Aggressive moves by AG’s office ahead of runoff cause outcry in Guatemala and beyond

By David Toro Escobar

Guatemala City, Aug 17 (EFE).- Repeated attempts by Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office to keep presidential candidate Bernardo Arevalo de Leon and his center-left, anti-graft Semilla party off the ballot have been blocked by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE).

Even so, they have served to lay bare the institutional weakness plaguing that Central American country.

“The Attorney General’s Office has become the most effective tool of (Guatemala’s) mafias and corrupt system,” former prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval, whom experts regard as a key figure in the country’s anti-corruption fight between 2014 and 2019, told Efe.

Speaking from exile in the United States, Sandoval said the AG’s office’s attacks jeopardize people’s ability to express their will at the ballot box.

After Arevalo de Leon surprisingly forced a presidential runoff on June 25, the AG’s office began taking aggressive steps against him.

Those moves included raids of the offices of Semilla and the TSE and arrest warrants issued against officials from those same two entities.

Those actions set off alarm bells in Guatemala and abroad ahead of Sunday’s balloting, in which Arevalo de Leon will square off against former first lady Sandra Torres Casanova.

Polls conducted this week show Arevalo de Leon with a big lead over Torres heading into the second round.

According to Sandoval, the AG’s office has now shown that “it has no qualms about sabotaging the elections to prevent a party that doesn’t represent its interests from coming to power.”


Following Arevalo de Leon’s surprising second-place finish in the June 25 first round of balloting, the AG’s office accused Semilla of using fake signatures to register its members at the time of the party’s founding in 2018.

On that basis, AG Consuelo Porras, who was sanctioned by the US in 2022 due to “involvement in significant corruption,” sought to suspend Semilla and put a halt to Arevalo de Leon’s bid for Guatemala’s highest office.

The AG’s office in July secured a lower court ruling that suspended Semilla, but the Constitutional Court responded by issuing an injunction that blocked the move.

The TSE, for its part, also has given the green light for the second round to proceed.


Following the AG’s moves, the US State Department and the Organization of American States have demanded that Guatemalan authorities respect the will of the voters.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro even visited the Central American country and met with Porras and conservative President Alejandro Giammattei, from whom he received assurances that the government will accept the results at the ballot box.

European Union election observers, for their part, have stayed for an extended period in Guatemala and may remain in the country for the transition of power scheduled for Jan. 14. EFE


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