Guatemala's Arevalo slams 'perverse' bid to scrap election result

By Sofia Menchu

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) -Guatemala's President-elect Bernardo Arevalo on Friday forcefully rejected a legal maneuver from prosecutors to invalidate his election triumph, calling the effort "perverse" and an "attempted coup."

Ever since anti-corruption crusader Arevalo did much better than expected in June's first-round election, qualifying for the decisive August runoff, he and his center-left Seed Movement party have faced a series of investigations from the attorney general's office, which has alleged irregularities in the party's registration several years ago.

The U.S. and other Western countries have backed Arevalo, saying the probes are a coordinated effort to undermine him and democracy in Guatemala, Central America's most populous country.

At a press conference on Friday, Arevalo blasted the allegations as "absurd, ridiculous and perverse," and vowed to take office as scheduled on Jan. 14.

"This attempted coup is real and it has brought us to a crucial moment," said Arevalo, who cruised to a landslide victory in the August run-off vote, besting an establishment-friendly candidate.

Earlier, the attorney general's office had declared it would attempt to annul the results of the first-round election, citing irregularities in voter registrations as well as in data collected the day of the June vote.

But the head of Guatemala's top electoral court said it would not hold a repeat of the election.

"The results are unalterable," said court President Blanca Alfaro, adding that preventing a duly elected official like Arevalo from taking office would constitute "a break in the constitutional order" and must not be allowed.

In a statement issued late on Friday, the government of outgoing conservative President Alejandro Giammattei said the transition to Arevalo was inevitable, though it stopped short of any direct criticism of prosecutors.

"There is no action that could impede elected authorities from taking office," according to the statement.

Meanwhile, the Washington-based Organization of American States condemned what it called an "attempted coup d'etat" orchestrated by Guatemalan Attorney General Consuelo Porras and her aides.

Brian Nichols, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, warned on social media platform X of consequences as he condemned the move as "another blatant, unacceptable attempt to defy the will of Guatemalans."

"Such actions jeopardize Guatemala's market-friendly reputation and will be met with a strong U.S. response," he said, without going into further detail.

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Brendan O'Boyle and Sarah Morland; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien, Stephen Coates and William Mallard)