MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, Jan 18 (IPS) – Guatemala’s new president, Bernardo Arévalo, was anticipated to be sworn in on 14 January at 2pm –the 14th at 14:00, as folks repeated in anticipation for months. It was a momentous occasion – nevertheless it wasn’t assured to occur.
One yr earlier, Arévalo – co-founder of the progressive Movimiento Semilla (Seed Motion), a political get together born out of widespread 2015 anti-corruption protests – was largely unknown, freshly chosen as his get together’s presidential candidate. He wasn’t on the radar of opinion polls. A protracted chain of unlikely occasions later, he’s turn into the primary Guatemalan president in dwelling reminiscence who doesn’t belong to the self-serving elites who Guatemalans name ‘the corrupt pact’, which he has credibly promised to dismantle.
The worry this brought on amongst corrupt elite that has lengthy dominated Guatemala was mirrored in a sequence of makes an attempt to attempt to cease Arévalo’s inauguration. The massive and sustained citizen mobilisation that got here in response can largely be credited with maintaining alive the spark of democracy in Guatemala.
All of the Guatemalan Congress wanted to do on the morning of 14 February was certify its newly elected members so the physique might swear within the new president. However this routine administrative process was dragged on for a lot of hours. The Indigenous motion, on the forefront of the months-long protests that had efficiently saved at bay successive makes an attempt to reverse the election outcomes, referred to as on Indigenous communities all through Guatemala to stay on the alert.
Within the late afternoon the Secretary Common of the Group of American States, Luis Almagro, surrounded by members of quite a few overseas delegations, read a declaration calling on Congress handy over energy, ‘as required by the Structure’, to the president-elect. This signalled that the world was watching.
As tensions mounted, Semilla reached an settlement for considered one of its representatives to be elected as president of Congress. This allowed the certification course of to renew, and Arévalo was lastly sworn in shortly after midnight. Night time-long celebrations adopted.
A coup try in phases
Arévalo’s election was surprising. He solely made it into the 20 August runoff as a result of a number of different contenders to not the elite’s liking had been disqualified forward of the primary spherical. His candidacy wasn’t blocked as a result of he scored so poorly within the polls. Folks’s expectations had been extraordinarily low, and first place went to invalid votes.
However as soon as Arévalo entered the runoff, his rise was unstoppable. Dying threats quickly poured in, and an assassination plot involving state and non-state forces came to light days earlier than the runoff.
As quickly because the first-round outcomes had been introduced, 9 events submitted complaints about supposed ‘irregularities’ that had gone undetected by all worldwide observers. Their supporters converged exterior the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) calling for a rerun.
The Constitutional Courtroom as an alternative ordered a recount and instructed the TSE to droop official certification till complaints had been resolved. Following the recount, the TSE ultimately endorsed the outcomes two weeks later.
However in the meantime, Lawyer Common Consuelo Porras Argueta, an official below US sanctions for corruption, launched an investigation into Semilla for alleged irregularities in its registration course of and had its workplaces raided. She additionally ordered two raids on TSE offices, and when the TSE formally introduced Arévalo as one of many runoff contenders, she ordered Semilla’s suspension. The Constitutional Courtroom nonetheless blocked this order and the runoff ran its course. Arévalo took 58 per cent of the vote, in comparison with 37.2 per cent for the pro-establishment candidate.
Efforts to cease Arévalo’s inauguration started instantly, with yet one more attempt by the Public Prosecutor to have Semilla suspended. The Constitutional Courtroom continued to obtain and reject authorized challenges till the day of the inauguration.
For 100 days, two completely different visions of Guatemala wrestled with one another: folks anticipating change protested nonstop whereas corrupt forces linked to organised crime strove to protect their privileges at any value.
Democracy on life assist
Guatemala has lengthy been categorised as a ‘hybrid regime‘ with a mixture of democratic and authoritarian traits. Underneath outgoing president Alejandro Giammattei, civic freedoms steadily deteriorated. State establishments grew even weaker, ransacked by predatory elites and coopted by organised crime.
One of many final acts of Giammattei’s predecessor and ally, Jimmy Morales, was to finish the work of the Worldwide Fee towards Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Charged with supporting and strengthening state establishments to research and prosecute severe crimes, CICIG helped file over 120 cases within the Guatemalan justice system and its joint investigations with the Lawyer Common’s Workplace led to over 400 convictions.
Underneath Giammattei, the Lawyer Common’s Workplace dismantled all anti-corruption efforts and criminalised these within the authorized career who’d labored alongside CICIG. Impunity flourished. Transparency Worldwide’s 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index discovered proof of robust affect by organised crime over politics and politicians, with some crime bosses searching for and securing workplace.
It’s no surprise that Guatemalans’ belief in state establishments hit all-time low. In response to the most recent Latinobarómetro report, in 2021 satisfaction with the efficiency of democracy stood at a meagre 25 per cent.
Arévalo got here to the presidency on a reputable anti-corruption platform. However dismantling dense webs of complicity, rooting out entrenched corruption and rebuilding state establishments are not any straightforward duties.
Among the many many challenges is a extremely fragmented Congress during which 16 events are represented, with Semilla on solely 23 out of 160 seats. A big majority of Congress stays on the payroll of the pursuits Arévalo has promised to tackle, together with a lot of the justice system. The 14 January occasions made clear that the ‘corrupt pact’ will do something it might probably to cease Arévalo.
Arévalo’s to-do checklist is lengthy, starting from decreasing political spending and bettering social providers to reversing legal guidelines that criminalise protest and establishing an efficient safety mechanism for human rights defenders. On the high is forcing the resignation of Lawyer Common Consuelo Porras, the very best official presiding over a judicial community arrange to make sure the impunity of the ‘corrupt pact’.
Arévalo can’t take away the Lawyer Common unilaterally, and so should negotiate her departure. This will likely be a key early check of the hope invested in him to maintain democracy alive. Many extra are certain to come back.
© Inter Press Service (2024) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service