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Monday, June 24, 2024

Ahead of inauguration, Guatemala court shields VP-elect from arrest

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Guatemala’s highest court issued an order Thursday shielding vice president-elect Karin Herrera from arrest amid rumors she could be detained in a move that would derail her inauguration and that of president-elect Bernardo Arevalo this weekend.

The Constitutional Court granted Herrera’s request for protection after the prosecutor’s office in November moved to strip her and Arevalo of immunity from prosecution, which they enjoy as elected officials.

This was the latest in a string of moves against Arevalo and his team blamed on prosecutors with links to a corrupt elite seeking to block the anti-graft candidate’s ascent to the top office.

Guatemala’s Supreme Court has yet to rule on the immunity request, but social media abounded with chatter of 55-year-old Herrera’s impending arrest.

The Constitutional Court order instructs authorities “to refrain from requesting and authorizing any arrest order” against Herrera “without having exhausted the procedure established in law.”

Prosecutors are seeking to investigate the pair over damage allegedly caused during a student occupation of a university during a protest Arevalo endorsed.

Herrera, on X, welcomed Thursday’s ruling to “ensure the transfer of power.”

Organization of American States secretary general Luis Almargo, on the same network, called on Guatemalan institutions to resist “the boycott and conspiracy actions against democracy” of the prosecutor’s office.

Arevalo and Herrera “must take office this Sunday as constitutional president and vice president of the country,” he wrote.

– ‘Disobedience’ –

Earlier Thursday, Guatemalan police detained a former interior minister accused of refusing to clear dozens or roadblocks erected by Arevalo supporters demanding the resignation of Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras, widely seen as driving the judicial onslaught against the president-elect.

David Barrientos was arrested for “breach of duties and disobedience,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

The 65-year-old Arevalo, who unexpectedly prevailed in last year’s election, is set to be sworn in as legal challenges continue against him and his Semilla party and attempts by prosecutors to have the vote results overturned.

Arevalo has repeatedly claimed to be the target of a “slow-motion coup d’etat” led by Porras and senior prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche, both of whom appear on a US list of “corrupt actors.”

On Thursday, another court ordered the arrest of four electoral judges — all of whom have left the country — on accusations of corruption in the purchase of software used in last year’s vote.

They include former Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) president Irma Palencia.

After the judges had their immunity withdrawn at the request of the prosecutor’s office, the United States last month imposed visa restrictions on some 300 Guatemalans for their part in “undermining democracy.”

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