The presidential candidate of the Movimiento Semilla party, Bernardo Arévalo, participates in a chess tournament, on August 2. Esteban Biba (EFE)
The preparations for the election that will define the presidency of Guatemala are making their way before a series of inquiries by the Attorney General’s Office, which is investigating the results that place the progressive sociologist Bernardo Arévalo and former first lady Sandra Torres in the second round, who It has transitioned from social democracy to conservatism. The offensive that from the criminal justice system and at the gates of the vote on August 20 tried to cancel the Movimiento Semilla, the Arévalo party, may have a new purpose: to annul the entire electoral process, according to several experts and party leaders denounced. under siege.
The presidential election in the Central American country has gained relevance because for many it represents an opportunity to contain corruption and curb the authoritarianism that during the government of Alejandro Giammattei has forced more than 100 justice operators, human rights defenders and journalists into exile.
The progress of 13 criminal investigations inaugurates another episode of tension in the electoral process of the Central American country, which attracted the visit of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro. Civil society and observers filed multiple complaints with Almagro about judicial harassment of electoral officials and the Seed Movement. The two candidates who are going to the ballot on August 20 have asked for respect for the results and the work of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
More than 5.5 million Guatemalans went to the polls on June 25 and, faced with the exclusion of three of the favorite candidates to go to the ballot, they found a disruptive option in Bernardo Arévalo. “We already know the other candidates, perhaps he (Arévalo) is different and that’s why they want to take him out,” said a businesswoman from the Guatemalan capital who participated in the protests against the cancellation of the Seed Movement, which was created from the criminal justice system. , bypassing the electoral authorities.
Questions about the voting results arose as Bernardo Arévalo climbed from last place in the polls and placed in the second round with 12% of the valid votes. “They didn’t see us get there,” said the party’s deputy-elect, Andrea Reyes. The Seed Movement obtained the support of 654,534 citizens and the National Unity of Hope, led by Sandra Torres, reached 15% acceptance, with 881,592 votes.
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The Vamos party, which led Alejandro Giammatei to the presidency, and its allies promoted injunctions against alleged irregularities in the results and achieved a second ballot that stopped the call for the second round for two weeks. In the circles of power it is said in a low voice that the exclusion of the favorite candidates had the purpose of achieving a ballot between allies. Arévalo upset the supposed plan, since he displaced the official candidate, Manuel Conde, to third place.
In mid-July, the electoral authorities revalidated the counts with the endorsement of the Constitutional Court and the movement that questioned the results was dismantled. Then, the Prosecutor’s Office, which went from investigating cases of grand corruption to persecuting opponents, promoted the cancellation of the Seed Movement, but the Constitutional Chamber reminded them that no political party can be canceled with an electoral process underway.
Weeks later, at the beginning of August, two other prosecutors have joined in investigating the electoral process. “A gigantic case is being built with the purpose of bringing down the elections; what was not achieved through amparo and with cries of fraud, will be tried through criminal proceedings” to point out alleged vices and annul the elections, says the former constituent Aquiles Faillace.
With no margin to cancel the Seed Movement, the Public Ministry has undertaken another series of investigations, which are directed towards the electoral boards, which are made up of volunteer citizens in charge of the polling stations, and towards the data entry workers who transfer the data from the tally sheets to the computer system.
The examination of the results is now under the direction of the attorney general, Consuelo Porras, who along with several members of her team has been described by the United States as a corrupt and undemocratic actor. On August 3, the Prosecutor’s Office extracted a digital copy of all the minutes and calculations of the votes under the protection of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
Volunteer citizens under investigation
The criminal investigations are not cause for concern, according to the president of the Electoral Tribunal, Irma Palencia. Accusations of fraud are the most normal post-voting symptoms and “lack of political maturity,” said the magistrate in a meeting with journalists. Asked about the greatest risk facing the second round, magistrate Blanca Alfaro points out that it is “the disenchantment of citizens to participate in electoral boards, technical staff of the Electoral Tribunal or in political parties” before the judicialization of the electoral processes, which began to be tested in 2015.
There are those who see further, like Aquiles Faillace himself, and point out that the background of criminal investigations is to annul the entire electoral process. This is also the perception of the prosecutor and lawyer for the Semilla Juan Guerrero Garnica party. The investigation against the data entry workers and volunteers from the polling stations seeks to undermine the process, because they are instilled with fear and may be absent from their duties on August 20 or have criminal proceedings initiated that prevent them from participating, he explains. Guerrero to THE COUNTRY.
The Seed Movement is also the focus of an investigation for alleged falsification of signatures in the adhesions of sympathizers for the formation of the party. With this case, the aim is to wear down the image of the Arévalo party and “try to show that it is not different”, that is, that it is not corrupt, political scientist Luis Mack told EL PAÍS. Far from diminishing his popularity, the criminal case has gained support in favor of Arévalo and his party. A recent survey by CID Gallup, sponsored by the Fundación Libertad y Desarrollo, led by businessman Dionisio Gutiérrez, attributes Arévalo with 63% of the intention to vote, compared to 37% for his contender, Sandra Torres. Lack of employment, corruption and the high cost of living are the main problems for the people interviewed for the study.
If a possible victory for Bernardo Arévalo at the polls were massive, “politically there will be no support from the judges and the operators to advance in the cancellation of Semilla” or other actions that are taking place from the Prosecutor’s Office against the members of the party, concludes Faillace.
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