Guatemalans protest interference by courts and prosecutors in the second round of elections in August

Hundreds of Guatemalans demonstrated on Monday to protest the interference of courts and prosecutors against the participation of a progressive candidate in the second round of the presidential elections in August.

Government actions against Bernardo Arévalo have included the suspension of his Movimiento Semilla party and the raid on the offices of the country’s electoral tribunal after it certified the results of the first-round election that put Arévalo in the August 20 runoff against former conservative first lady Sandra Torres.

Under Guatemalan law, the authorities cannot suspend a political party during an electoral campaign. US officials have called the actions a threat to Guatemalan democracy.

On Monday, civic groups marched in Guatemala City with banners demanding free elections and an end to harassment. Protester Sergio Morataya said that President Alejandro Giammattei and the attorney general were “interfering in the electoral process.”

Last week, agents and police raided the offices of the Arévalo Seed Movement party as part of an investigation into alleged irregularities in the party’s formation.

Arévalo denounced the raid as illegal and said that “it is part of the political persecution that the corrupt minority that knows that it is losing power day by day is doing to try to intimidate us, to try to derail the electoral process.”

The raid followed allegations by Guatemalan electoral authorities that various state actors were trying to interfere with the presidential election.

Guatemala’s political system has been in disarray since Arévalo came a surprising second place among 22 candidates in the initial round of voting on June 25 to replace Giammattei, who failed to seek re-election. Torres finished first, and it was widely expected that the other runoff spot would also go to a conservative.

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Certification of last month’s results was delayed by two weeks and the attorney general’s office announced an investigation into how Arévalo’s party gathered the necessary signatures several years earlier to form. Prosecutors initially obtained a suspension of the party’s legal status by a judge, but the Constitutional Court granted a preliminary injunction blocking that.

As part of that investigation, agents raided the Supreme Electoral Tribunal for the second time last week. That led the court to seek an injunction from the Constitutional Court on Friday to protect the electoral process.

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