Brazil's Lula warns United Nations of coup risk in Guatemala

78th UNGA General Debate at UN HQ in New York

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva warned world leaders at the United Nations on Tuesday of the prospect of a coup in Guatemala, echoing U.S. concerns about risks to democracy in the Central American country after last month's election.

"In Guatemala, there is a risk of a coup, which would impede the inauguration of the winner of democratic elections," Lula told the U.N. General Assembly.

Last week, the top prosecutor's office in Guatemala raided electoral facilities and opened sealed ballots from the election, in which anti-graft President-elect Bernardo Arevalo and his Semilla Party overwhelmingly came out on top. Prosecutors allege irregularities in the registration of Semilla members ahead of the vote, which the party has denied.

The U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States, Francisco Mora, urged Guatemalan authorities on Monday to end their "intimidation efforts" targeting election officials and members of Arevalo's party.

Mora called the raid "an assault on the rule of law."

In his own address at the U.N. later on Tuesday, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei criticized "unnecessary foreign interference" in the electoral process and repeated his commitment to a transfer of power.

"Contrary to the lack of truth that we have heard today from this podium, I will hand over power to (the person) who was elected by the sovereign majority will of the people of Guatemala on January 14, when my constitutional mandate ends," Giammattei said.

Arevalo last week suspended his participation in the transition of power until "necessary institutional (and) political conditions are reestablished."

Lula's comments on Guatemala were surprisingly in line with Washington for a leader who has not always seen eye-to-eye with the United States.

In his U.N. speech, he said his government would continue to speak out against the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. He also called for the peaceful resolution of the war in Ukraine through dialogue, and criticized military spending.

Lula said the continued conflict in Ukraine was evidence of the loss of credibility of the U.N. Security Council, and he slammed multilateral institutions for failing to advance global peace and reduce poverty.

He also attacked the International Monetary Fund for not representing poor countries and the World Trade Organization for not averting increased protectionism in the world.

(Reporting by Reuters in New York and Brad Haynes in Sao Paulo; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien, Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)