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Latam Brief: Guatemalan electoral court asked to nullify election

President Alejandro Giammattei and Attorney General María Consuelo Porras attend the presentation of the annual report of the Public Prosecutor's Office in Guatemala City on May 17, 2023. Photo Johan Ordóñez/AFP
President Alejandro Giammattei and Attorney General María Consuelo Porras attend the presentation of the annual report of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Guatemala City on May 17, 2023. (Johan Ordóñez/AFP)

Latin America Daily Briefing

Guatemala’s attorney general Consuelo Porras alleged fraud in the country’s presidential election, asked the electoral court to nullify the results, and asked Congress to strip president-elect Bernardo Arévalo’s immunity from prosecution. “ While the accusations appear ungrounded, “fears that attempts to prevent Arévalo from being sworn in on January 14 can succeed are increasing,” reports El Faro.

The case presented by the Public Ministry on Friday alleges that minutes seized during a raid of electoral offices showed that results from the presidential runoff vote Arévalo won in August had irregularities and were therefore void. (Prensa Libre)

Friday’s move is the latest in a volley of efforts from Guatemala’s judicial class to overturn the election won in August by Arévalo, an outsider candidate who has promised to eradicate entrenched corruption in the country, which some categorize as a “kleptocracy.” Arévalo is scheduled to assume office on Jan. 14.

On Friday members of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) reiterated that the election results are certified and “inalterable,” reports Prensa Libre. The TSE is currently disintegrated, and four members are in exile, though they continue to meet virtually.

Arévalo said prosecutors seek to thwart his incoming government — a sentiment echoed by Guatemala’s high electoral court, the Organization of American States and officials from the United Nations, the British Foreign Office and the European Union, reports the Associated Press.

The U.S. Biden administration announced, yesterday, new visa restrictions on nearly 300 Guatemalan lawmakers, private sector leaders and their families it accuses of “undermining democracy and the rule of law.” (Associated Press)

“Analysts say the scorched-earth attack against a democratically elected leader in a bid to prevent an orderly transition of power reveals a country on the brink of political crisis,” reports the New York Times.

El Faro analyzes the allegations, noting that accusations that Arévalo engaged in money laundering echo tactics deployed against journalist José Rubén Zamora. “It’s typical of authoritarian regimes to use money laundering laws to persecute the opposition,” constitutional lawyer Édgar Ortiz told El Faro English. “If this were truly a matter of electoral finance, it would be a minor administrative sanction.”

Guyana and Venezuela to meet

Guyanese President Irfaan Ali will meet with his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolás Maduro, on Thurday, amid heightened tensions over a territorial dispute. Ali agreed to the meeting, which will take place in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in response to pressure from Brazil, CELAC and CARICOM, reports the Associated Press.

Venezuela had been pushing for direct bilateral talks, while Guyana argues that Venezuela’s efforts to claim a significant (and oil-rich) chunk of its national territoriy should be decided by the United Nations’ International Court of Justice.

St. Vincent’s prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves, who also holds the rotating CELAC presidency, will chair the meeting, and Brazil , which shares borders with both Venezuela and Guyana, will act as an observer.

Over the weekend, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva spoke to Maduro and called for dialogue, saying it was important to avoid unilateral measures that could escalate the situation, reports Reuters.

Most analysts agree that Maduro’s saber-rattling relates to domestic political concerns ahead of next year’s presidential election, and also hopes of cashing in on Guyana’s newfound oil wealth.

Venezuelan analyst Luis Vicente León told the Financial Times that an invasion was unlikely as the armed forces, whose allegiance is central to Maduro’s grip on power, were unlikely to permit such risky adventurism. “But of course, when you play with fire you can get burnt.”

Regional Relations

  • Brazil will resume electricity imports from its neighbor Venezuela after more than four years of hiatus, reports Reuters.

  • “Climate change is a matter of “life and death,” Colombian President Gustavo Petro told Time Magazine, arguing the time has come for countries to move past their narrow self interest and antiquated market-based policies.


  • Colombia’s government eliminated penalties for the possession and personal consumption of narcotics, specifically minimum doses, with a presidential decree last week. — The City Paper


  • “Brazilian First Lady Rosangela “Janja” Silva had her account on social media platform X hacked on Monday, prompting local authorities to launch an investigation and request that the Elon Musk-owned company freeze her profile,” reports Reuters.


  • Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he plans to present a law banning e-cigarettes and vapes before he leaves office in 2024, reports Reuters.


  • A camera found on Acongagua provides clues about an ill-fated mountaineering expedition five decades ago — New York Times.

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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