This piece is adapted from AQ’s latest issue on Latin America’s anti-corruption movement
Then: Guatemala’s attorney general
Now: In virtual exile in El Salvador/USA
Thelma Aldana left her post as attorney general in 2018 as the most popular public figure in Guatemala, according to polling, after overseeing the 2015 prosecution and arrest of then-president Otto Pérez Molina. But many believe that her continued investigations into Guatemala’s elite, including President Jimmy Morales and members of his family, earned her too many powerful enemies. Aldana was disqualified for running for the presidency in 2019 after the Constitutional Court ruled she lacked proper certification. Other courts have brought charges of embezzlement and tax fraud, which Aldana says are also politically motivated — and have led her to avoid Guatemala in recent months.
Then: Lava Jato federal judge
Now: Brazil’s justice minister
For many Brazilians, the 2017 sentencing of powerful former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva cemented Moro’s popularity and reputation as a corruption fighter. In late 2018 he surprised virtually everyone by accepting a nomination to lead the justice ministry, with expanded responsibilities including reducing violent crime, under President Jair Bolsonaro. Critics said this proved Lava Jato was a political operation all along; Moro has strongly denied this. The recent leak of text messages between Moro and Lava Jato prosecutors fueled even more allegations of bias. Afterward, one poll showed Moro’s approval ratings dropped 10 points to 50%, though this still made him Brazil’s most popular political figure.
Then: Head of UN body CICIG
Now: Banned from Guatemala
As head of the UN’s investigative commission in Guatemala, CICIG, the Colombian-born prosecutor collaborated closely with Aldana on many high-profile investigations and arrests. But President Morales stripped CICIG of its mandate and expelled them from Guatemala in January, arguing the commission’s actions posed a risk to national sovereignty. Velásquez is now barred from re-entering Guatemala and deemed a “threat to public security” by state authorities. Velásquez remains outspoken against corruption and an active commissioner in exile, teleconferencing into meetings and public speeches.