The Guatemalan judicial system on Thursday suspended President-elect Bernardo Arevalo’s party, the Similla Movement. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) responded to a request from criminal judge Freddy Orellana, who is investigating “alleged irregularities in the creation process” of the political group, five years ago. The attack on the party of the president-elect became possible after the Supreme Court of the Stock Exchange ended the electoral period on October 31, during which no legal action could be taken against the party of the winner of the general elections held on August 20.
On July 12, the Office of the Special Anti-Impunity Prosecutor ordered the suspension of the Similla movement, in another attempt to derail the political party that surprised in the first election round and won in the second round with its candidate Bernardo Arévalo. On the same day, the Public Prosecutor’s Office confiscated the boxes containing the election results. Fearing prosecution against the Similla movement and the integrity of the electoral results, the 48 cantons of Totonicapán, the Alliance for Reforms and National Convergence of the Resistance and some political parties, among other civil society actors, asked the Supreme Electoral Court to extend the election period until 15 January. However, they were not listened to.
The order to suspend Semilla’s movement was made official by the TSE Register of Citizens. But the Electoral College stressed that this suspension of the political party that won the presidency “cannot reverse the results” that gave victory to Arevalo, nor can it cancel the 23 legislators won by the Semilla movement.
Arevalo insists on: “The coup”
A spokesman for the Simela movement said they had not yet been notified of their party’s suspension. However, President-elect Bernardo Arevalo accused Attorney General Consuelo Porras and Judge Orellana of attempting a “coup” to prevent him from taking office on January 14.
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“We call on the Public Ministry and the Judiciary to stop all measures to circumvent the voice of the people that was freely expressed at the ballot boxes,” Arevalo announced during a press conference in Guatemala City. “The results are final and immutable (…) However, Guatemalans must be prepared to defend the results against the legal and false assault by the Public Ministry, if it continues to occur.”
The judicial actions taken by Porras and the judges sparked widespread protests and road blockades by residents demanding their resignation and a purge of the judicial system. It was indigenous movements that led the popular mobilization and national strike. This Wednesday, the indigenous leadership insisted that they will remain in the “resistance” against the Attorney General’s Office.
The organizations announced that they will organize several marches on November 3 and 4 in downtown Guatemala City, in addition to continuing the sit-in they have been organizing since October 2 in front of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. “It is a fight for democracy, for the good of the people of Guatemala, waiting for our decision to elect our public officials to be respected,” said Luis Pacheco, president of the indigenous organization 48 Cantons of Totonicapan. He added: “We are continuing the peaceful resistance, and we only came to defend democracy.”
In addition to different indigenous communities, they are also supported by “different sectors” such as “markets in Guatemala City and civil society,” Pacheco said.
The United States removes visas
In addition to the events in Guatemala, the United States government imposed travel restrictions on 14 people and their immediate family members, on charges of “undermining democracy and the rule of law” in that Central American country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not specify the names of those affected, but diplomatic sources confirmed to El Pais newspaper that they included many officials in the Public Ministry.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller emphasized that the United States “rejects ongoing efforts to undermine the peaceful transition of power in Guatemala to President-elect Bernardo Arevalo.” The official in Washington stressed that the Attorney General’s Office, among other actions, confiscated election materials that were in the custody of the Supreme Electoral Court or ordered the forced eviction of peaceful demonstrators.
Miller stressed that this “undemocratic behavior undermines Guatemala’s democratic institutions and is inconsistent with the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”
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