Bernardo Arevalo, who won the popular vote, urged MPs to respect the result of the election
The supporters of president-elect Bernardo Arevalo clashed in Guatemala City with police on Sunday after his inauguration was unexpectedly delayed.
Arevalo, a member of the leftist Semilla party who ran on an anti-corruption platform, received more than 60% of the run-off vote in August 2023.
His swearing-in ceremony was due to begin at 3 pm local time on Sunday. The procedure was abruptly suspended by Congress – the nation’s parliament – which is controlled by right-wing parties.
People angered by the delaying of the inauguration broke through police barriers and threatened to storm the parliament building. Police responded by firing volleys of tear gas.
BREAKING 🇬🇹 Guatemala’s National Police have deployed tear gas against protestors demanding the immediate inauguration of the new government. pic.twitter.com/rAjsyjZ7ue
— Progressive International (@ProgIntl) January 14, 2024
“The MPs have the responsibility to respect the will of the people expressed at the polls,” Arevalo wrote on X (formerly Twitter), accusing his rivals of “attempting to undermine democracy with illegalities and abuses of power.”
The conflict arose because the congressional credentials commission took longer than expected to review the papers of the newly-elected MPs from Arevalo’s party. This, in turn, prevented the forming of the Board of Directors responsible for the swearing-in of the new president.
Congress has voted on Sunday to allow 23 pro-Arevalo MPs to keep their seats, but as independent, which prevents them from running for the Board of Directors or chairing commissions, the local newspaper Prensa Libre reported. The supporters of Arevalo believe that these restrictions will undermine his rule as president, according to the BBC.
The judicial authorities suspended Arevalo’s party in November, citing an investigation into whether the law was violated in the process of the party’s formation years earlier. Arevalo argued at the time that the prosecution was politically motivated and blasted it as a “coup d’etat” attempt.
A number of foreign leaders, including Spanish King Felipe VI and the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell are currently in Guatemala, where they were expected to attend the inauguration.
Honduran Foreign Minister Enrique Reina read out a statement on behalf of all delegations, including the EU and the Organization of American States (OAS).
“The Guatemalan people expressed their democratic will in fair, free and transparent elections, endorsed by the international community through its electoral observation missions. That will must be respected,” Reina said.
The US embassy has shared a statement by USAID chief Samatha Power who said that “there is no question that Bernardo Arevalo is the President of Guatemala.”
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