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Guatemala president-elect, Bernardo Arévalo faces headwinds

InternationalGuatemala president-elect, Bernardo Arévalo faces headwinds

Photo: Bernardo Arévalo, President-elect, Guatemala

The leader of the Seed Movement said yesterday that political persecution by public justice institutions amounts to a coup d’état.

by Marco Lopez

BELMOPAN, Thurs. Sept. 7, 2023

Recent Guatemalan presidential candidate Sandra Torres and the National Unity of Hope Party (UNE) continue to deny the results of the second round of the 2023 Guatemala elections, according to reports from Guatemala’s Prensa Libre. The Seed Movement, led by Bernardo Arévalo, emerged victorious after defeating Torres and the UNE at the polls on August 20, 2023. According to the official tally from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of Guatemala (TSE), Arévalo received 58.1% of the votes, while Torres received 37.24%. The victory of Arévalo is seen as a shift from the rule of the old guard of government in the Latin American country, to a new chapter, headed by a center-left party that the population hopes will bring change.

But the transition of power is not without headwinds. Arévalo and the Seed Movement Party were temporarily suspended by the Guatemala Congress. The bloc’s status as a political party hung in the balance following an order from the seventh criminal judge, Freddy Orellana, at the request of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity. The suspension triggered international reactions due to its possible effects on the democratic process in that country.

The TSE, however, halted the resolution until after the electoral period ends on October 31. During a meeting today with prosecutors from the political parties and magistrates from the TSE, the UNE party requested that the electoral period end before October 31 as planned.

This week, Arévalo and Karin Herrera received the president and vice-president-elect credentials officially but said that the “persecutions” by the Public Ministry continue. That ministry, which heads public prosecutions, is now accused of being behind a plan to carry out a “coup d’état” against the Seed Movement.

“We had a really very substantive meeting around the concerns that we have about the political persecution that is carried out by the justice institutions against our party and against our candidacy,” Arévalo said in his meeting with Organization of American States Secretary General, Luis Almagro.

During that meeting which was held between the OAS delegation and the Seed Movement, Arévalo pressed the OAS commission to accompany the transition of power until January 2024.

During a press conference on Wednesday, he denounced the attacks from the Public Ministry as “illegal and illegitimate,” and as an attempt to prevent him from assuming his mandate as the head of the next government, according to Prensa Libre.

He interprets the actions as “alterations of the constitutional order,” and an “intentional coup d’état.”

The Guatemalan attorney general, Consuelo Porras, on September 5 also released a statement denying the Public Ministry’s involvement in any plot and calling the comments from the Seed Movement Party leader “part of a smear campaign.”

The UNE also had meetings with the OAS during which they doubled down on their claims of election fraud committed by the Seed Movement. They shared that they have presented evidence to the Public Ministry.

“We reiterate our rejection of the electoral results and we ask the Public Ministry and the justice system to comply with the people of Guatemala by clarifying the facts denounced so that the right to freely and transparently elect authorities is never taken away from Guatemala,” a press release from the UNE stated this week.

A first meeting of the transition of command from the government of President Alejandro Giammattei to the Seed Movement and Arévalo took place earlier this week. The closed-door meeting was supervised by OAS Sec. Gen. Luis Almagro. The two agreed on the priorities of the transition process during the meeting, according to Prensa Libre.

Groups in Guatemala are denouncing what they call a “legal war” being waged against president-elect Arévalo and an attempt to sabotage the transition of power.

For now, Arévalo’s slow transition to power in Guatemala continues, due to the efforts of the TSE.

“I received this credential due to the TSE that has fulfilled its duties, but also to magistrates that have been a central element in the process of defending democracy,” Arévalo said.

He added, however, that “we know that this is not over because the attempts to put pressure on and assault this authority will probably continue in the future.”

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