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Statement from the Mediation Mission of the OAS General Secretariat in Guatemala

  October 18, 2023

The Mediation Mission for Guatemala appointed by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, expresses its concern about the latest events that have occurred in the country.

A climate of tension and reproach is taking over the political situation in the country. While social tension has subsided in recent days with the relaxation of road closures, in return, the position of some State bodies has radicalized and has even gone so far as to judicially accuse a Minister of maintaining a peaceful and prudent attitude that, in addition, it has yielded excellent results in practice, without confrontations or violence.

Protesting is legitimate, questioning is legitimate, exercising authority is also legitimate, but no attitude that supports or fantasizes about violence is legitimate. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) very recently expressed itself in clear terms with resounding results. No one can take precedence over that sovereign decision of the citizens.

The Mission calls on all political and social actors to assume with absolute clarity and awareness that any deviation or excess puts peace at risk and, with it, the right of all Guatemalans to choose their destiny.

This Mission, in compliance with the proposed objective, has met with various interlocutors related to the current situation of the country. The invitations to dialogue, which responded to a broad and inclusive call, were received positively. The Mission verified that the reason for the mobilizations, blockades and citizen rejection is related to the actions of the Attorney General, Consuelo Porras, the Prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche, the Prosecutor Cinthia Monterroso and Judge Fredy Orellana, which threaten the integrity of the electoral process and the results of the 2023 General Elections. In particular, the actions that occurred at the end of September 2023 are identified as triggers, when prosecutors from the Public Prosecutor’s Office forcefully broke into the headquarters of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and extracted sensitive electoral material, corresponding to the original electoral minutes 4 and 8, which contain the sum of the results of the first electoral round held last June.

The indigenous authorities who lead the social protest have been emphatic in pointing out that they do not represent or allow the participation of any leader, party, or political movement. Therefore, accusations to involve the elected president, Bernardo Arévalo, or any other political leadership in these actions, are neither acceptable nor admissible.

The Mission, in a statement issued on October 13, highlighted the professionalism of the National Civil Police (PNC). However, on October 16, 2023, the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) asked the Constitutional Court (CC) to dismiss the Minister of the Interior, David Napoleón Barrientos, considering that he failed to comply with what was ordered by said instance, in a protection granted to the Human Rights Ombudsman's Office (PDH), and because no actions have been taken to remove the protesters who are preventing the passage of the Prosecutor's Office personnel to its headquarters. On October 16, Minister of the Interior Barrientos presented his resignation to the President of the Republic, Doctor Alejandro Giammattei, which was accepted. On October 18, the same Constitutional Court ordered an investigation of former Minister Barrientos for alleged non-compliance with the resolutions of that instance. According to this, the Public Prosecutor’s Office will have to initiate an investigation against him.

Among the coincidences and concerns of the majority of the actors interviewed by the Mission are 1) the importance of guaranteeing and respecting the right to social protest and refraining from criminalizing and persecuting both protesters and institutions. The Mission highlights that on October 18, 2023, this right has been conditioned by the decision of the Constitutional Court ordering the release of the facilities of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, within a period of six hours, and ordering the Minister of the Interior and Director of the National Civil Police to comply with the ruling; and 2) The concern about the jurisdiction criteria of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and its actions in electoral matters, which blur the success of the 2023 General Elections, as well as the need to know the results of the investigations in this matter. The violation of the sovereignty that lies in the people cannot be repeated.

Above all, the Mediation Mission and the General Secretariat reiterate the importance of guaranteeing that the government transition process continues peacefully and is not affected by any requirements or claims to the elected government. At the same time, the Mission rejects and condemns any act that threatens the integrity of the electoral process, its results and the transition process that will conclude on January 14, 2024, when President-elect Bernardo Arévalo and Vice President-elect Karin Herrera will take office.

The Mediation Mission will continue its mandate uninterruptedly in the country, closely monitoring the national situation and holding meetings with the main political and social actors, as it has been doing. The Mission reiterates its commitment, and that of the General Secretariat of the OAS, to support the spaces for dialogue, urging all parties to facilitate the necessary conditions to hold the meetings that were pending, with the urgency that the sensitive situation in the country warrants.

Reference: E-068/23