm of Impunity" scheme, in which lawyers colluded with corrupt judiciary officials to obtain illegal favors for their clients.

Moreover, Stalling appears to be part of an influential network composed of various powerful military and government figures, including the toppled former President Otto Pérez Molina who is currently under arrest. In August 2015, Stalling had blocked the Supreme Court's vote on lifting Molina's presidential immunity.

As InSight Crime reported, this influential network of elites called the "oficialista" has been attempting to control the Supreme Court since its creation. These efforts have not ceased, as the recently suspended Supreme Court President Valdés Quezada is herself an "oficialista," according to Prensa Libre.

SEE ALSO: Backroom Justice - The War for Guatemala's Courts

In addition to being a central arena for rival interest groups, the Supreme Court -- and, more generally, Guatemala's judiciary as a whole -- now appears to be a prime target for the CICIG and the Attorney General's Office.

The latter two entities have successfully confronted corruption in various powerful institutions, including the Interior Ministry, the Social Security Institute and even the presidential palace. But these efforts will be trivial and their legacy short-lived as long as Guatemala's judiciary remains but a tool for elites to enjoy impunity, allowing them to illegally assert or maintain their control over the state and the country's economy.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BARRIO 18 / 30 APR 2020

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele has lashed out after several days of bloodshed amid a coronavirus lockdown, blaming the spike…

EL SALVADOR / 30 NOV 2015

El Salvador's Supreme Court has charged the former director of the country's social security institute with illicit enrichment, highlighting the…

COCAINE / 10 MAY 2022

Former Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández pleaded not guilty to US drug charges on the same day that a notorious…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…