Sunday, January 23, 2011
Portillo Trial Begins
CICIG and the US and French governments have provided some evidence against Portillo, including information on how money was transferred abroad in bank accounts registered to different family members. The trial was originally scheduled to begin in September, but defense lawyers have thrown up legal roadblocks along the way.
The trial is scheduled to last one month, but even Friday's opening got off to a rocky start. It was delayed a few hours while defense lawyers protested the presence of several CICIG bodyguards. They claimed that Portillo and his lawyers were intimidated by their presence. Prosecutors, on the other hand, were arguing that Arevalo and Maza should not have been been released and put under house arrest. They were flight risks as evidence by their previous flight from justice. They were also concerned that several of the fourteen witnesses have already been threatened. (BBC, Siglo XXI, El Periodico).
Portillo will be the first former president to stand trial in Guatemala, so it is an important test of the CICIG-improved justice system. Hopefully, the trial will not prove as much of an embarrassment as the recent acquittal in Mexico of a man who bragged about killing his girlfriend.
Whatever the outcome, Portillo will probably have to stand trial in the US and/or France at some point as well.