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Guatemala Congress strips electoral judges of immunity in troubled transition

Tan KW
Publish date: Sat, 02 Dec 2023, 07:15 AM
Tan KW
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GUATEMALA CITY - Guatemala's ruling-party-led Congress on Friday stripped four electoral judges accused of fraud of their immunity from prosecution, in a move critics fear is aimed at blocking President-elect Bernardo Arevalo from taking office next month.

The move by Congress is seen as an attempt to appoint judges who oppose Arevalo's election and is the latest in a series of measures that could hinder the transition of power. The moves have sparked international condemnation and nationwide protests.

Arevalo's anti-corruption platform helped spring him to a shock landslide victory in August elections.

Since then, the Guatemalan attorney general's office has investigated Arevalo's political party and the electoral court and has sought to strip Arevalo of immunity, accusing him of complicity in a takeover of the capital's San Carlos University last year.

In a Friday vote, 108 of 160 congressional deputies voted in favor of stripping magistrates Irma Palencia, Ranulfo Rojas, Gabriel Aguilera and Mynor Franco of their immunity. All those judges except for Palencia, have left the country, immigration authorities said.

The judges are accused of committing fraud and breach of duty for using a software state prosecutors said was "overpriced" to transmit preliminary election results.

Orlando Blanco, a representative for the VOS political party, said the objective was to name anti-Arevalo judges.

"They want to ignore the electoral results and they need the electoral court to abide by that decision," Blanco said.

The Guatemala office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said the move to strip the judges of immunity adds to "a long list of very worrying actions" which appear designed to undermine the electoral process and rule of law.

The U.S. government has criticized moves from Guatemala's attorney general and said earlier this month that those who try to interfere with the presidential transition will face "consequences".


  - Reuters


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