Indigenous supporters march to defend Guatemala's president-elect amid vote fraud allegations

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Thousands of indigenous supporters protested in Guatemala City on Monday to defend Guatemala’s president-elect as government prosecutors seek to ban his political party.

Many of the protesters carried banners or chanted slogans demanding the resignation of government officials who have sought to prosecute Bernardo Arévalo and ban his Seed Movement party.

Aleisar Arana, a leader of the Xinca ethnic group, called the prosecutions an attempt at a “coup.”

“The coup that the prosecution is leading must be stopped,” Arana said. Protesters threatened to keep demonstrating until the efforts against Arévalo are stopped.

Arévalo won the Aug. 20 presidential runoff in a landslide, but prosecutors have continued pursuing multiple investigations related to the registration of Arévalo’s Seed Movement party, and alleged fraud in the election. International observers have said that is not supported by evidence.

Arévalo announced plans last week to call Guatemalans into the streets to protest efforts to derail his presidency before he can take office, he said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press.

A coalition of academic and rights groups issued a statement Monday saying that international pressure should be stepped up to ensure Guatemala respects the results of the elections.

Arévalo said he has tried his own legal maneuvers to stop those who want to keep him from power, but now it’s necessary for the people to come out to the streets to support him. He said he wants to see businesspeople, farmers, Indigenous groups, and workers all come out.

Arévalo, a progressive lawmaker and academic, shocked Guatemala by making it into the runoff in which he beat former first lady Sandra Torres by more than 20 points.

The attorney general’s office has said it is only following the law, but has come under intense criticism within Guatemala and abroad for what appears to be a brazen attempt to keep Arévalo from coming to power, or to weaken him.

Arévalo acknowledges the task ahead won't be easy.

“Hundreds of years of marginalization, discrimination, the accumulated problems of 30 years of corrupt assault on power aren’t just going to disappear because we’re here,” he said. “But if we can start to change, to make the people feel that there are authorities who respond to them.”

This week, agents from the Attorney General’s Office opened boxes of votes and photographed their contents in an unprecedented violation of Guatemala’s electoral law.

Arévalo has called for Attorney General Consuelo Porras’ resignation and said he would temporarily suspend the process of transition from outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei.