MEXICO CITY – Prosecutors in Guatemala say they plan to file charges against the country’s president-elect, Bernardo Arévalo, and vice president-elect, moves that are condemned as an attempt to prevent Arévalo from taking office in January .
At a news conference Thursday, prosecutors said they would ask the Supreme Court to strip him and other members of his party of immunity from prosecution for damages stemming from a 2022 protest at a university public. Prosecutors said Arevalo’s social media posts at the time encouraged students to return to college.
In the tweets, Arévalo congratulated the students of the University of San Carlos for their protest against the election of a new rector, whom the students described as corrupt. They also claimed that Arévalo’s center-left Seed Movement party used campus buildings to plan its 2023 presidential campaign.
“This evidence leads us to legally conclude that these people committed crimes,” said prosecutor Ángel Saúl Sánchez. Prosecutors said they would ask a court to strip Arevalo, Vice President-elect Karin Herrera and some key allies of their immunity so they could file charges.
In an interview with NPR on Monday, Arevalo warned of a type of modern-day coup happening in his country. “In the 21st century, everywhere in the world, coups are carried out by law,” he said.
Arévalo called the prosecutor’s actions “fallacious and unacceptable.”
“We can tolerate this political persecution any longer,” Arévalo said in a speech in Guatemala City. “Because if they win, Guatemala will lose.”
Thursday’s announcement is the latest in a series of attempts to unseat Arévalo, an anti-corruption campaigner who stunned the country with his unexpected landslide victory in August’s presidential election. The ruling elite had kept almost all opposition candidates out of the polls using legal tricks. But they left Arevalo on the ballot, because he polled terribly.
In a statement, the United States called the actions against Arévalo “brazen efforts to undermine Gutaemala’s peaceful transition of power.”
Edgar Ortiz, a Guatemalan constitutional lawyer, told NPR that it is clear that the attorney general and some judges are acting “outside any reasonable margin of legality.”
“(The government) is trying to strip Arevalo and Vice President Karin Herrera of their immunity in order to put them in prison and prevent them (from taking) office in January,” he said.