Guatemalan president-elect cries foul over lawfare ‘coup’

Lazy eyes listen


The growing political and judicial opposition to Guatemalan President-elect Bernardo Arevalo and his Movimento Semilla (Seed Movement) party amounts to “illegal political persecution,” said Arevalo, who ran on an anti-corruption platform.

“We are witnessing a coup d’etat in which the justice apparatus is being used to violate justice,” he stated at a news conference, adding that “these political mafias will try to consummate the coup d’etat” in the four months leading up to January’s inauguration.

Arevalo criticized “acts of illegal political persecution by those who refuse to accept the demand of the Guatemalan people for change and to accept Semilla’s status as a party,” citing his political opponent’s refusal to concede and a court decision earlier this week suspending Semilla’s status as a party.

The center-left lawmaker specifically labeled as enemies of democracy Attorney General Consuelo Porras, Special Prosecutor for Corruption Rafael Curruchiche, and the judge who ordered Semilla’s suspension.

Arevalo received 58% of the vote in a run-off election last month against former initial Lady Sandra Torres and her National Unity of Hope (UNE) party, after Semilla finished second in the initial round of voting. While Guatemala’s election tribunal upheld his victory, UNE and its supporters claimed the vote was stolen.

In July, a coalition of UNE and eight other parties requested and received a review of the first-round results, questioning whether Arevalo, a sociologist and the son of a previous president, earned his second-place finish honestly.

While it is illegal in Guatemala to suspend a political party during an election, efforts to deplatform Semilla began more than a month before the runoff after a person claimed that the party had falsely exploited his signature to establish itself. Curruchiche launched an investigation, claiming to have discovered more than 5,000 illegal signatures, including 12 dead people, and terminated Semilla’s party status on Monday.

Semilla’s seven elected lawmakers were demoted to “independent” status, preventing them from holding leadership posts in Congress. On Wednesday, the legislature formally supported Curruchiche’s decision. Semilla has committed to appeal the ruling.

After discovering last month that “the mechanisms and tools of Guatemalan justice are being used politically” against Arevalo and Semilla, the Organization of American States encouraged the courts to proceed with caution. According to OAS official Eladio Loizaga, removing Arevalo from the presidency would be a violation of constitutional order and the will of the people.

On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed alarm over “continued actions by those who seek to undermine Guatemala’s democracy.” Despite his campaign-trail pledge for greater ties with China, the Biden administration has acknowledged Arevalo’s victory.