Guatemala Congress due to swear in judge linked to graft case


GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Guatemala’s Congress on Monday will swear in a judge linked to a judicial corruption probe to serve on the country’s top court, a few days ahead of a visit by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, whose government has urged the country to fight graft.

Incoming Constitutional Court justice Nester Vasquez is due to take the oath of office after an autonomous anti-corruption prosecutor alleged in February that his prior appointment to a lower court was tainted by illicit influence-peddling.

Vasquez has not replied to replied requests for comment on allegations made by Guatemala’s Special Prosecutor Against Impunity that his 2014 election to the Supreme Court of Justice was the result of illegal lobbying of officials and lawmakers.

Vasquez was to have been sworn in April 14, but was prevented from doing so by a case brought by a civil society lawyer.

Each of the court’s five justices must have a substitute, which in the case of Vasquez will be Claudia Paniagua, a lawyer who has successfully defended officials accused of corruption. Paniagua is also due to be sworn in later on Monday.

Last month Congress refused to appoint as head of the court Gloria Porras, a judge backed by the United States who is famous for battling corruption. Congress argued there were outstanding legal challenges against Porras, and her case is still pending.

Washington has urged a group of Central American countries, including Guatemala, which are the point of departure for many undocumented migrants to the United States, to root out corruption in return for aid to try to stem the flow of people.

Harris is due to visit Guatemala next week.

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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