Guatemala: opposition party headquarters raided

Guatemalan presidential candidate Bernardo Arévalo accused authorities of "political persecution" July 21, after police raided his center-left Semilla party headquarters. Arévalo condemned the raid as an attempt to hinder his campaign for the 2023 presidential election, the second round of which is scheduled for Aug. 20. Prosecutors say they were enforcing a court order that suspended Semilla due to alleged irregularities in party member registration. However, that order was canceled on July 13 by Guatemala's Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

An investigation into Semilla's member registrations led a court to suspend the party after the first-round vote, where Arévalo placed second and advanced to the runoff against Sandra Torres of the UNE party. This has complicated the race to succeed current President Alejandro Giammattei (of the right-wing Vamos party), though Guatemala's Constitutional Court has allowed Arévalo to remain on the ballot. Arévalo denies any registration improprieties.

In an Open Democracy interview released minutes after the raid, Arévalo warned that Torres' victory could lead Guatemala toward "an authoritarian drift." He vowed to crack down on corruption if elected, saying citizens have "a new-found hope that we can indeed move towards a dignified future for all."

From Jurist, July 24. Use with permission.

Note: Bernardo Arévalo is the son of Juan José Arévalo, leader of the peaceful revolution that ushered in Guatemala's "Democratic Spring" in 1945, brutally aborted by the CIA-backed military coup of 1954. (InfoBae, NYT)

Guatemala: losing party challenges election results

The National Unity of Hope (UNE) party has called upon Guatemalan authorities to investigate last week's presidential election, citing alleged irregularities. UNE is led by former first lady Sandra Torres, who lost the race to leftist challenger Bernardo Arévalo. (Jurist)

Guatemala president-elect suspends transition

Guatemalan President-elect Bernardo Arévalo said Sept. 12 he is temporarily suspending the transition process and called for the resignation of the attorney general following raids on electoral facilities during which government agents opened boxes of votes and photographed their contents, in what experts called an unprecedented violation of the law.

Arévalo said he had notified outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei, who just a day earlier had promised a smooth handover of power, and would only return to the process when the necessary conditions were met. (AP)

Guatemala: new raids on Supreme Electoral Tribunal

The Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Guatemala expressed "great concern" over a new raid carried out at the headquarters of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) in Guatemala City on Sept. 29. This was the fifth such operation conducted by the Public Prosecutor's Office since the elections, and was carried out "without due cause, violating the functions, independence and autonomy of the electoral body."

Attempted coup collapses in Guatemala

Guatemala's new president, Bernardo Arévalo, was inaugurated Jan. 15 after an initial ceremony the day before was interrupted by what international observers called an "orchestrated coup d’état."

The secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, read a statement during the crisis, called for the Congress of Guatemala "to fulfill its mandate to hand over power as required by the Constitution."

The insurrection proved to be short-lived, despite videos shared on social media showing lawmakers locked into a room by members of the coup group. Bu the next morning it was announced that the coup plotters, a group derided as te "Pacto de Corruptos," had failed. The Guatemalan congress would sit to inaugurate Arévalo.

Just hours later, footage emerged on social media of one of the coup plotters, deputy Manuel de Jesús Rivera, being aggressively heckled by members of the public, gathered to await the inauguration of their newly-elected President.

Arévalo, a known anti-corruption advocate, was locked in a contentious battle with prosecutors leading up to and following his first and second-round election victories in late 2023. The Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s office attempted to have Arévalo's first-round victory invalidated, although that move was quickly rejected by the country's electoral court.

In September 2023, the OAS formally warned the Public Prosecutor's office against interfering in the ongoing election and said, "The actions of the Public Prosecutor's Office are an intolerable violation of Guatemala's Constitution."

By December, US officials announced a series of sanctions against three Guatemalan prosecutors and a judge, who were alleged to have "orchestrat[ed] politically motivated investigations aimed at casting doubt on certified election outcomes, ultimately disrupting the presidential transition."

USAID administrator Samantha Power congratulated Arévalo and the institutions of Guatemalan democracy. "Last night’s inauguration was a testament to the determination and conviction of the Guatemalan people to make their voices heard and tirelessly defend their democracy," said Power. (Jurist)

On Jan. 11, in the prelude to the crisis, the Public Prosecutor's office arrested Napoleón Barrientos, a former interior minister, on the grounds that he had refused to use force to maintain order in October against protesters demanding the prosecutor general's resignation. (NYT)

EU sanctions Guatemala officials for role in attempted coup

The European Union on Feb. 2 imposed sanctions against five individuals from Guatemala that "undermine[d] democracy, the rule of law or the peaceful transfer of power in Guatemala," according to a press release by the Council of the EU. (Jurist)