Guatemala: Coup Instead of an Inauguration?

Against the Current No. 227, November/December 2023

September 25, 2023 demonstration. Prenza Comunitaria

AFTER GUATEMALA’s June 25 election, marred by the disqualification of several leading candidates, a runoff was held on August 20. Anti-corruption candidate Bernardo Arévalo captured 58% of the vote in a landslide. Former diplomat and son of a previous president, Juan José Arévalo, finds his mildly progressive program fiercely opposed by a corrupt and bold right. They seek to block any attempt to account for the state’s horrendous crimes during the civil war. Arévalo s slated to take office January 14 along with 23 candidates elected by his party, the Moviemineto Semilla (Semilla — meaning Seed), who were also elected.

Since Arévalo came in second last June, the corrupt network of current politicians have attempted to reverse the election by claiming Semilla committed voter registration fraud. In early October, Guatemala’s highest court upheld a move by prosecutors to suspend Arévalo’s political party.

What’s Behind the Maneuvers

The most up-front political rightwing and corrupt actors are President Alejandro Giammattei and Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras. Two years ago Porras dismissed the head of the special prosecutor’s office against impunity, Juan Francisco Sandoval, who subsequently left the country to protect his life.

That was just the beginning of Porras’ investigations on judges, lawyers and prosecutors working on anti-corruption cases. Several former investigators of the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala were arrested the following year and forced into exile or continually harassed.

This misuse of government powers was also evident as the Supreme Electoral Tribunal denied the registration of some parties, while approving the registration of others, despite indications that some were tied to drug trafficking groups or they were constitutionally ineligible.

The Public Ministry, the Supreme Court of Justice and the Constitutional Court were complicit in working together to consolidate authoritarian control over the country, all in the interest of corrupt layers of society. This elite maintains political and economic control at the expense of the majority.

In response Indigenous leaders announced an indefinite national strike. Civil society organizations, unions, students, peasants, urban collectives, Indigenous and ancestral authorities, neighbors from different neighborhoods of the country set up roadblocks and organized demonstrations.

These will continue until until the two accede to the demands. Porras has called on Guatemalan authorities to “forcibly” act against the “illegal” protests. Giammattei condemned the protests and deployed Guatemala’s riot police to clear the streets. By the beginning of November, with two months to go, two protestors have been killed.

January-February 2023, ATC 227

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