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Guatemala: Guatemala’s Next Leader Says Subversion Plot Would Crush Economy

Guatemala’s president-elect denounced what he called a corrupt political and judicial effort to prevent him from taking office in January, warning that success for his opponents would spur an increase in migration to the US and hurt the nation’s economy and financial markets.

The economic consequences would be “disastrous” and would “without a doubt” add to the wave of migrants heading north through Mexico to the US border because of a lack of opportunities, Bernardo Arévalo said in an interview in Washington on Friday.

“If they do succeed, it’s going to mean the establishment of a thoroughly authoritarian regime in my country, the loss of hope by a population that is now desperate, but wants change and has voted for a change,” Arévalo, who was elected in August, said.

Arévalo spoke with Bloomberg News after concluding a three-day visit to the US capital, where he met with officials from the White House, State Department, Congress and the Organization of American States. He also spoke at a gala for the Inter-American Dialogue think tank Thursday night.

Throughout the visit, he warned of attacks against him and his party in Guatemala from “corrupt actors and networks.”

The 65-year-old sociologist and former diplomat ran on a promise to weed out corruption. He has faced repeated attacks from Attorney General Consuelo Porras, with the country’s electoral authority accusing the government of undermining democracy and the election.

Prosecutors alleged that his Movimiento Semilla party forged signatures and laundered money during its founding. Arévalo blamed corrupt officials and stayed in the race throughout attempts to disqualify the party, which led US officials to warn that Guatemala’s democracy was under threat.

The president-elect accuses Porras, prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche and court judge Fredy Orellana of trying to sabotage his victory. Arévalo has called supporters out into the streets for protests to defend democracy and denounced the actions against him and his party as a “slow-motion coup.”

Arévalo said that if he’s prevented from taking office, many countries would respond with sanctions, which would make it harder to attract the investment that Guatemala needs to generate jobs and opportunity.

“From an economic and financial point of view, it would be a terrible situation for our country, a country that is already in a problematic situation, precisely due to the assault of this corrupt elite against the institutions of the state.”

His campaign included pledges to double public investment into the construction of roads, ports and airports. He also said he would seek an investment-grade credit rating within two years by improving the rule of law. Barclays Plc said in a note in August that the next administration will likely preserve the country’s low debt levels and macroeconomic stability.

Arévalo said that while he isn’t yet ready to announce his pick for finance minister, he plans to finish his term in 2028 with less debt relative to gross domestic product than the current level, which was estimated at 29% in the International Monetary Fund’s annual evaluation of the nation’s economy in May.