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Guatemala electoral authorities suspend president-elect Bernardo Arévalo’s Seed Movement

Social and Indigenous organizations have announced that they will continue to protest efforts to undermine the results of the August 20 general election

Bernardo Arévalo with his appeal for protection before the Public Ministry, on September 18 in Guatemala City.
Bernardo Arévalo with his appeal for protection before the Public Ministry, on September 18 in Guatemala City.Luis Vargas (Getty Images)

The Guatemalan justice system on Thursday suspended the party of president-elect Bernardo Arévalo, the Movimiento Semilla (Seed Movement). The Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) responded to a request from criminal judge Fredy Orellana, who is investigating alleged “anomalies in the creation” of the political group five years ago. The suspension was made possible after the TSE ended the electoral period on October 31: in this period, it was not possible to take any legal action was against the Seed Movement, which won the general elections on August 20.

On July 12, the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) ordered the suspension of the Seed Movement, in yet another effort to derail the political party that achieved a surprise win in the first round of the presidential election and won the runoff with its candidate Arévalo. That same day, the Prosecutor’s Office seized the boxes containing the results of the elections. Fearing judicial persecution against the Seed Movement and the integrity of the electoral results, the Indigenous group 48 Cantons of Totonicapán, the Alliance for Reforms, the National Convergence of Resistance and some political parties, among other civil society actors, asked the TSE to extend the election period until January 15. Their calls, however, fell on deaf ears.

The order to suspend the Seed Movement was made official by the electoral body in charge of regulating Guatemala’s political groups, known as the Citizen Registry. The Citizen Registry, however, said that the suspension “cannot reverse the results” of the election, which were won by Arévalo, nor can it annul the 23 seats the Seed Movement won in Congress.

Protesters greet Arévalo during the commemoration of the October Revolution of 1944.
Protesters greet Arévalo during the commemoration of the October Revolution of 1944.Santiago Billy (AP)

Arévalo calls suspension a coup attempt

The Seed Movement spokesperson said that they have not yet been notified about the suspension of their party. However, President-elect Arévalo accused Attorney General Consuelo Porras and Judge Orellana of attempting a “coup d’état” to prevent him from taking office on January 14.

“We are calling on the Public Ministry and the Judicial Branch to cease all action to circumvent the voice of the people freely expressed at the polls,” Arévalo declared during a press conference in Guatemala City. “The results are final and unalterable [...] However, Guatemalans have to be ready to defend the results against the legal and spurious assault by the Public Ministry, if it continues to occur.”

The legal actions of Porras and Orellana have triggered mass protests and road blockades, with demonstrators demanding their resignation and a clean-up of the justice system. Indigenous movements have been leading the popular mobilizations and the national strike. On Wednesday, Indigenous leaders said that they will continue to “resist” the Prosecutor’s Office.

The organizations announced that they will hold several marches on November 3 and 4 in the center of Guatemala City, while maintaining the sit-in that they have been carrying out since October 2 in front of the Prosecutor’s Office. “This is a fight in favor of democracy, for the good of the people of Guatemala, in the hope that our decision to elect our public officials will be respected,” said Luis Pacheco, president of the 48 Cantons of Totonicapán. “We are continuing our peaceful resistance, and we are not here to do anything other than defend democracy.”

Pacheco said that, in addition to various Indigenous communities, they are also supported by “different sectors” such as “markets in Guatemala City and civil society.”

US strips visas

In addition to the protests in Guatemala, the United States government announced it is pulling the U.S. visas of 14 people, and their immediate family members, for “undermining democracy and the rule of law” in Guatemala. The State Department did not specify the names of those affected, but diplomatic sources told EL PAÍS that the list includes several officials from the Public Ministry.

Bernardo Arévalo with Brian A. Nichols, an official from the U.S. Department of State, on October 24 in Guatemala City.
Bernardo Arévalo with Brian A. Nichols, an official from the U.S. Department of State, on October 24 in Guatemala City.U.S. EMBASSY GUATEMALA (via REUTERS)

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller emphasized that the United States “rejects the continued efforts to undermine Guatemala’s peaceful transition of power to President-elect Arévalo.” The Washington official pointed out that Guatemala’s Public Ministry seized electoral material under the custody of the TSE and called for the forced removal of peaceful protesters, among other actions.

“Such anti-democratic behavior undermines Guatemala’s democratic institutions and is inconsistent with the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” he added.

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