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Guatemalan prosecutors moved to strip President-elect Bernardo Arévalo of immunity from prosecution, a move that many critics and diplomats described as the latest by the government to keep the anti-graft politician from taking office in January, NPR reported.
Prosecutors asked the country’s supreme court to strip Arévalo and members of his center-left Seed Movement party of immunity over damages resulting from a 2022 protest at a public university.
At the time, demonstrations took place at San Carlos University in the capital over the election of a new rector, whom the students accused of being corrupt. In a series of posts on social media, Arévalo had congratulated the students for their demonstrations, but authorities alleged that the president-elect was encouraging them to take over the university.
They also accused the Seed Movement of using the campus building to plan their 2023 presidential campaigns.
Arévalo called the move “spurious and unacceptable.” He had previously accused Guatemala’s ruling elites of launching a “coup” against his efforts to take office.
Criticism also came from international groups and diplomats, with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression criticizing prosecutors’ “incessant improper actions and interference,” Reuters noted.
Legal analysts also questioned the move, noting that the attorney general and some judges were acting “outside every reasonable margin of legality.”
Thursday’s announcement is part of a series of efforts to remove Arévalo, an anti-corruption advocate who surprised the nation with a landslide win in the August presidential election.
Guatemalan Attorney General Consuela Porras – who has been accused by the US government of corruption – has been conducting a criminal probe into Arévalo and his center-left Seed Movement party since before his election.