Guatemalan Prosecutor Moves to Strip President-Elect’s Immunity

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GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – A Guatemalan prosecutor moved to strip President-elect Bernardo Arevalo of his immunity from prosecution on Thursday, in the latest escalation of a political crisis that critics say is an undemocratic scheme aimed at overturning the election results.

Prosecutor Angel Sanchez, who works under Attorney General Consuelo Porras, accused Arevalo and his running mate of complicity in the takeover of the capital’s San Carlos University last year, blaming them of damaging cultural assets, illicit association and influence trafficking.

Porras, accused by the U.S. government of corruption, has pursued a criminal investigation against anti-corruption reformer Arevalo as well as his center-left Seed Movement party since before he won a landslide run-off election in August.

Seeking to strip Arevalo and Vice President-elect Karin Herrera’s immunity could lead to arrest warrants and ultimately disrupt their scheduled inauguration in January, though both judges and lawmakers must still weigh in.

Later on Thursday, Arevalo dismissed the prosecutor’s action as “absolutely illegal” and an affront to democracy.

“What we’re seeing is their limitless capacity to fabricate cases,” said Arevalo, adding the efforts will not prevent him from taking office.

The prosecutor’s actions, which also include issuing arrest warrants for 27 others as well as fresh police raids in search of evidence, was also condemned by a senior U.S. diplomat.

“Today’s raids (ordered by prosecutors) and other ongoing efforts to undermine democracy in Guatemala are unacceptable,” wrote Brian Nichols, U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, in a post on messaging platform X. He added those seeking to block Arevalo “will face consequences” but did not go into further detail.

Since Arevalo’s 20-point margin of victory in August, mass street protests have broken out across the country demanding Porras’ resignation.

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Chris Reese)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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