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Veteran Judge Sworn in as Guatemala’s New Vice President

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Guatemalan protesters have doubts about new Vice President Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre.

Judge Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre was sworn in as Guatemala’s new vice president on May 15 after his predecessor, Roxana Baldetti, was forced to step down in the wake of a major corruption scandal.

Maldonado Aguirre was not originally included in the shortlist of candidates that President Otto Pérez Molina sent to Congress. The original list included police reform commissioner Adela Camacho de Torrebiarte, Minister of Labor Carlos Contreras and Adrian Zapata, executive secretary of the Cabinet for Rural Development. But due to a constitutional impediment, Contreras was replaced by PP Congressman Oliverio García Rodas.

However, if Congressman García Rodas left his seat in Congress, he would have been replaced by former Vice President Roxana Baldetti’s personal assistant, Daniela Beltranena, which would have exacerbated the widespread discontent with the current administration. This forced Pérez Molina to remove García Rodas from the shortlist and replace him with Maldonado Aguirre.

In the final vote count, 115 members of Congress voted for Maldonado Aguirre, 14 voted against him and 29 were reported absent.

Maldonado Aguirre, 79, is a right-wing lawyer and politician. During the 1970s, he was a member of the now extinct Movimiento de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Movement—MLN), a far-right party.

In 1974, he served as minister of education under the de facto rule of General Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio. He later served as Guatemala's ambassador to the UN and to Mexico, and in 1982, he ran for president as the candidate for the alliance between the Partido Nacional Renovador (National Renovation Party—PNR) and the Christian Democrat party, both of which are now extinct.

Maldonado Aguirre has served as Constitutional Court (CC) magistrate on three separate occasions, under the administrations of Vinicio Cerezo, Álvaro Arzú and Otto Pérez Molina.

Under the Arzú administration, he was accused of using his position to delay a legal resolution that would have allowed the investigation into the murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi to move forward.

More recently, in 2013, he was one of the CC magistrates who controversially voted in favor of annulling former dictator Efraín Rios Montt's genocide conviction.

Guatemala’s influential private sector lobby, the Comité Coordinador de Asociaciones Agrícolas, Comerciales, Industriales y Financieras (Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial, and Financial Associations—CACIF) has welcomed Maldonado Aguirre’s appointment.

U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Todd Robinson and U.K. Minister for Latin America Hugo Swire have also expressed their approval of the final choice made by the Guatemalan Congress. 

However, none of the candidates on the shortlist submitted to Congress, including Maldonado Aguirre, enjoyed the support of the #RenunciaYa (Resign Now) citizen movement organized on social media that has demanded Pérez Molina’s resignation.

While the votes were counted in Congress, protestors gathered outside with placards that read: “We reject the candidates proposed. No more corruption!”

Protesters argue that anyone willing to be part of an administration tarnished by corruption scandals is inevitably tainted by association. Human rights and pro-justice groups are also strongly suspicious of Maldonado Aguirre’s right-wing credentials and of the fact that he voted in favor of annulling Ríos Montt’s genocide conviction.  

The day after Maldonado Aguirre was sworn in, Guatemalans took to the streets in a peaceful march named #RenunciaYaFase2 (Resign Now, Phase 2). In an unprecedented show of unity, middle class and upper class students from the country’s top three private universities joined students from the state-funded University of San Carlos under the slogan “Indifferent and silent never again.”

Local pop groups such as Bohemia Suburbana also joined the protest. Even the heavy rain that fell halfway through the protest did not dampen protestors’ spirits.

Guatemalans living in Panama, Mexico, Spain, and the U.S. also gathered outside the Guatemalan embassies in their respective countries in a show of support for the growing #RenunciaYa movement.

*Louisa Reynolds is an independent journalist based in Guatemala. Her work has been published in a wide range of local and international publications. She is the 2014-2015 International Women's Media Foundation Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow. Follow her on Twitter: @ReynoldsLouisa.

Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: Guatemala, Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre, Otto Perez Molina

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