WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Monday took steps to impose visa restrictions on nearly 300 Guatemalan nationals, including 100 members of the congress, accusing them of undermining democracy and rule of law in the country.
The action also targets private sector representatives and their family members, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement, after Guatemala’s President-elect Bernardo Arevalo on Friday forcefully rejected a legal maneuver from prosecutors to invalidate his election win and called the effort “perverse” and an “attempted coup.”
Washington strongly condemns actions by Guatemala’s Public Ministry and others, including the ministry’s announcement of arrest warrants for electoral workers and party representatives, its request to annul electoral results and its request to remove the immunity of Arevalo, Miller said.
“These brazen measures follow a long list of other anti-democratic actions,” Miller said.
“The Guatemalan people have spoken. Their voices must be respected.”
Ever since anti-corruption crusader Arevalo did much better than expected in June’s first-round election, qualifying for the decisive August runoff, he and his center-left Seed Movement party have faced a series of investigations from the attorney general’s office, which has alleged irregularities in the party’s registration several years ago.
The U.S. and other Western countries have backed Arevalo, who cruised to a landslide victory in the run-off against an establishment-friendly candidate, saying the probes are a coordinated attempt to undermine him and democracy in Guatemala, Central America’s most populous country.
“The United States will continue to take steps to impose such restrictions on any individuals undermine Guatemala’s democracy,” Miller said.