Guatemala's President-elect Bernardo Arevalo
Guatemala's President-elect Bernardo Arevalo has faced obstacles ever since he survived the first-round vote in June as prosecutors moved against his party, called Semilla, alleging irregularities in its founding and trying to suspend it. AFP

In the wake of safeguarding democracy and the rule of law in Guatemala, the United States has imposed visa restrictions on nearly 300 Guatemalan nationals, including 100 political leaders and private sector representatives alongside their families.

Matthew Miller, the spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, disclosed the step was taken under Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act for undermining democracy and the rule of law.

Guatemala is going through a democratic crisis, with the current administration trying to block President-elect Bernardo Arévalo from taking over the office next month.

The elections had concluded in the country on Oct. 31, following which Arévalo had won by an overwhelming margin.

"The United States strongly condemns ongoing anti-democratic actions by Guatemala's Public Ministry and other malign actors who undermine Guatemala's rule of law," Miller said, as per the official statement issued on Monday.

The spokesperson mentioned a recent incident where the Public Ministry issued arrest warrants for electoral workers and party representatives, requested to remove the immunity of President-elect Arévalo and attempted to annul electoral results.

He noted these evidences showed intent to "delegitimize Guatemala's free and fair elections and prevent the peaceful transition of power," adding that "these actions are plainly inconsistent with the Inter American Democratic Charter."

"These brazen measures follow a long list of other anti-democratic actions including the lifting of immunity of electoral magistrates, the political targeting of opposition members, the intimidation of peaceful protestors, raids on storage facilities housing election result records and the opening of ballot boxes."

He pointed out that the visa restriction move will reinforce previous measures by the state government to encourage accountability for corrupt and undemocratic actors in Guatemala, while supporting the citizens.

The spokesperson concluded, "The Guatemalan people have spoken. Their voices must be respected."

He also took to X, formerly known as Twitter, on the same day to condemn the Public Ministry of Guatemala, calling out its "brazen actions" against the president-elect.

"We condemn @MPguatemala's latest brazen actions to annul results of free and fair elections and criminalize those who supported the electoral process. We will continue to stand with those who defend democracy and promote accountability for those who seek to undermine it," he wrote.

Guatemalans have also accused Attorney General María Consuelo Porras of trying to disqualify Arevalo's party and stopping him from taking over the office. Several people had taken to the streets as part of pro-democracy protests in the country.

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