Protests erupt in Guatemala over alleged meddling in vote

Hundreds of Guatemalans marched in the capital on Sunday demanding that the attorney general and a handful of prosecutors step down over their alleged efforts to impede an upcoming presidential runoff election.

Many of the protesters carried signs demanding an end to a right-wing campaign widely seen as a challenge to the legitimacy of the August 20 runoff.

Protesters demanded the ouster of Attorney General Consuelo Porras, whose office seeks to disqualify the Semilla (Seed) Party of Bernardo Arevalo, a social democrat who surged into one of two runoff spots, shocking many in the nation.

“There have been a series of spurious legal actions aimed at rendering the June 25 (first round vote) null and void,” Mayan activist Alida Vicente told AFP.

“Out with the corrupt! We are fed up!” chanted marchers, some banging drums.

The US State Department last year designated Porras as corrupt and undemocratic and said she was undermining anticorruption probes.

Marchers also demanded the removal of Judge Fredy Orellana and prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche.

On Curruchiche’s orders, Orellana directed the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to disqualify the Semilla Party, alleging anomalies in how it was created in 2017. The Tribunal did not comply with the order.

In response, judicial agents twice raided the TSE and sought to arrest a functionary there, and on Friday they searched the headquarters of Semilla in the capital.

Arevalo is slated to face Sandra Torres, a former first lady who also is center left, in the runoff next month. Whoever wins will put an end to 12 years of rightist rule in the Central American nation.

The turbulent legal actions of recent weeks are widely interpreted within Guatemala and abroad as an effort to scuttle Arevalo’s candidacy.

On Saturday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a statement noting his “great concern” over the elections and exhorting authorities in Guatemala to protect citizenry “from any unlawful or arbitrary interference with the voting process.”

Organizers called on protesters to set up roadblocks on Monday, and urged businesses to shut their doors as part of a national strike against interference with the election.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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