Guatemala’s top court ends candidacy of leading presidential hopeful 1 month before vote

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemala’s top court blocked the candidacy of another presidential hopeful on Friday, this time ending the campaign of poll leader Carlos Pineda for alleged violations of electoral law.

The Constitutional Court rejected Pineda’s appeal after electoral authorities had ruled him ineligible only a month before the first round of voting June 25.

“The Constitutional Court has put an end to this country’s democracy,” Pineda told the AP in a phone interview.

“The co-optation of the state prevailed, the rein of corruption and the dictatorship,” Pineda said. “It’s incredible. I feel like dead.”

Pineda said his final hope rests with the people of Guatemala, that the majority would cast a null vote and that new elections would be held.

Pineda is the third presidential candidate ruled ineligible to run. The court rejected the final appeals of candidate Roberto Arzú on Thursday, and previously had ruled against Thelma Cabrera because of a paperwork issue with her running mate.

A fourth candidate, Edmond Mulet, also faces the possibility of exclusion, as he awaits a decision from the court regarding his candidacy. The Attorney General’s office called for his investigation for allegedly starting his campaign too early by making comments against the persecution of journalists.

Some observers have accused Guatemala’s electoral authorities of using the judicial system to pare down the field to candidates acceptable to the establishment.

The European Union, United States and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had expressed concern about the exclusion of candidates.

Pineda, a conservative populist, running a campaign that caught fire on social media, emerged as the surprise leader atop the polls earlier this month.

Authorities said there were problems in the way his party, Prosperidad Ciudadana, selected its candidate that voided his candidacy.

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