Hundreds of Guatemalans blocked key roads on Monday to demand the resignation of top prosecutors whom they accuse of trying to block the newly elected president from taking office.
Prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche on Friday and Saturday sent security forces to seize boxes of voting records from this year’s presidential election, won by outsider Bernardo Arevalo, 64, in a massive upset.
Observers say Arevalo’s vow to clamp down on graft has alarmed a corrupt elite.
Arevalo is only due to take office in January, and the international community has raised the alarm over efforts to challenge the election outcome.
Protesters on Monday blocked key highways such as the Inter-American Highway and routes leading to the borders of Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras, according to road authorities.
“Guatemala demands the respect of its democracy,” read a sign held up by protesters.
Others demanded the resignation of Curruchiche, Attorney General Consuelo Porras, and Judge Fredy Orellana — who have backed several raids against electoral authorities.
All three officials have been described as “corrupt” and “undemocratic” by the US justice department.
Arevalo has asked the Supreme Court to remove them from their roles, accusing them of plotting a “coup d’etat” to prevent him from taking office.
The president-elect wrote on social media Monday that he had held a video call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken who expressed “his country’s concern about the situation in Guatemala.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said on Sunday that the raid was “the latest in a long list of very worrying actions … which — taken together — appear designed to undermine the integrity of the electoral process.”
The seized records, according to magistrate Gabriel Aguilera, came from the June first-round election that launched Social Democrat Arevalo en route to a stunning runoff victory in August.
His performance in that vote prompted a flurry of legal actions against his Semilla party, led by Curruchiche, who alleged irregularities in its formation in 2017.
Arevalo will replace right-wing President Alejandro Giammattei who has been accused by rights groups of overseeing a crackdown on anti-graft prosecutors and journalists, many of whom have been detained or forced to flee into exile.
The Central American nation is dogged by poverty, violence, and graft, sending thousands abroad every year in search of a better life, many to the United States.