GUATEMALA CITY -- Guatemala named a new anti-corruption prosecutor Tuesday, two weeks after the previous one was fired and fled the country, citing fears for his safety.
Attorney General Consuelo Porras named Rafael Curruchiche as the new prosecutor. Curruchiche is considered to be one of Porras' inner circle and has himself been questioned for allegedly protecting businessmen accused of illegal campaign contributions from prosecution.
His appointment seemed unlikely to quell international criticism or calm street protests against corruption following the departure of former anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval.
Edie Cux of the transparency group Citizen Action said Curruchiche was the wrong person for the job.
“He is someone who does not have the knowledge or ability” to run the country's top anti-corruption office, Cux said. “Moreover, he has a history of not being an independent prosecutor.”
The firing of Sandoval in July lead the United States to say it had lost confidence in Guatemala’s commitment to battling corruption. The U.S. government temporarily suspended cooperation with Porras’ office.
Thousands of Guatemalans took to the streets in protest Thursday, blocking highways and calling for a national strike over the government’s apparent unwillingness to tackle corruption.
President Alejandro Giammattei has previously spoken of his friendship with Porras, who was appointed by his predecessor, President Jimmy Morales.
Sandoval said after his firing that as his investigations got closer to Giammattei and members of his Cabinet, Porras made efforts to block him. Porras said she fired him because his investigations were ideologically biased.
Sandoval’s office was a critical remaining piece of Guatemala’s anti-corruption efforts. In 2019, the Morales forced out the United Nations’ anti-corruption mission, which had worked closely with Sandoval’s office to dismantle graft networks.
On Thursday, Giammattei expressed his concern that the suspension in U.S. cooperation would be “counterproductive” because it would affect the countries’ common goals of fighting organized crime and corruption. He said he had asked the finance minister to look for budget support and called on “friendly countries” to help keep efforts from being diminished.
Eleven opposition lawmakers sent a letter to Porras asking her to resign over Sandoval’s firing. “You are no longer independent nor ideal to continue in the position,” the letter said.