Guatemalan authorities raid electoral facilities, open boxes of votes

Guatemalan authorities raid electoral facilities, open boxes of votes

GUATEMALA CITY — Agents from Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday opened dozens of boxes of votes and photographed their contents in another raid on facilities of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

Luis Gerardo Ramírez, spokesman for the tribunal, said the body had not given permission to open the boxes and said the raid was being carried out by the Attorney General’s Office with the order of a judge.

The Attorney General’s Office had asked to review at least 160 boxes of votes from various parts of the country, Ramírez said.

“This is unprecedented, the law does not establish a process for this,” said Gloria López, electoral director of the tribunal. She said only the receiving authority at each polling place on the day of the election is supposed to review the marked ballots.

López said that votes in the opened boxes do not have a digital backup. She said by handling them, the Attorney General’s Office was breaking the Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s chain of custody.

“We would no longer be able to ensure what exactly are the votes that are inside the electoral boxes and what is the number of signatures and fingerprints on the (polling place tally sheets) that are going in the boxes,” she said.

Ovidio Orellana, former president of Guatemala’s bar association, said that there is no legal basis giving power to a judge or prosecutors to touch the electoral boxes or votes. “It is an arbitrary act,” he said.

The raid was apparently part of some of the various ongoing investigations related to the national elections that culminated last month with the election of Bernardo Arévalo.

Anti-corruption prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche, who has been investigating Arévalo’s Seed Movement party, was leading the operation. Curruchiche has been sanctioned by the United States government for allegedly obstructing the fight against corruption.

The Attorney General’s Office confirmed Tuesday’s raid, but declined to say to which case it was related. Judge Fredy Orellana issued the order to carry it out. He has also been sanctioned by the U.S. government.

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