By Sofia Menchu

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Guatemala presidential candidate Bernardo Arevalo, the surprise second-place finisher in first-round elections, said the government is behind attempts to question the result and wants to remove him from the run-off.

The country’s top court called for a ballot review of the June 25 vote after the ruling party Vamos, first-place finisher Sandra Torres, and other allied parties alleged there were irregularities.

The move has drawn international criticism, including from the United States and the European Union who have said there were no indications of problems with the results. The Organization of American States (OAS) said its election observers would return to monitor the review.

In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Arevalo, a 64-year-old sociologist and son of former President Juan Jose Arevalo, said he feared “the corrupt political class” could attempt to delay the electoral process until January 14, a deadline that allows the current Congress to appoint a new president if one has not been elected.

“This corrupt political class is facing a reality and that is that (my party) has a chance of winning and it means that they are going to lose total control of the system,” Arevalo said from his home in Guatemala City.

Arevalo is set to face former first lady Sandra Torres in the run-off on August 20. Manuel Conde, candidate for ruling party of outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei, came third.

“It is evident that (there are some) who are trying to see if conditions can be created for Manuel Conde to be added (to the August ballot),” Arevalo added.

In response to a request for comment, Vamos sent Reuters a previous statement in which it said it rejects “categorically and energetically the accusation” that it aimed to influence the vote. A spokesperson also described Arevalo’s allegation that the government was attempting to put Conde on the August ballot as “conjecture.”

Arevalo’s fledgling Semilla party, which was founded in 2017 and has strong links to Guatemala’s anti-corruption movement, is also set to take 23 seats in Congress if preliminary results of the June 25 vote stand.


Arevalo has campaigned on promises to bring back judges, prosecutors and journalists who have fled the country in the wake of the government shutting down the U.N.-backed anti-graft body known as CICIG in 2019.

Several other opposition candidates, including popular businessman Carlos Pineda who was the early front-runner, were disqualified from the race.

Arevalo said he has asked his supporters to remain peaceful, warning that any unrest could open up a “framework for trickery” during the process.

If elected, Arevalo said he would expand relations with China without breaking ties with Taiwan. Guatemala is one of only 12 countries, plus the Vatican, with official diplomatic ties with China-claimed Taiwan.

“We are going to aim to not choose,” Arevalo said. “We would not be the first country to do so, there are many countries that have this framework, (including) the United States.”

China has gained ground in recent years in Central America and the Caribbean. In March, Honduras established diplomatic relations with the Asian giant after breaking ties with Taipei.

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu, writing by Cassandra Garrison and Diego Ore; editing by Stephen Eisenhammer and Nick Zieminski)

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