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International Backlash Grows After Move to Strip Guatemalan President-Elect’s Immunity

(Reuters) – International rebuke swelled on Saturday over what observers say are efforts to use a politicized justice system to keep Guatemalan President-elect Bernardo Arevalo out of office.

A prosecutor at Guatemala’s attorney general’s office on Thursday moved to strip Arevalo of his immunity from prosecution, accusing him and his running mate of complicity in the takeover of a university in the capital last year.

Arevalo, an anti-graft candidate elected in a landslide in August, called the prosecutor’s move “absolutely illegal.”

In a statement on Saturday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, condemned the attorney general’s office’s “incessant improper actions and interference.”

“These threaten the democratic order, the ongoing presidential transition process and the individual and collective exercise of civil and political liberties in the country,” the statement said.

Earlier Saturday, senior U.S. Department of State official Brian Nichols condemned the attorney general’s office’s “malign request” to strip Arevalo and his Vice President-elect Karin Herrera of immunity in a post on social media.

Also on Saturday, the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (Grupo IDEA) published a letter signed by 29 former heads of state from Latin America and Spain denouncing the “persecution” of Arevalo and Herrera, which has the “repeated and clear purpose of obstructing the sovereign will of Guatemalans, already expressed through free elections.”

Guatemalan Attorney General Consuela Porras, accused by the U.S. government of corruption, has pursued a criminal investigation against Arevalo as well as his center-left Seed Movement party since before his election.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Boyle; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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