By Paolina Albani – May 4, 2023
MLP: Political blockade by criminalization
When the MLP National Assembly decided to invite Jordán Rodas to join Thelma Cabrera, Maya-Mam rights defender and CODECA activist, as her running mate for the presidential elections, they were already expecting interference from Guatemala’s conservative class and political-economic establishment which, in recent years, have put together a front of opposition against the MLP’s fight against corruption. In spite of the political blockade due to Rodas’ settlement case, Cabrera has said that the MLP would not change its vice presidential candidate, as they are sure that the problem is not him, but only an excuse to disqualify the MLP option for the fear that the organization has generated in those who want to perpetuate themselves in power.
“We do not lend ourselves to such games. As MLP we gave our word, and we keep it,” Cabrera said. “We could change the vice-presidential candidate, but they will say ‘they did not meet the requirements’ and they will disqualify us again.”
📍Thelma Cabrera, sobre porqué se mantiene nuestra candidatura como binomio presidencial de @mlp_gt:
✅Vamos a seguir luchando con base en la decisión asamblearia.
✅No nos prestaremos nunca al juego del sistema.
✅El sistema tiene que demostrar su trabajo al pueblo. pic.twitter.com/5JZw6aiigH
— Jordán Rodas Andrade (@JordanRodas) April 13, 2023
The MLP has argued that an electoral fraud is being prepared, given the arbitrariness with which Rodas’ settlement was invalidated by the comptroller, despite the fact that it was provided last December and it is valid for six months. That settlement document showed that there are no complaints or processes pending to be clarified for Rodas’ time as the human rights ombusperson.
His candidacy has faced other administrative obstacles.
“We were thrown out of the municipal assemblies in 2022,” Cabrera stated. “It cost us a lot to get to the National Assembly on December 28 last year. We complied with all the requirements, including the famous settlement, which Jordán obtained at the end of December. In January, we presented ourselves for registration, but they used the settlement as an excuse to leave us out. The message is clear. This is the establishment’s way of taking us out of the game. We are already in the court, now they feel the danger. They have no choice but to provide justifications.”
📍MLP NO ha quedado fuera de la contienda electoral. Hemos seguido la vía democrática para que se respeten nuestros derechos, pero el sistema cooptado insiste en hacer fraude. Mienten diciendo que no tengo finiquito. #NosTienenMiedo por ser una opción digna desde las bases ⚠️ pic.twitter.com/r054Rf2z22
— Jordán Rodas Andrade (@JordanRodas) March 9, 2023
On April 13, the CSJ held a special session in which it denied the injunction filed by the MLP which challenged the TSE’s decision to disqualify its presidential candidate and her running mate.
“The CSJ, TSE, CC [Constitutional Court] and even the Human Rights Ombudsperson’s Office are co-opted by criminals,” Cabrera added. “They had already resolved the appeal. So, we had to go outside to talk about how Guatemala violates its Constitution, violates human rights solidarity agreements and the rights of indigenous peoples [and] of women.”
“This is part of the fraud, now there will be the show vote on June 25,” she continued. “The fraud is already happening. In 2019, they laughed at us when we denounced the fraud. Time has shown that we were right. That helps us to inform our brothers and sisters about our struggles in terms of electing and being elected.”
Cabrera has been accused of advance campaigning on two occasions: one for granting an interview on healing the land, although she emphasized that in that interview “I did not ask the people to vote,” and the other, on the 30th anniversary of CODECA, when she made an appearance to welcome guests, for which she had to present her resignations before the TSE, although she was not registered at that time.
The role of Cabrera and Rodas has been decisive in making the fraud visible. Their condemnations of the political blockade before national and international bodies exposed the rigging of the process.
Cabrera and Rodas’ Europe tour has helped them attract international attention. On April 17, Peter Stano, spokesperson for the European Union’s Commission for External Relations, announced that the body is keeping an eye on the CSJ proceedings in the case of Cabrera and Rodas, and asked the Guatemalan government authorities to ensure the impartiality and transparency of the election process.
One of the MLP’s latest actions was to present an injunction before the Constitutional Court (CC), which would have the last word on their political participation. On April 18, the court notified them that the appeal had been processed and asked the CSJ for the case file. Finally, on May 2, the CC informed in a communiqué that it had declared that the appeal was dismissed, so the MLP option is out of the presidential race. According to Jordán Rodas, this was the consummation of the fraud that they had condemned from the start.
Four years ago, in 2019, the MLP launched Thelma Cabrera as a presidential candidate for the first time. Despite the austere campaign and despite the fact that she was a new proposal, she managed to come in fourth place. This year, which would have been the second time that the MLP and Cabrera would participate in the elections, the mechanism to bar them from registering with the TSE went through administrative channels.
Cabrera not only proposed to carry on the anti-corruption fight, but also to re-found the State, and this would involve the creation of a new constitution in which human rights would be respected and the participation of indigenous peoples in national decisions would be included, especially in the consultation of mining and extractive projects.
The proposal raised alarms in the private sector and the establishment political class which, since the presidency of Jimmy Morales, have reorganized themselves to “recoopt” the State.
In the 2019 election, the MLP complained about electoral fraud for the first time because they were never provided the funds that they should have received for the number of votes they won, which is destined for the political formation of the parties, because they were given the credential late (on May 6, 2019) and because the TSE did not authorize them to open a bank account for the receipt of funds for the political campaign.
When Cabrera was asked for her opinion about the blocking of her candidacy, she said that “the reason is for the elites to maintain control and power. They have done damage to the people out of the fear they have of the MLP proposal.”
Without Cabrera in the presidential race, the path becomes clear for Zury Ríos, Sandra Torres, and Carlos Pineda of Citizen Prosperity party.
Guatemala: Political Blockade Against Opponents, Seeds of Atypical Electoral Fraud (Part 1)
The Arzús: An oligarchic family, divided and in conflict
A part of the oligarchy is fragmented in these elections. On one side of the battle is Álvaro Arzú Escobar, current congressman for the conservative and ultra-right Unionista party (aspiring for re-election), an ally of the Pact of the Corrupts (PC). The pact, in recent years, was able to expel the CICIG and the recoopt State institutions, specifically the judiciary, which then stopped important cases of corruption and historical memory from progressing.
Arzú Escobar was a key player in hindering the work of Jordán Rodas when the latter served as human rights ombudsperson.
In the same family branch is Álvaro Arzú’s older brother, Roberto Arzú, presidential aspirant from the Podemos party, who promised to end monopolies, a proposal that has not gone down well in the private sector. Arzú is one of the candidates that the TSE has not allowed to register, as unusual as it may seem.
On being asked who may be behind the blocking of his candidacy, Roberto Arzú replied, “The private sector, the bankers, the pharmacists, the sugar millers, the flour millers, all those whom we have told that their privileges and monopolies and the whole corrupt pact are over. All deputies, political parties, the two candidates, Zury Ríos and Sandra Torres, the president and the little boy, they are all against us.”
As for whether there is any family member among them, he said, “Without a doubt my brother Álvaro Arzú Escobar is there. If I am president, he cannot be a congressman.”
Arzú, unlike Cabrera and Rodas, was registered on January 27, by the Registry of Citizens. On February 4, the TSE annulled his registration for allegedly not having paid a fine for early campaigning. After this revocation, he traveled to Washington, in February, to denounce the illegal blockade and electoral fraud.
#conclusiones #sísepuede #rompiendoelsistema
Lo que está sucediendo en Guatemala es una atrocidad; estamos en presencia de todo un sistema corrupto que maneja el estado y violenta los derechos ciudadanos a su antojo. pic.twitter.com/DIUTHIAybG
— Roberto Arzú (@robertoarzugg) April 15, 2023
The alleged reason for Arzú’s disqualification, early campaigning, has been ignored in the case of Torres, Ríos, and Manuel Conde Orellana of the ruling Vamos party, none of whom has been sanctioned.
As a consequence, Arzú has initiated a legal battle to fight for his re-registration. Podemos went to the CSJ and also filed a challenge against the incumbent magistrates. Finally, the CSJ denied the appeal, so now it is in the hands of the CC to resolve his situation.
Mulet: “Psychological war” and spying
Electoral obstructionism has also been directed against one of the candidates registered before the TSE, Edmond Mulet, presidential candidate of the Cabal party. Mulet, who came in third place in the 2019 elections, has said that his party and he himself have been harassed since they made public the party’s political proposal in 2022.
On December 11, 2022, when Mulet announced his presidential bid, he exposed that rumors about the blocking of his registration had been started by “administrative and political segments of the country.”
He even received a direct message that stated, “Now we are going to block Roberto Arzú, Thelma Cabrera, and Neto Bran—they are on the list of candidates we are not going to register.”
“This is psychological warfare, it creates an atmosphere of uncertainty,” Mulet said. “That type of message reached the people who wanted to participate with us—candidates, activists—and that affected our morale.”
“We had several incumbent mayors in the party who wanted to be our candidates for re-election, honest people, decent people. One by one they came to resign because they had been threatened if they did not go with the ruling party,” Mulet added. “They said that they would be prosecuted by the Comptroller’s Office, criminal charges would be filed against them before the Attorney General’s Office, and that they would not be given the budget for the municipality’s projects. They told me ‘I would like to be with you, but I cannot, I cannot.'”
Mulet stated that he has more than 60 documented cases of officials who were fired from government posts for supporting the Cabal party.
“In the Interior Ministry there is a digital control unit that is monitoring all social media,” Mulet said in one of his weekly thematic conferences. “There they watch when I post a tweet, they find out who likes or comments, what that person’s name is, where they work. If that person works in the government, they are fired. They are called and told: you have been fired because you are supporting Mulet or Cabal.”
Mulet has been accused of running an illegal adoption scheme in the 1980s, taking advantage of family separations caused by the civil war. According to Plaza Pública’s 2015 investigation, in 1981, he was arrested for taking children out of the country as tourists on humanitarian grounds. The investigation revealed that in the adoption processes, he evaded national controls and that he abandoned several children. Although there were no criminal proceedings or convictions, as he had used his political ties to avoid going to prison, this accusation remains a stain in his history.
The persecution against Mulet began last March, when he spoke in support of the independent journalists who had suffered judicial persecution for covering the trial of the director of the newspaper El Periódico, José Rubén Zamora. At that time, Mulet filed two cases before the Attorney General’s Office and the Human Rights Ombudsperson’s Office to protect the journalists.
Rafael Curruchiche, head of FECI and right-hand man of Attorney General Consuelo Porras (who is an ally of President Alejandro Giammattei), claimed that Mulet’s public announcements on a legal case and giving an interview to CNN journalist Fernando Rincón on his program Conclusiones, constituted a preemptive campaign.
Curruchiche filed a complaint before the TSE against Mulet but, on April 20, the TSE shelved the case. Mulet was admonished for having filed the complaint before the attorney general. However, the reprimand limited him to talk about his government plan only, and not on other issues. After this ruling by the TSE, Mulet expressed confidence that the case against him will be closed.
Edmond Mulet has been one of Zury Ríos’ detractors. In January of this year, Cabal challenged the candidacy of Zury Ríos, arguing the impediment stated in article 186 of the Guatemalan Constitution which prohibits the participation of relatives of coup leaders like José Efraín Ríos Montt, her father.
Guatemala Blocks Leftist Indigenous Leader From Presidential Race, in ‘Electoral Coup’
Juan Francisco Solórzano Foppa: Blocked over settlement issues and persecuted for defending a journalist
Congressional and mayroal candidates too have been blocked for politically motivated reasons. Attorney Juan Francisco Solórzano Foppa is one of them. Until recently, he was the candidate for the Gautemala City mayorship from the leftist coalition Semilla/URNG/Winaq, but had to give up his electoral aspirations when he realized that his candidacy would not be registered.
On April 17, the coalition named the urban architect Ninotchka Matute as its candidate. However, three days later, the change of candidate was declared illegal by the TSE.
“Any slate for mayor that becomes vacant cannot be filled by another candidate. That is illegal,” TSE magistrate Irma Elizabeth Palencia Orellana declared on April 20. “Only if the slate wins, until that moment changes can be made. If the name of an individual whose candidacy was rejected—Foppa—was used for campaign purposes, that is another issue that we will analyze for a possible sanction.”
Later that day, Foppa was arrested and taken to court for his possible involvement in the Blackmail, Impunity and Money Laundering case, in which his client, journalist José Rubén Zamora, is being prosecuted. It has been alleged that the defense presented a fraudulent document to persecute the journalist and his supporters. This has once again called into question the independence of the judiciary.
“This is 100% political,” Foppa said. “We know that they are afraid of us, they have seen that we are in second place in 90% of the polls. When they see themselves threatened, they take these actions.”
He added that the people behind his criminalization are “the diabolical alliance of Zury Ríos, Ricardo Quiñones, the Valor and Unionist parties” who have used the Foundation Against Terrorism as instruments. “They are trying to criminalize me, on the eve of the José Rubén Zamora case, so that no one will want to defend him.”
Lawyer Justino Brito Torrez was also arrested on the same day. Brito Torrez represents Zamora, and is now representing Foppa as well.
When Foppa tried to register to compete for the Guatemala City mayor’s office, the problem was the settlement of legal procedures. The blockade came from the Comptroller’s Office, alleging that there were administrative and criminal processes against him pending to be resolved. Therefore, he could not present the complete paperwork before the TSE.
“There is a complaint against me since 2021,” Foppa said. “The attorney general has asked for the dismissal of the case. The issue is that the judge has not held a hearing. Now the date of the hearing has been set for January 2024.”
In that case, entitled “Falsehood and Politics,” Foppa is accused of having falsified a document to register his political party to run in the 2019 elections.
The same Comptroller’s Office filed a complaint against him for not publishing the agreement on which the Tax Investigation Management of 2018 is based. That case is ongoing.
Foppa stated that, in January of this year, Attorney General Consuelo Porras asked for a report on the general status of that case, and this raised suspicions due to the unusual interest in a cause that would end up being dismissed for lack of evidence.
“We tried several legal procedures to get the Comptroller’s Office remove that complaint from the system, but it has not proceeded,” Foppa explained. “We have filed injunctions. A judicial disciplinary complaint has already been filed against the judge, as well as a civil suit for damages.”
“We think that there is a malicious delay in denying me the possibility of having a hearing,” Foppa added. “The Comptroller’s Office has announced that it will not remove the complaint from the system until the judge resolves it, but the judge has not resolved it for two years. Moreover, the ‘Falsehood and Politics’ case remained stopped for 18 months and was reactivated precisely in March, during the election season.”
A few hours before his arrest, Foppa stated that the establishment will “continue to remove those who are uncomfortable for them, using inconsistent criteria.”
“What we see is that, if somehow we could obtain the settlement through some judicial action, they were going to block us later for this supposed inadequacy, as we have seen happening to some candidates, while others with preliminary hearing requests against them are registered,” said Foppa.
“This is a kind of fraud by not allowing certain candidates to participate under different parameters, while others are allowed to participate,” warned the lawyer. “They are eliminating the options that polls show as having real possibilities of winning.”
Aldo Dávila: Being an uncomfortable congressman takes its toll
Aldo Dávila, independent congressman who decided to run for re-election from the Vos party, could not register his candidacy due to impeachment motions against him. There are a total of 54 complaints against Dávila. At least three of them come from President Giammattei, who had confrontations with Dávila that bordered on insults and discrimination.
In an interview Dávila stated that the blockade of his candidacy was “something I was already expecting. I have been a very uncomfortable person for the Pact of Corrupts and the criminal alliance. I have exposed corruption and impunity, the squandering of resources, the lack of water in public establishments. This has to take its toll.”
He added that Giammattei’s complaints have evidenced the government’s interference in the judiciary. “The president filed complaints against me through a co-opted CSJ,” he said. “Since CSJ’s work did not progress for 36 months, the complaint passed to the judiciary. And which judge gets the charge of my case? The brother of two congressmen of the ruling bloc who voted in favor of Giammattei and one of them is seeking re-election.”
That judge recommended the removal of Dávila’s congressional immunity. In addition, the secretary general of the ruling party, Victor Valenzuela, filed an appeal of nullity against Dávila’s registration, alleging that he is not suitable to hold a Congress seat.
“I have not been prosecuted or convicted, but they are blocking my registration,” Dávila explained. “There are a lot of other candidates who were allowed to register despite the fact that some of them were even sentenced. It is complex, absurd and ironic. This shows that the TSE has also been co-opted. It receives orders from Giammattei, from the little prince [Miguel Martínez, who headed the Government Center], Consuelo Porras, and Shirley Rivera.”
For the time being, Dávila has filed injunctions and foresees a number of complaints against the candidates who were registered despite having pre-trial orders against them.
“Let it be equal for everybody. The legal battle has to be fought,” Dávila emphasized.
Democracy after 2023?
With two months to go before the elections, the shadow of fraud dangerously looms over the future of the country. If the fraud is consummated, it could mean the return to dictatorship for candidates with anti-establishment proposals. For the time being, the judicialization of the above-mentioned candidacies, which are awaiting the response of the courts, has left the doors open to what could happen.
For Foppa this could be the last “moderately democratic” election. “What the regime wants is to perpetuate itself in every sense,” he said. “They perpetuated the constitutional courts, the attorney general, they want to remain in power forever illegally. Not to mention the fraud of the USAC.”
“In four years, the same CSJ, the same attorney general, even the same congress members, the same CC and the same TSE will continue… They will use the military to hold on to their positions,” Foppa added. “I see no opening or democratic possibility after this election.”
Dávila has the same opinion. “In this process, moderately, we will be able to elect some good congress members. We, the opposition, have taken very few actions,” he said. “Then, people do not have a long memory.”
Cabrera was much more direct when asked about the outlook beyond 2023.
“In Guatemala, there has never been any democracy,” she stated. “This democracy belongs to the powerful, not to the people. The so-called democracy that they have painted for us is what they do, fraud, criminalization, assassinations, imprisonments, killing us with malnutrition, without access to health care, even killing us with the pandemic.”
“There has never been democracy. That is why we propose to organize ourselves so that the people can build their own democracy,” she continued. “The powerful are not going to give us the space, that is what we can see now.”
Anthropologist Flores and the former foreign minister Gutiérrez have said that under the present circumstances, the elections will not rectify the authoritarian turn that the Giammattei presidency has imposed, but will help to consolidate the “re-cooptation” of the State, bolstered by the political, legal and institutional decomposition. Thus, the immediate situation of the country will not improve.
For Flores, an alternative, in this scenario, will be for the citizenry to express support for the parties and candidates that are being excluded, but also to defend itself from the disinformation campaign that the corporate media, opinion pundits, and pollsters are carrying out to generate confusion.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
scorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/sahelicot92/May 27, 2023
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