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US puts visa curbs on those it accuses of 'anti-democratic' moves in Guatemala

Published 12/11/2023, 01:48 PM
Updated 12/11/2023, 03:57 PM

WASHINGTON/GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) -The U.S. government announced measures on Monday to punish what it has described as anti-democratic moves by officials including Guatemala's top prosecutor that seek to annul the election won decisively by President-elect Bernardo Arevalo.

The latest measures imposed by Washington are visa restrictions on nearly 300 Guatemalan nationals, including 100 lawmakers out of the 160-member unicameral Congress, accused of undermining democracy in Central America's most populous country.

The travel restrictions also target some private sector representatives and their family members.

While the names of those Guatemalans targeted were not released due to confidentiality rules under U.S. law, those affected are "believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy or the rule of law," according to a U.S. State Department official.

Late last week, Arevalo forcefully rejected attempts by Attorney General Consuelo Porras to invalidate his election win, calling it "perverse" and an "attempted coup."

Porras' office also announced arrest warrants for Guatemalan electoral officials and party representatives following Arevalo's landslide triumph in last August's run-off election.

"The Guatemalan people have spoken. Their voices must be respected," U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Anti-corruption crusader Arevalo and his center-left Seed Movement party have faced a series of investigations from Porras' office, which has alleged irregularities in the party's registration several years ago.

The office of Guatemala's outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei and congressional officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. government's so-called Engel list of corrupt and undemocratic actors already includes Porras, her senior aide Rafael Curruchiche, and Fredy Orellana, the judge who ordered the suspension of Arevalo's center-left party after he garnered enough votes in June's first-round vote to take part in the August run-off.

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"The United States will continue to take steps to impose such restrictions on any individuals (who) undermine Guatemala's democracy," added Miller, but without specifying any other potential actions.

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