Top Guatemalan presidential candidate disqualified ahead of race | Election News

Conservative businessman Carlos Pineda lost his last resort to continue his campaign, a month before the start of the elections.

Guatemala’s Constitutional Court has decided to end the presidential campaign of dark horse candidate Carlos Pineda, with only one month left until voting begins.

Pineda, a conservative businessman with a huge following on social media, had appealed to the nation’s highest court after a judge suspended his candidacy a week ago, citing breaches of the country’s election laws .

But the Constitutional Court on Friday upheld the lower court’s ruling, which found that Pineda failed to collect signatures from party delegates and file required financial reports, as required by the nomination process.

The move prompted a fiery reaction from Pineda, who had recently come out on top in an election poll.

“Corruption won, Guatemala lost,” Pineda wrote in a social media post.

In another, he said the Constitutional Court had endorsed “election fraud” with its ruling: “We are left without democracy!!”

Supporters greet Carlos Pineda after he left Guatemala’s Constitutional Court, which heard his call to remain in the presidential race on May 20. (File: Moises Castillo/AP Photo)

Pineda is the third candidate so far to be disqualified from the presidential race, with the first round of voting scheduled for June 25.

His disqualification follows that of fellow conservative Roberto Arzú on Thursday.

Earlier this year, a left-leaning Indigenous candidate, Thelma Cabrera, was also dropped from the race after her running mate, former human rights official Jordán Rodas, was deemed ineligible.

Rodas allegedly failed to produce a letter confirming he had no legal proceedings pending against him, leading a court to rule that his entire ticket – including Cabrera – could not stand in the election .

Critics have denounced the disqualifications as politically motivated, intended to weed out candidates seen as unfavorable to the government establishment.

On Twitter, Juan Pappier, acting deputy director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch, denounced Friday’s decision as a “clear instrumentalization of the judiciary to guarantee an ‘electoral’ result”.

The administration of Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei has been accused of suppressing critical voices in the country, including members of the media. (File: Moises Castillo/AP Photo)

The administration of incumbent President Alejandro Giammattei has previously been accused of stifling dissent in Guatemala.

Earlier this month, ElPeriodico, a 27-year-old investigative newspaper, said it had been “forced” to cease its daily publications after the “persecution” against its staff “intensified”. Its founder, José Rubén Zamora, had already been arrested for money laundering and blackmail.

And under Giammattei, about 30 legal experts and anti-corruption officials — including judges and lawyers — fled the country after his administration conducted investigations against them.

Many of these figures have ties to the now closed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), an independent organization supported by the United Nations to eradicate corruption in the country.

Those who remain risk being arrested and prosecuted. On Friday, Guatemalan police arrested Stuardo Campos, a prosecutor specializing in crimes against migrants who had previously worked on anti-corruption cases.

The far-right group Foundation Against Terrorism had filed a complaint against Campos, claiming he had abused his authority.

“This complaint is spurious,” Campos said in response. “I know that my work as an anti-corruption prosecutor has earned me animosity in many sectors.”

Giammattei is not eligible for re-election in the June race, but his conservative party, Vamos, has one candidate running: Manuel Conde. However, no Guatemalan political party has ever managed to win consecutive presidential elections.

On Wednesday, days before his disqualification, Pineda came out on top in a poll ranking presidential candidates. He led with 22% support among voters. Hot on his heels was former first lady Sandra Torres with 20%, followed by Zury Ríos – the daughter of former president Efraín Ríos Montt, accused of genocide – and diplomat Edmond Mulet.

Thirty political parties should compete. Pineda represented the Prosperidad Ciudadana – or “Citizen Prosperity” party.

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