Jordán Rodas: “The big businessmen think they are the owners of the farm, they have done a lot of damage to Guatemala” | International


Jordán Rodas’s office looks almost empty. The Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman, one of the most uncomfortable voices in the government of President Alejandro Giammattei, is preparing the move after a five-year term in which he has not stopped denouncing abuses of power. On the 20th he leaves office and with him go his paintings, the colorful rugs embroidered by indigenous hands, the gifts of gratitude from the communities of this country ravaged by violence and also the ‘memes’, because Rhodes has been the object of a brutal smear campaign on social networks. He has taken it in stride and printed some of those critical messages and posted them in his office. Taking it with humor may sound strange in this beautiful and violent nation, where the future of judges, prosecutors, lawyers and even journalists who are critical of the system, many of them sentenced to exile, are dictated from social networks controlled by powerful economic groups. From these profiles and in a suspicious way, future investigations against critics, convictions or arrest warrants are disclosed in advance, before the justice system makes them public. Rodas knows that his departure is a respite for Giammattei, a president who seemed destined for oblivion, but in whose mandate, says the attorney, there has been a strong setback in terms of human rights, the fight against impunity and corruption. Rodas’s criticisms are not limited to the president, his accusing finger points directly to the big businessmen of this country, the enormous fortunes grouped in the CACIF, a kind of capitalist lodge that pulls the strings of power in Guatemala. “They think they are the owners of the farm, they have done a lot of damage to this country,” says the attorney.

His last days at the head of the Attorney General’s Office have been intense. He had to accompany the now former anti-corruption prosecutor, Juan Francisco Sandoval, on his journey of exile, which Rodas narrates as if it were a suspense movie: with the help of the Swedish ambassador – today frowned upon by the Government – they set up the entire exit , which included transferring Sandoval in a diplomatic car, coordinating his arrival with his counterparts from El Salvador and the Salvadoran government, touring the country in fear of being arrested until the official, now exiled in Washington, was brought to safety, together with another twelve of judges and prosecutors who had fully committed themselves to the fight against corruption in Guatemala, where rot has filled all instances of the State. Rodas mentions one of the most controversial figures in this administration, Attorney General Consuelo Porras, whom exiled prosecutors accuse of unleashing a manhunt against her under the protection of President Giammattei. “I asked prosecutor Consuelo Porras to resign,” says Rodas. “She has her agenda and she can be independent and she would expect her to act that way at the time, because a country where there is no independent justice is at the mercy of authoritarianism. But today the judges are being criminalized by personnel from the Public Ministry itself, which I deeply regret”, says the prosecutor.

Augusto Jordán Rodas, in the Congress of the Republic, in Guatemala City.Sandra Sebastian

Ask. Do you think we are facing revenge against those who were involved in the fight against corruption, against those who worked with the CICIG [el experimento anticorrupción de la ONU, expulsado del país]?

Response. Yes, without a doubt. Because if they had made some kind of mistake they could prove it and not take justice as a vendetta. This is very important.

P. From judges and prosecutors they have passed to journalists. What do you think of the arrest of José Rubén Zamora, president of the newspaper?

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R. It is strategic and perverse, with deterrent effects for the media.

P. Who is behind all this persecution?

R. It is a very well thought out offensive, which was strategically planned, with a lot of lobbying in Washington and in Brussels, where they have sold their narrative.

P. Lobbying who?

R. Here we must speak clearly, the CACIF, which has done a lot of damage to the country. Instead of ensuring an economic system that generates better living conditions, they believe they are the owners of the farm and act accordingly, as foremen, and every four years they only put puppets in power, manipulate and have given political oxygen to people like Otto Pérez Molina, Jimmy Morales and Alejandro Giammattei.

P. Who are those entrepreneurs?

R. Those who dominate industry, banking, who have accumulated fortunes in this selfish model, narrowing inequality.

P. Why are these businessmen so belligerent in supporting cases against judges who have handled corruption cases?

R. Because it has affected them. The leadership of the economic sector recognized to see illegally financed campaigns. There’s the case of [Jimmy] Morales.

P. And they were also bothered by the CICIG.

R. At first it was like an open heart operation and everything was fine, but later, when sensitive figures of political and economic power were touched, then they didn’t like it anymore and they invented the narrative of sovereignty [para acabar el mandato de la CICIG].

P. Now that you are a few days away from leaving office, how do you rate the human rights situation in Guatemala?

R. It is in a setback and in many cases stagnation. Sometimes I get the impression that we are masochists and that Guatemala is like an underground parking lot, because I honestly thought that with Jimmy Morales we had hit rock bottom, but Giammattei is just as corrupt and disrespectful to the most vulnerable sectors, as he is to the indigenous peoples.

P. How do you define this Giammattei period?

R. Very bad. So much time to prepare to be president. He did not form teams, he did not make public policies to favor those most in need. He said a slightly vulgar phrase, that he did not want to be remembered as just another son of a bitch, but I think that in the long run much of the population will think precisely that.

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