Guatemala's political crisis escalated last weekend as prosecutors raided the country's top electoral tribunal searching for documents related to August presidential election. Agents of the Attorney General's Office entered the headquarters of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and confiscated the official lists of results from the polling stations.
Police officers shoved and wrestled with judges from the tribunal as prosecutors sought to seize the tally sheets of votes.
Video footage showed justices holding tight to boxes as police tried to remove them as part of raids to investigate spurious claims of voting fraud.
This is another chapter in the history of our country. We can only hope that it will end well, said Justice Blanca Alfaro in a tearful voice. The election result has already been officially declared, this cannot be changed.
Rafael Curruchiche, the head of the Special Prosecutor's Office Against Impunity, called the raid a rescue operation for democracy, a rescue operation for sovereignty.
He accused the European Union and the Organization of American States of interfering in the country's internal affairs, but no specific rationale was offered for Sunday's dramatic operation.
Bernardo Arevalo, a progressive anti-corruption campaigner, was elected Guatemala's new president in a run-off vote on August 20. International observers at the time said they saw no evidence of any such fraud.
But his success shocked political watchers and Attorney General Consuelo Porras and Curruchiche have since been trying to suspend his party, citing election irregularities.
Porras' office also has ongoing investigations into how Arevalo's Seed Movement gathered the necessary signatures for its registration years earlier. Critics say they are trying to undermine the will of the voters, damage Arevalo ahead of him taking office, and protect the entrenched political elite.
Curruchiche was put on a US list of corrupt Central American officials last year.
We are dealing with a direct and systematic attack on the integrity of the electoral process, Arévalo wrote in a statement. We must protect, respect and defend the choice Guatemalans have expressed at the polls.
The latest raid drew condemnation from the United States, the European Union and the Organization of American States.
We will pursue accountability for those who participate in efforts to undermine the democratic transition to President-elect @BArevalodeLeon, US Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell denounced the raid as unacceptable, adding, The siege on democracy cannot continue, while the OAS observer mission decried the raid as shameful.