Bernardo Arevalo, the newly elected president of Guatemala, and his party Movimento Semilla (Seed Movement) are facing mounting political and legal opposition, which Arevalo describes as “illegal political persecution.” During a news conference, Arevalo expressed his concern over what he sees as a coup d’etat in motion, using the justice apparatus to violate justice. He warned that these political mafias would try to consummate the coup d’état in the four months leading up to his swearing-in ceremony in January.
Arevalo pointed to his political opponent’s refusal to concede and a recent court decision suspending Semilla’s status as a party as evidence of illegal political persecution. He denounced these acts as a refusal to accept the demand of the Guatemalan people for change and to close the chapter of corruption and impunity in the country.
Despite winning 58% of the vote in the run-off election against former First Lady Sandra Torres and her National Unity of Hope (UNE) party, Arevalo’s victory has been challenged. UNE and its supporters claim that the election was rigged. In July, a coalition of UNE and eight other parties sought a review of the first-round results, questioning the legitimacy of Arevalo’s second-place finish.
Efforts to deplatform Semilla began over a month before the runoff election. A citizen complained that the party had falsely used his signature to establish itself. Special prosecutor for corruption Rafael Curruchiche opened an investigation and found over 5,000 illegal signatures, including 12 from deceased individuals. As a result, Semilla’s status as a party was revoked, relegating its elected lawmakers to independent status and barring them from leadership positions in Congress. Semilla has vowed to challenge this decision in court.
The Organization of American States (OAS) has urged the courts to proceed with caution, expressing concerns that the mechanisms and tools of Guatemalan justice are being used politically against Arevalo and Semilla. The OAS believes that barring Arevalo from assuming the presidency would violate constitutional order and the will of the people. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also voiced his concerns, highlighting the importance of safeguarding Guatemala’s democracy and recognizing Arevalo’s win despite his campaign-trail call for closer relations with China.
The political and legal opposition faced by Arevalo and Semilla raises questions about the state of democracy in Guatemala. Critics argue that the actions taken against Arevalo and his party are attempts to undermine the will of the people and maintain corrupt practices in the country. As Arevalo prepares to take office in January, the coming months will be crucial in determining the future direction of Guatemala and its fight against corruption and impunity.