The Guatemalan Prosecutor’s Office announced this Thursday that he will ask the Supreme Court of Justice strip the president-elect, Bernardo Arevaloof his immunity for damages in the occupation of a university in 2022, which increases uncertainty less than two months before he takes office.
Prosecutor Saúl Sánchez said at a press conference that they will present “the preliminary proceedings” against Arevalo and the elected vice president, Karin Herrerato deprive them of the immunity granted to them by their status as elected, and prosecute them criminally.
Surrounded by followers, outside the courts in the capital, Arévalo described the Prosecutor’s Office’s decision, criticized by the United States, the European Union, the UN and the OAS, as an “assault against democracy.”
“The spurious measures of the Public Ministry show that the assault against democracy and the rule of law continues (…) What we are seeing is that their capacity to fabricate cases has no limit,” the president-elect told reporters, with Herrera.
Arévalo, a 65-year-old social democratic sociologist and currently a deputy, assures that there is a “coup d’état in progress” to avoid his inauguration on January 14, as he faces “persecution” from the Prosecutor’s Office since he surprised the first round of elections on June 25.
Now he is accused of having supported on social networks academics and students who occupied, from May 2022 to June 2023, the state University of San Carlos in rejection of what they denounced as a fraudulent election of a rector linked to the right-wing government of Alejandro Giammattei. .
The crimes charged against Arévalo and Herrera, in addition to six other opposition legislators, are “continued depredation of cultural property, illicit association and influence peddling,” said Sánchez.
Before that announcement, the Prosecutor’s Office raided several residences and arrested five opponents for the occupation of the university, among them a former candidate for deputy from the Semilla de Arévalo party. In addition, he issued arrest warrants against 27 students, academics and activists from various organizations.
New US sanctions
Legislative affairs consultant Víctor Valverth He explained to AFP that “any pretrial proceedings” against the elected president and vice president “go to the Supreme Court”, whose new judges were surprisingly elected on Wednesday by the Congress, with a pro-government majority, a process pending since 2019.
“Those who try to interfere with a peaceful transition to the president-elect will face consequences,” warned the head of US diplomacy for Latin America, Brian Nichols, on the social network X (formerly Twitter).
Hours later, Washington withdrew the visas of 11 people “for undermining democracy and the rule of law” in Guatemala, announced the State Department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, without specifying identities, raising to 25 the number of those recently sanctioned with this measure.
The Prosecutor’s Office opened a new front against Arévalo after managing to disqualify Semilla and taking several actions against the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which validated his victory in the elections.
“These actions not only endanger an orderly transition of power to the new government, but also the stability and democratic system of Guatemala in general,” said an EU spokesman, Peter Stano.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala expressed its “concern about actions that appear designed to undermine the integrity of the electoral process and undermine the rule of law.”
The secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, stated that the new actions of the Prosecutor’s Office are of a “political nature that distort the electoral process and may affect its result.”
On Wednesday, almost simultaneously with the election of the magistrates, the Supreme Court announced the rejection of an appeal by Arévalo that sought to stop the actions of the Prosecutor’s Office against the electoral process and Semilla.
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At the close of the parliamentary session at night, a group of protesters insulted and threw objects at deputies. This Thursday the building was guarded by nearly 2,000 uniformed personnel.