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Guatemala President-Elect’s Supporters Block Roads to Protest Party Suspension

Demonstrations surge after court upheld suspension of Bernardo Arévalo’s party over alleged voter registration fraud.

Thousands of protestors have blocked roads across Guatemala in surging demonstrations to support the president-elect, Bernardo Arévalo, after the country’s highest court upheld a move by prosecutors to suspend his political party over alleged voter registration fraud.

Arévalo, an anti-corruption crusader who won a landslide victory in the August election, has denounced the suspension as a “coup” aimed neutralizing him before he takes office in January, and his supporters are demanding the resignation of the prosecutors responsible. Street blockades that started this week grew from 14 on Monday to 58 road and highway blockages Friday.

Arévalo and electoral authorities had challenged the suspension of his Seed Movement party in late August, arguing that the allegations of voter or registration fraud are criminal charges and that by suspending the party the prosecutors were intruding on electoral issues.

The constitutional court ruled Thursday that even though the case involves criminal accusations, prosecutors can impose measures that have electoral effects.

Without his party, Arévalo may be hamstrung after he takes office 14 January. Arévalo says politically motivated prosecutors are trying to overturn his victory in August elections. Prosecutors say some of the signatures used to register Arévalo’s party may have been false.

Protesters also reacted this week to the attorney general’s office seizing vote tallies from electoral authorities. The seizure was part of the continuing investigations into accusations of voting fraud that observers say are politically motivated.

Indigenous groups and rural farm workers stalled traffic on major transportation arteries over what they see as a violation of voters’ will.

The Organization of American States observation mission said prosecutors’ actions appeared to be aimed at keeping Arévalo from taking office.

Arévalo had a surprisingly strong showing in the first round of Guatemala’s presidential election in June, building support with an anti-corruption campaign that attracted frustrated voters, and he won with nearly 61% of the vote in the August run-off.

Independent election observers have said that they did not see evidence of fraud that would have affected the results in either round of voting.

But that has not stopped raids by the attorney general, Consuelo Porras, and prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche, efforts that international groups have said are aimed at overturning or tarnishing the electoral results.

Porras took over as attorney general in 2018 and in 2021 was sanctioned by the US government for being an undemocratic actor and undermining investigations into corruption. She has denied any wrongdoing.

Porras’ office has ongoing investigations into the way Arévalo’s Seed Movement gathered the necessary signatures for its registration years earlier.

Source : The Guardian