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Guatemala Prosecutor Denies Aiming to Interfere With Elections

The public prosecutor’s office is investigating the party of a progressive presidential candidate ahead of run-off vote.

Guatemala’s public prosecutor’s office has said it would continue an investigation into the progressive Movimiento Semilla, or Seed Movement, after a controversial decision to suspend the party in advance of the presidential run-off election.

In a statement on Friday, the prosecutor’s office denied accusations that its actions were aimed at derailing the Seed Movement’s prospects as it competes in the final round of voting.

“The actions of the Public Ministry are not intended to interfere with the date of the second round of elections nor to disqualify the participation of any candidate, as has been alleged by some disinformation campaigns,” it said.

Nevertheless, the top prosecutor has faced an outpouring of criticism since it announced on Wednesday that a court had granted its request to suspend the Seed Movement, amid an investigation into alleged fraud among the party’s registered members.

That decision was quickly reversed on Thursday, after the Seed Movement appealed to Guatemala’s Constitutional Court.

Its candidate, Bernardo Arevalo, and former First Lady Sandra Torres are set to go head to head in a run-off on August 20. Torres paused her campaign on Thursday in solidarity with the Seed Movement, calling for an even playing field going into the final vote.

The election had already sparked criticism over the disqualification of several opposition candidates in the campaign stage.

For his part, Arevalo has pledged to push back against the effort to suspend his political party, which campaigned on an anti-corruption platform.

“We are in the electoral race, we are moving forward and we will not be stopped by this corrupt group,” he told reporters on Thursday.

Earlier this week, the United States, the European Union and other countries warned that the Seed Movement’s suspension would represent a threat to democracy.

The US Department of State on Thursday voiced concerns about efforts to revoke the legal status of the Seed Movement, calling for respecting the will of the people.

“These actions put at risk the legitimacy of the electoral process at the core of Guatemala’s democracy, which should be advanced and upheld,” the department said in a statement.

For its part, the EU urged Guatemalan authorities to “fully respect the integrity of the electoral process and the outcome of the first round of voting”.

The prosecutor leading the investigation into the Seed Movement, Rafael Curruchiche, has previously targeted anti-corruption campaigners and has been placed on the US Department of State’s Engel List for “corrupt and undemocratic actors”.

Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras has also been sanctioned by Washington over accusations of “involvement in significant corruption”.

“The public prosecutor’s office will not rest until there is a rupture of our democracy,” Marielos Chang, an independent Guatemalan political analyst, told Al Jazeera earlier this week.

Chang added that Semilla’s suspension was nothing less than “a direct attack on our political system”.