The Guatemalan prosecutor’s office continues the offensive against Semilla and raids the party headquarters: “it’s a technical coup”

  • Latin America A Guatemalan court orders the suspension of the Semilla party whose candidate, Bernardo Arvalo de León, aspires to the presidency of the country

Follow the judicial telenovela in Guatemala against the party seed movement, who finished second in the June 25 election and whose candidate, Bernardo Arvalo de Leon, he aspires to the presidency of the country in the second round to be held on 20 August. This Friday, prosecutors from the Special Prosecution Against Impunity (FECI) and agents from the National Civil Police (PNC) raided the headquarters of this formation from where They took three boxes with documentation. For four hours, five employees of the Semilla administration were detained in response to requests from the FECI, which is investigating this organization for an alleged case of false affiliation signatures during its formation process in 2018. The head of the FECI, Raffaello Curruchiche, He claims that “there are indications that perhaps more than 5,000 citizens have illegally joined the Seed Movement by forging their handwriting and signature.” For this he asked for the suspension of the legal personality of this formation and the judge of the Seventh Court, Fredy Orellana, ordered the order on July 12 to the Registry of Citizens of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE).

However, the Constitutional Court (CC) stopped this judicial order after granting Semilla interim protection which prevented Bernardo Arvalo de León from being removed from the electoral contest. Furthermore, the same director of the TSE Citizens Register, Ramiro Muoz He also refused to comply with the order, arguing that it contravened article 92 of the electoral and political party law, which states that no formation can be suspended “after the elections have been called and until they have been held”.

Despite this, the FECI carried out a raid this Thursday in the Human Resources of the Registry of Citizens of the TSE, looking for the file of the interim Registry Director, Eleanor Castle, against whom the judge of the Seventh Court has issued an arrest warrant for disobedience to the order, Semilla will be suspended by right. The circumstance occurs that Castillo replaces Ramiro Muoz in office, who took a few days off, after having decided not to comply with the judge’s order.

The President of the TSE, Irma Palenzia, noted that the arrest warrant against Castillo is “illegal”, taking into account that “he enjoys the right of prior judgment (immunity) inherent in the office he holds as pro tempore director of the citizens’ register”. Similarly, the Seventh Court judge issued two more arrest warrants for the Seed Movement member Cynthia Rojas and former member of this party Jaime Gudiel Arias, which he accuses of being responsible for illegal membership through fingerprints and false signatures. Specifically, Bernardo Arvalo de León had already denounced Jaime Gudiel before the Prosecutor for these facts which, in principle, had been referred to the Prosecutor for Electoral Crimes, although they were subsequently sent to the FECI, whose boss, Raffaello Curruchiche, He has been included since 2022 in the United States Engel List of corrupt and undemocratic actors for “obstructing the investigation of acts of corruption against government officials”.

THE JUDGE INCLUDED IN THE LIST OF CORRUPTED ACTORS IN THE USA

Similarly, the US State Department posted this Thursday a new Engel list, which includes ten other people from Guatemala, including the judge Freddie Orellana, who ordered the legal suspension of Semilla, as well as the prosecutor Cinthia Monterroso, who together with Curruchiche is conducting the investigations against this political formation, whose candidate amassed over 653,000 votes in the first round, behind only the candidate of the National Unity of Hope, Sandra Torres.

Bernardo Arvalo de León denounced that the raid on the headquarters of the Seed Movement is the “blatant display of political persecution” that his party suffers from the “corrupt minority who know they are losing power day by day and who are trying to intimidate us and derail the electoral process”.

The Guatemalan presidential candidate defined the raid on his party headquarters as “absolutely illegal” because it was “in violation of clear orders” of the Constitutional Court, which this Friday insisted in a statement according to which the criminal investigation against Semilla “has no effect to suspend the continuity and conclusion of the process”, while the order of the judge of the Seventh Court “has no positive effect to leave the participating parties without personalities until the electoral process is finished”.

In this sense, Arvalo de Len accused the judge Fredy Orellana and the prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche of “trying to overthrow democracy”, despite this, he underlined that he will continue with his electoral campaign, because on August 20 the Guatemalan people “will have the opportunity to decide who will direct the future of the country and not a corrupt prosecutor supported by a corrupt judge who acts in a totally illegal way”.

The National Seed Prosecutor put it similarly, Juan Gerardo Guerrero, who considered the Semilla raid a “technical coup”, given that both the attorney general of the public prosecutor, Consuelo Porras, and Judge Settimo are acting “completely outside the constitutional framework, committing illegalities, going against the rule of law and the purity of the electoral process”. Therefore, she estimated that the prosecutors and the judge are committing the crime of abuse of authority, which is why she called for her “immediate” dismissal.

Furthermore, he recalled that in the amparo that the CC granted them, he clarified that the prosecutor’s office could continue the criminal investigation against Semilla, although they can only carry out their actions under article 251 of the electoral and party law, so that Only the electoral crimes envisaged by the penal code are imputable. However, he complained that the judge and the prosecutor are applying the Organized Crime Law and the Money Laundering Law, in order to legally suspend Semilla.

Guerrero revealed that during the search, the judge gave Bernardo Árvalo de León a two-hour deadline to hand over two documents to the FECI, arguing that if he doesn’t do so, he is committing the crime of obstruction of justice. “He assumes an absurdity and another arbitrariness of the judge and the prosecutor that they are definitely colluding to commit these totally inquisitorial acts that are trying to prevent Árvalo de León from participating on August 20,” he concluded.

“COWARDS, CORRUPTED AND THIEVES”

Several people gathered in front of the Semilla headquarters who shouted “Viva Arvalo” as the prosecutors left, whom they reproached with the cry of “cowards, corrupt, thieves and rats”. In recent days, various demonstrations have been called in front of the Guatemalan prosecutor’s office to demand the resignation of Porras and Curruchiche, both included in the aforementioned Engel List. In addition, various organizations have called for a march this Sunday from the Supreme Court of Justice, which will end at the Public Prosecution, while they are also considering calling a National Strike this Monday to defend democracy.

One of the protesters was Alida Vincenzo, representative of the indigenous authorities of Palin, who reminded prosecutors that “they are not respecting the orders of the CC and the TSE, nor the decisions of the people of Guatemala who issued an opinion on June 25 and the annoyance of the criminal sectors is that the benefits after investing billions were not for them”. Another woman, named Sandra, went alone to demonstrate in front of the Semilla headquarters, where she invited the population to “wake up” and take to the streets because “if not, one day we won’t take it anymore and they will regret it”.

For his part, the Permanent Representative of the United States to the Organization of American States (OAS), Frank O Morahe expressed his “concern” about the arrest warrants issued against members of the Seed Movement and recalled that “Guatemalan people deserve the right to vote for candidates without interference”.

Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the OAS, Louis Almagro, He condemned the raid on Semilla’s headquarters and called for “the immediate cessation of these attacks for political purposes and to respect the electoral process as well as the democratic system”. Similarly, the European Union’s chief foreign affairs spokesman, Peter Stano, said the EU was “deeply concerned by persistent attempts to undermine the integrity of the findings” and warned that attempts to undo them “will affect Guatemala’s international relations, including with the EU”.

The TSE has already clarified that the second round of elections will be held on 20 August between Arvalo de Len and Sandra Torres, as planned, so that the prosecutor’s investigation does not affect the trial. In order to obtain the support of the process from the government and the defense ministries of the Guatemalan executive, the Court yesterday morning filed a preventive action of amparo to the CC in the face of the “certain, future and imminent threat that the authorities violate the democratic rule of law”. The government of Alejandro Giammattei, which has never spoken out against the threat to the country’s democracy, called this legal action “surprising and regrettable”.

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