The US is restricting visas for nearly 300 Guatemalan lawmakers, others for 'undermining democracy'

MIAMI– The Biden administration announced Monday it would impose visa restrictions on nearly 300 Guatemalan lawmakers, private sector leaders and their families whom it accuses of “undermining democracy and the rule of law.”

Guatemala is facing increasing criticism from world leaders and watchdogs who accuse the country of trying to prevent progressive newly-elected President Bernardo Arévalo from coming to power in January.

The victory of Arévalo and his Seed Movement party is seen as a threat to those who have long held power in Guatemala. The anti-corruption crusader has been targeted for months, with arrests of party members, raids and repeated requests to have his immunity lifted so prosecutors can investigate him directly.

The State Department condemned in a statement the “continued antidemocratic actions” of prosecutors and other actors, noting that the “intent was to delegitimize the free and fair elections in Guatemala and prevent the peaceful transition of power.”

The State Department did not provide The Associated Press with the names of those subject to visa restrictions.

In its statement, the report said these individuals are “responsible for or complicit in” politically targeting the opposition, intimidating peaceful protesters, raids, opening ballot boxes and lifting the immunity of electoral magistrates who approved the elections.

Last week, prosecutors alleged that minutes seized during a raid on election offices showed that the results of the presidential election that Arévalo won in August had irregularities and were therefore null and void.

Accusing the prosecutor of undermining his ability to govern, Arévalo was soon supported by a growing number of international entities such as the Organization of American States and the European Union, which sent observers to monitor the elections and confirmed that voting was up to democratic standards met.

Josep Bornell, the EU's foreign policy chief, said Friday that the body was also considering sanctions against those who try to overturn the vote.

“These latest actions and statements by the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor's Office represent an attempted coup, led by politically motivated prosecutors,” Borrell said in a statement. “They show contempt for the clear will of the citizens of Guatemala.”