Hundreds of citizens gathered in the streets of the Guatemalan capital to show their discontent with the current Public Ministry and explicitly request the resignation of at least five public officials involved in what they call “judicial persecution” against the candidate Bernardo Arévalo de León and his party Movimiento Semilla.
“Respect the will of the people.” This was one of the slogans that Guatemalans used during the weekend protests in various departments. This Monday, July 24, dozens of protesters met in Guatemala City to demand that the Judiciary “not interfere” in the results of the first round of elections on June 25.
Led by students and doctors, the demonstrators marched towards the vicinity of the Guatemalan Public Ministry to demand the resignation of Fredy Orellana, the judge who ordered the suspension of the legal personality of the Seed Movement; Silvia Valdéz, head of the Supreme Court who would have led the suspension in the officialization of the electoral results of the first presidential round; Rafael Curruchiche and Cinthia Monterroso, prosecutors who ordered the raids on the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and Consuelo Porras, head of the prosecutor’s office that the opposition accuses of “coup plotting.”
“We are going through one of the worst crises in our history and we have to be united to get ahead,” said one of the protesters using a loudspeaker in front of the Public Ministry headquarters.
Bernardo Arévalo: from electoral surprise to being in the crosshairs of the judicial system
The protests detonated after the Constitutional Court of the Central American country on July 1 ordered the “review” of the results of the election day of June 25 at the request of some losing candidates, where the former first lady Sandra Torres managed to go to the second round of elections to compete against an unexpected Bernardo Arévalo.
The surprising irruption of the progressive candidate has been full of obstacles imposed by the Public Ministry headed by Consuelo Porras, denounces the Arévalo campaign. On July 12, the Prosecutor’s Office requested the suspension of the Semilla party, arguing a corruption scandal related to the falsification of signatures during its registration process.
The request was rejected two days later by the Constitutional Court, which granted an injunction to Arévalo’s party based on the constitutional impossibility of suspending a political actor in the middle of the elections. However, the onslaught of the judiciary, which the opposition argues has become a ‘vassal’ body to the government of Alejandro Giammattei, did not stop there.
On July 14, the Prosecutor’s Office ordered the search of the headquarters of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the body that monitors the transparency of the Guatemalan elections and that had approved the results of the first round of the presidential elections. In addition, the Guatemalan judicial body also raided the offices of the Movimiento Semilla and issued arrest warrants against two of its members.
International actors such as the United States government or the Organization of American States (OAS) have already expressed their concerns on numerous occasions regarding the role of the Guatemalan judicial system in this year’s electoral results.
On his Twitter account, Brian Nichols, a senior US State Department official, stated that he had a conversation with the Guatemalan Foreign Minister, Mario Bucaro, to explain to him the importance of the second round of elections, scheduled for August 20, taking place “without interference or harassment of candidates and political parties.”
I talked with him #MinBúcaro @MinexGT on the vital importance of allowing the second round of the elections to take place without interference or harassment of candidates and political parties. Guatemalans have the right to choose their rulers. -BAN
— Brian A. Nichols (@WHAAsstSecty) July 24, 2023
In recent days, the White House has criticized the raids carried out by the Guatemalan prosecutor’s office at the offices of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the Seed Movement, describing them as “authoritarian practices.” The Joe Biden government has already sanctioned figures such as Consuelo Porras and Rafael Curruchiche for “obstructing justice.”
The OAS has described the actions undertaken by the Public Ministry against Bernardo Arévalo and the party he represents as “political persecution.” It will be next August 20 when Guatemala has all the international sights set on its elections, hoping that the process represents the democratic will of the citizenry.
With Reuters, EFE and local media