Guatemala’s constitutional court has ruled to end dark horse candidate Carlos Pineda’s presidential campaign, with just one month left until voting begins.
Pineda, a conservative businessman with a strong following on social media, appealed to the country’s highest court a week ago after a judge suspended his candidacy for failing to comply with the country’s electoral laws.
But the Constitutional Court on Friday upheld a lower court ruling that Pineda had failed to collect the signatures of party representatives and submit required financial reports as required by the nomination process.
The decision prompted a strong reaction from Pineda, who recently emerged as the front-runner in an election poll.
“Corruption won, Guatemala lost,” Pineda wrote in a social media post.
In another post, he said the Constitutional Court’s ruling upheld “election fraud”: “We have no democracy!!”
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 on Thursday followed that of fellow conservative Roberto Arzú.
Earlier this year, left-leaning Indigenous candidate Thelma Cabrera was similarly barred from running after her running mate, former human rights official Jordán Rodas, was deemed ineligible. campaign.
Rodas allegedly failed to produce a letter confirming that he had no pending legal action, leading the court to rule that all of his ballots — including Cabrera — could not be registered for the election.
Critics have accused the disqualifications of being politically motivated and aimed at weeding out candidates seen as bad for the government establishment.
On Twitter, Juan Pappier, acting deputy director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch, denounced Friday’s ruling as “an apparent instrumentalization of the judiciary to secure ‘election’ results.”
The government of outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei has been accused of cracking down on dissent in Guatemala.
Earlier this month, ElPeriodico, a 27-year-old investigative news outlet, said it was “forced” to stop its daily publication after the “persecution” of its staff “intensified”. Its founder, José Rubén Zamora, was previously arrested on money laundering and extortion charges.
Under Giammattei, an estimated 30 legal experts and anticorruption officials — including judges and lawyers — fled the country after his government launched an investigation into them.
Many of the figures are linked to the now-defunct International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), an independent UN-backed organization that seeks to root out corruption in the country.
Those who remain may be arrested and prosecuted. On Friday, Guatemalan police arrested Stuardo Campos, a prosecutor who focuses on crimes against immigrants and has previously worked on anticorruption cases.
The far-right group Counter Terrorism Foundation has filed a complaint against Campos, saying he abused his position.
“This complaint is false,” Campos responded. “I know my work as an anticorruption prosecutor has created hostility in many areas.”
Giammattei is not eligible for re-election in the June election, but his conservative party, Vamos, has a candidate in the running: Manuel Conde. However, neither party in Guatemala has managed to win back-to-back presidential elections.
On Wednesday, days before his disqualification, Pineda topped polls of presidential candidates. He leads with 22 percent of voters. She was followed by former first lady Sandra Torres with 20 percent of the vote, followed by Zury Ríos – former President Efrain Daughter of Efraín Ríos Montt, accused of genocide — and diplomat Edmond Mulet.
About 30 political parties are expected to contest the election. Pineda stands for the Prosperidad Ciudadana (or “Citizens Prosperity”) party.