LatinNews Daily - 27 July 2023

GUATEMALA: TSE hits back at prosecutors

On 26 July, during video hearings with the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS), Irma Elizabeth Palencia, the president of Guatemala’s electoral authority (TSE), criticised recent police raids on the TSE ordered by the attorney general (AG)’s office.


The recent raids on the TSE and on anti-corruption opposition party Movimiento Semilla (Semilla) were ordered by AG prosecutors to investigate claims of possible irregularities in the registration of Semilla members, which could potentially lead to the party’s suspension before the 20 August presidential second round run-off. Semilla’s presidential candidate Bernardo Arévalo finished second in the 25 June first round, securing a place in the run-off in what was a major upset and a threat to the discredited political establishment given his pledge to go after corruption. Yesterday Palencia said the police raids and other requests were “arbitrary but probably licit”. However, they formed part of a “judicialisation” of the electoral process that was “not justifiable”. Her comments come amid continued fears domestically and abroad that the discredited authorities are seeking to exclude Arévalo from the running.

  • Palencia added that the “form and tone” of how the raids were conducted was relevant. In the 24 July raid on the TSE, its employees were detained behind closed doors for over 10 hours by prosecutors and by armed police wearing ski masks. This was unjustifiable, she said, particularly since TSE staff had always done their best to answer requests and provide information
  • The TSE president said she was worried by the “judicialisation” of elements and conditions of the electoral process in ways that could “affect or put at risk the second-round ballot and what might come after that”.
  • Palencia noted that the legitimacy of the 25 June first round had been questioned by the losing parties but “the integrity of the electoral system prevailed”. First-round voting had been observed by three international electoral missions, including one from the OAS, which all found that the vote was legitimate.
  • Eladio Loizaga, the head of the OAS electoral mission to Guatemala, also condemned the raids on the TSE and on Semilla’s offices, saying they created obstacles for the democratic process at the expense of all citizens.  
  • Palencia also referred to existing legislation which outlaws the suspension of a political party in the midst of an electoral process. She called on the conservative Vamos government led by President Alejandro Giammattei to protect the work of the TSE.  
  • Separately, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro said he was planning to visit Guatemala to oversee the teams monitoring the second-round ballot. He was cited as saying that he hoped to meet both run-off candidates, Arévalo and former first lady (2008-2012) Sandra Torres (Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza, UNE).
  • The international community continues to closely follow events in Guatemala. On 24 July US Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols tweeted that he had spoken with Guatemala’s foreign minister, Mario Búcaro, about “the vital importance of allowing Guatemala’s 2nd round election to proceed without interference or harassment of candidates and parties”. The US has recently added to its list of ‘Corrupt and Undemocratic Actors’ Guatemalan officials associated with efforts to remove Semilla from the race.

Looking Ahead: Tension remains high with continuing uncertainty over the run-off. Yesterday Arévalo pulled out of a video seminar organised by the Washington-based Adrienne Arsht Latin American Centre (part of the Atlantic Council), citing worries over possible arrests. Arévalo apologised to participants for pulling out, saying “we’ve been told of the possibility of mass arrests, between 12 and 16 arrest warrants which are supposedly being prepared against members of our party.”

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