Translated from an article by Nitu Pérez Osuna.
Complaints from the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) regarding the electoral results of the latest Guatemalan general elections have unraveled a major controversy inside and outside of the country. Some politicians argue that a coup d’état is underway to stop President-Elect Bernardo Arévalo from taking office. Arévalo’s Semilla party is a member of Progressive International, a leftist organization created by US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Its goal is to face, in alliance with the São Paulo Forum and the Puebla Group, the growing presence of the right wing across the world.
Due to the controversy, on December 8 the PGO gave a press conference to explain its point of view based on—according to the institution—a technical, objective, and scientific investigation. The press conference lasted more than one hour and a half.
Among the findings shared on December 8, prosecutor Leonor Morales Lazo affirmed that Semilla, Arévalo’s party, was found to have forged signatures: “5,542 of the people registered with the party do not exist. The names of 2,394 people do not match their identification documents. Further, 40 of those registered are dead, 13 have declared they did not sign to become party members, and 132 names appear twice.”
Morales Lazo adds: “Total illegalities in the registration form add up to 8,121 people.” In other words, the PGO discovered that Semilla failed to obtain the number of members that the law establishes to register the party.
José Rafael Curruchiche, head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI), pointed out that there are serious inconsistencies between the income and expenditure of the party during the electoral campaign. In addition, he asserted that the party received anonymous financial donations. However, the party lacks the documents to back up the donations. Curruchiche also contended that there were indications of possible laundering of money and other assets. He added that the electoral authority (TSE) did not present the appropriate complaints to the PGO, as the law directs when there is a case of a possible criminal offense. This became apparent in the TSE financial audit but was not shared with the PGO.
Morales Lazo also contended: “after the raids carried out on September 12 and 29, 2023, in the operations center of the electoral process and the TSE headquarters, it was determined that there were illegalities in the guarding of the ballot boxes. The PGO also established that the boxes were missing tally sheet number four, which indicates the number of votes obtained by each candidate. The PGO also established no uniformity between the formats used, which contradicts TSE rules.”
Morales Lazo also highlights that PGO requested its Department of Press and Information download all TSE acts to review the norms exhaustively. By doing this, the PGO found that “in 2023, the TSE only published 55 out of 1,936 acts, which is a serious offense and undermines the transparency of electoral processes.”
Morales Lazo then contended that “the TSE suspiciously acquired overpriced software. The software served as the platform of the electoral process, which a third party operated. This compromised the normal development of the electoral process, which opened the door to the software’s informational vulnerability that could generate irregular results and undermine the people’s will.”
The Transmission of Preliminary Electoral Results system (TREP) was manipulated from outside of Guatemala to introduce (nonexistent) votes. There are enough rational indications to presume that these illicit actions were committed with the complicity of TSE officials to make the results match those of the tally sheets. On the other hand, the PGO asserts that the so-called scrutiny sheets (or number-four tally sheets) were modified by introducing a new format, which was not TSE-approved. Morales Lazo explained this at minute 55.
After one hour of the press conference, PGO officials mentioned that the TSE hired nine private, commercial entities to print electoral materials. However, the TSE only reported four of them to the PGO. The prosecutors were surprised when they found out that one of the hired companies did not specialize in document printing but in the management and commercialization of a convention center. This company also specialized in food and beverage services such as hosting events and catering food.
Other irregularities that the PGO found include the manipulation, without any authorization, of multiple number-four tally sheets. Only the provincial electoral boards can modify these tally sheets after filing a complaint and having it approved. Those who manipulated the number-four tally sheets were not members of the polling stations but civilians linked to the TSE. The manipulation happened once the sheets were delivered to the TSE, affirmed Morales Lazo.
Morales Lazo contended that his witnesses were TSE digital-data-entry officials. She explained that after the first round of the election, at approximately 11 p.m., the witnesses said their bosses had asked them to enter data from tally sheets with alterations to “stop delaying the process any further.” Tally sheets with alterations are illegal. In addition, 17 of these data-entry officials were members of Semilla, which is forbidden by law. On the other hand, multiple number-four tally sheets lacked their respective stamp, which makes them invalid. The omission is the TSE’s fault for not supplying the necessary materials.
In the same vein, the PGO shared that, according to its investigation, 68,200 votes were not counted. Some of the justifications for not counting the votes were untrue, including the tally being illegible or the ballot boxes not being openable, on account of TSE inaction.
Other findings that the PGO revealed are that—according to voluntary confessions from multiple TSE workers, which are consistent with each other—the so-called closing tally sheets or number-eight tally sheets did not match the TREP results. For this reason, TSE officials asked representatives of the provincial electoral boards to alter the numbers after the electoral process had ended. They wanted the tally-sheet numbers to match those of TREP. Further, the TSE hid 7,000 number-four tally sheets from the PGO. Number-four tally sheets are necessary to verify the results of each province’s electoral board.
Witnesses stated that the objective of hiding them was to manipulate the number-eight tally sheets. It is even more severe that, according to the investigation: the PGO found 22,981 irregularities such as having more voters than registered voters. The PGO also established that there was an illegal preupload of data (votes) to the TSE TREP system, hours before the closing time for voting.
Given all these findings, we must ask ourselves: is a coup d’état underway or an electoral fraud imposition?
As a Venezuelan who has lived under an oppressive system that lacked liberties—the Chávez–Maduro regime—listening to statements akin to the one I described above sets off alarms. In 25 years we have learned that electoral fraud is much more than robbing votes.
It is violent protests as a blackmailing mechanism. It is forged signatures. It is the adulteration of the voters’ registration, illegal funding, norms being ignored, dead people voting, the placement of voter center supervisors who endorse the fraud, hiding tally sheets, and a fake vote count through manipulated software. Electoral fraud is this and more. This is camouflaged by the leftist media apparatus that threatens and bullies those who dare to speak about the fraud.
My friend, Venezuelan writer Alejandro Peña Esclusa, says that electoral fraud is “an integral system that initiates using political power to coopt every institution, especially the electoral authorities, to pervert the rules of the democratic game.”
There is a Latin proverb that reads, “he who owes nothing, fears nothing.” For this reason, it is the duty of politicians who aspire to take office and manage Guatemala—which is today’s case—to argue against the PGO’s accusations in courts. They cannot defend themselves by repeating meaningless slogans. This is what citizens expect. Out of respect to Guatemalans, who voted in favor of one or another candidate, freedom, and democracy, it is necessary and imperative to respond to the criminal complaint.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily the views of the Impunity Observer.
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