A court on Wednesday ordered the suspension of the Movimiento Semilla (Seed Movement) party, which won 12% of the vote at the first round of Guatemala’s presidential election on June 25. The decision was made by the Attorney General’s Office, which is led by special prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche, who was sanctioned by the United States for obstructing corruption investigations.
The Seed Movement is led by Bernardo Arévalo, a 64-year-old sociologist, and was founded during the 2015 protests against the Guatemala’s deteriorating democratic system. Arévalo is running for president, while Karin Herrera, a 55-year-old chemist-biologist, is the party’s candidate for vice president.
News of the party’s suspension came as the country was waiting for a scheduled news conference, in which the Supreme Electoral Tribunal confirmed the results of the June 25 vote. Although several parties had raised questions about the surprise outcome, the country’s top electoral tribunal certified the results on Wednesday. The presidential runoff will be held on August 20.
It was not immediately clear how the situation would play out now that yet another court had intervened in Guatemala’s electoral process, but electoral authorities said Arévalo would be able to face conservative Sandra Torres in the presidential runoff on August 20.
Guatemala’s electoral law prohibits the suspension of political parties between when an election is called and when it is held. With a second round of voting required because no candidate exceeded 50% of the vote, it appeared that the Seed Movement could not be suspended.
In a video statement, Rafael Curruchiche, the special prosecutor against impunity, said that Seed Movement had been suspended based on a May 2022 complaint from a citizen who reported that his signature was falsely added to the signature gathering effort of Arévalo’s party. After graphological studies, it was concluded that “the signature and handwriting were falsified,” Curruchiche said in the video, which was released while the country was waiting for the news conference. The tribunal confirmed the result minutes after the prosecutor announced that the Seed Movement’s legal status had been suspended.
Before the Attorney General’s Office announced the suspension, the leaders of the Seed Movement party held a press conference in which they repudiated any legal action that could put their candidacies or the party at risk. “The accusations have not reached the judicial authorities. The complaints have been dismissed because they are invalid, and the same thing will happen this time. Neither the party nor the candidacies of Bernardo and Karin will be affected,” said Samuel Pérez, the secretary of the movement.
The Seed Movement climbed from last place in the polls to come in second place at the first round. The result was celebrated by the party, which was formed by a group of academics who want to make far-reaching reforms in a country where more than half the population lives in poverty. Making it into the runoff put the Seed Movement in the crosshairs of a system that has been finding legal pretexts to exclude candidates who were not related to the ruling party or its allies.
Days after the first round, Arévalo told EL PAÍS that criminal prosecution “is a tool that the [establishment] hasn’t hesitated to use in the past.” He even referenced the Attorney General’s investigation into the party’s signature collection. “We know that there’s a spurious case that they’re setting up around a signature issue at the party foundation’s six years ago. They are dedicated to trying to find some kind of issue.”
The Seed Movement party learned of the problem and launched an internal investigation. Upon detecting the inconsistencies, Arévalo said the group filed a complaint with the Public Ministry over the person involved in the case. “We know that the system isn’t going to remain calm and meekly accept the arrival of a party that they hadn’t seen coming. [They’re not just going to simply] lose control of the executive branch, which is key for them to [maintain] corruption. We know that they will try everything [to stop us],” he told EL PAÍS.
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