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Mobilisations continue in Guatemala against impending ‘coup’

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Picture: Peoples Dispatch – President-elect Bernardo Arévalo. Indigenous communities in the country have been on a national strike since October 2 amid actions by the judiciary and the right-wing to undermine democracy and the electoral process, the writer says.

By Peoples Dispatch

Thousands of Guatemalans have been on an indefinite national strike to reject the moves by the attorney general’s office and the courts to undermine the results of the August presidential elections and prevent president-elect Bernardo Arévalo from taking office in January. The mostly indigenous protesters have been blocking highways and mobilising in cities across the country.

Some delegations marched from the rural regions of the country to the capital city to hold a sit-in outside the attorney general’s office where they have been joined by students, street and market vendors, and other progressive organisations.

The indefinite national strike began on October 2 and was first called for by the 48 Cantons of Totonicapán, the Indigenous Municipality of Sololá, Santa Lucía Utatlán, the Xinca Parliament, the Ancestral Indigenous Municipal Mayor’s Office of Quiché, San Francisco El Alto, the Association of Communities for Development and Land, Indigenous Communities of Chichicastenango and the mayor’s office of the Ixil Region.

The strike comes after several months of attempts by those institutions to delegitimise and even criminalise the party of president-elect Bernardo Arévalo, the Movimiento Semilla (Semilla Movement), and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), which had validated the results of the June and August elections and challenge attempts to arbitrarily proscribe Movimiento Semilla. Organisations and activists partaking in the mobilisation term these actions a “pending coup”.

The central demands of the national strike are for the resignation of Attorney General Consuelo Porras, prosecutors Rafael Curruchiche and Cinthia Monterroso, as well as that of Judge Fredy Orellana, who have led the latest criminalisation actions against the Movimiento Semilla party and magistrates of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE).

Following the fourth raid carried out by the attorney general’s office at the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), president-elect Arévalo said, “Attorney General Consuelo Porras, with the support of Attorney General Rafael Curruchiche and Judge Freddy Orellana, are carrying out a coup d’état, it is an ongoing coup d’état in which the electoral process and the will freely manifested by the people during this process are being undermined.”

Since arriving in the capital city, protesters have faced attempts from the government to infiltrate their protest with violent provocateurs, such as what occurred on October 9 in the Plaza Constitución which ended in violent police repression. The incident was condemned on national tv that same night by Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, who failed to mention the motivations and causes behind the more than week-long national strike.

On Wednesday October 11, Arévalo, accompanied by dozens of protesters, went to the National Palace to present a letter addressed to Giammattei calling on him to take immediate action to stop the moves by Attorney General Porras. “You are the main person responsible. Enough is enough. You have inflicted too much damage on this people in the last four years.

“There is no justification in continuing to do so in the 95 days you have left in the presidential palace. You, Dr Giammattei, hold in your hands the key that can disarm this crisis … Use your position to denounce the illegal and spurious actions of the corrupt officials of the Public Ministry and ask Mrs Consuelo Porras to resign as attorney general.”

Protesters have vowed to continue their mobilisation until their demands are met and the pending coup is reversed. Numerous leaders from the region such as Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have spoken out about the harassment against Arévalo and called for democracy to be respected.

Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organisation of American States (OAS), who himself has backed and legitimised several coups and destabilisation operations across the continent, has even spoken out. He called the actions of Guatemala’s prosecutors against the president-elect a “shameful example for the hemisphere”.

* With reports from Prensa Comunitaria. This article was published on Peoples Dispatch