Saturday 19 June 2021

Guatemala Judge Flees Country Fearing Own Judiciary Colleague

Magistrate Blanca Stalling

(Q24N via Insightcrime.org) A Supreme Court magistrate in Guatemala has allegedly pressured a judge handling her son’s case, leading the latter official to leave the country in an affair symbolic of Guatemala’s ongoing struggle against corruption and elite interference with anti-corruption efforts.

Judge Carlos Giovanni Ruano Pineda left Guatemala on January 12 after reportedly being pressured by a Supreme Court magistrate named Blanca Aída Stalling Dávila, Prensa Libre reported. Ruano was handling the corruption case against Stalling’s son.

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According to the news outlet, the judge posted a picture of the airport on his Facebook page, commenting that “difficult decisions always involve risks.” Ruano reportedly told a colleague he was leaving the country after being “pressured.”

On January 11, the media outlet Guatevisión released an audio tape reportedly recorded by Ruano in the magistrate’s office, during which Stalling can be heard asking that her son be given alternative sentencing. Ruano had filed an official complaint against the magistrate the day before, on January 10, with a special anti-impunity prosecutor.

Stalling denied any wrongdoing on January 11, stating that she had indeed met with Ruano but that she had not asked any favors for her son, reported El Periódico.

The same day, the Attorney General’s Office and the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG) publicly announced the launch of preliminary proceedings against Stalling for influence peddling. And on January 13, a government body composed of judges from Guatemala’s judiciary called for Stalling’s resignation.

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The magistrate’s son, Otto Fernando Molina Stalling, is accused by the Attorney General’s Office and the CICIG of criminal association, influence peddling and having receiving bribes. His case has been linked to a larger corruption scandal that engulfed the country’s social security institution in 2015.

The accusations surrounding Blanca Stalling are symptomatic of the corruption that has plagued Guatemala’s judiciary, and this latest case shows the extent to which the country’s elite attempt to interfere in the justice system.

A significant number of the magistrate’s family members — including her brother, her-sister-in-law and her two sons — have been implicated in various corruption scandals that have rocked Guatemala recently, from the customs corruption ring known as “La Linea” that led to the downfall of President Otto Pérez Molina, to bribery in the judiciary and the previously mentioned social security corruption scandal.

Amid recent allegations that the 2014 selection process of the Supreme Court magistrates had been rigged, Blanca Stalling’s reported interference in her son’s case is also symbolic of recurrent and potent interference with the justice system by the country’s elite.

Article originally appeared on Insightcrime.org, and is republished here with permission.

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