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Guatemala court rejects anti-graft crusader's presidential bid

Guatemala court rejects anti-graft crusader's presidential bid

The decision was met with disappointment by supporters of Aldana’s Semilla Party [Moises Castillo/AP Photo]

Guatemala City, Guatemala – The Guatemalan Constitutional Court has ruled against the presidential candidacy of Thelma Aldana, a former attorney general known for her anti-corruption platform.

The court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by Aldana’s Semilla Party to allow her registration, in a decision that came on a six-to-one vote. The case now returns to Supreme Court to be finalised.

Martin Guzman, the court’s secretary, told reporters that Aldana had failed to meet the prerequisites to run for office.

Following the announcement, Aldana vowed to continue her battle against corruption.

“It has become evident that the fight against corruption and criminal structures in our country has a very high cost,” Aldana said in a statement. “I will continue to struggle to transform the country.”

Guatemalans will go to the polls on June 16, with a presidential runoff to be held on August 11 should no candidate obtain an outright majority in the first round.

The court’s decision was met with disappointment by members of Aldana’s Semilla Party.

“We are surprised by the decision,” Ligia Hernandez, the party’s deputy secretary and candidate for Congress, told Al Jazeera.

“But we respect the decision of the court,” she said. “This is a big hit to the party, but now we will focus on the campaigns for mayors and congressional representatives.”

High-level probe

Aldana faced intense pressure against her attempt to run for president since she announced her bid in March.

Rivals filed injunctions against her candidacy and allegations surfaced of acts of corruption during her period as attorney general between 2014 to 2018.

Aldana has remained in El Salvador since mid-March after a warrant was issued for her arrest two days before the beginning of the official election campaign period. The judge who issued the arrest warrant is currently under investigation for receiving bribes in exchange for the warrant. On Wednesday, Aldana travelled to Miami, in the United States.

Aldana gained international notoriety during a 2015 joint investigation by her office and the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala into high-level government corruption.

President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti were both forced to resign as a result of the probe and were subsequently arrested.

The Constitutional Court will decide on Thursday whether Sandra Torres, the former first lady and current candidate of the National Unity of Hope (UNE) party, will face charges for receiving illicit financing during her 2015 presidential bid. In that year’s election, Torres came in second behind current President Jimmy Morales.

On Monday, the court also ruled that Zury Rios, the daughter of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt and presidential candidate for the conservative Valor party, was un-eligible to run for president. The country’s Electoral Council officially revoked her credentials as a candidate.

Uncertainty ahead of polls

The court’s decisions come one month before Guatemala goes to the polls to elect the next president, congressional representatives and municipal councils.

But many voters still feel a deep sense of uncertainty.

“Guatemala has seen a weathering of the confidence … in political parties,” Renzo Rosal, a Guatemalan political analyst and columnist, told Al Jazeera.

“Many people see the elections as nothing more than an event that will not change the reality of Guatemalans.”

Source: Aljazeera

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