Bernardo Arévalo takes office hours late in Guatemala due to efforts to stop his investiture

Uncertainty and tension prevail just hours before the inauguration of Guatemala’s newly elected president. More than eight hours late, Bernardo Arévalo de León, the winner of the August elections with the social democratic party Movimiento Semilla, took over as president.

The efforts of the outgoing government to prevent the inauguration of a new executive prevailed until the last moment, after several months when the Public Ministry (Prosecutor’s Office) attempted to disqualify the Social Democratic Party through judicial means. The last of these maneuvers took place in the last session of Congress in which new representatives were to be sworn in. Amid the tension, the qualifying board refused to accept the credentials of various elected representatives, which Semilla representatives described as a new attempt to prevent a change of government. “Attempts are being made to violate democracy through illegalities, petty issues and abuse of power.” announced Arevalo on the social network X.

Given the uncertainty created by these latest events, the heads of state, foreign ministers and high-level officials traveling to Guatemala for the presidential transfer of command issued a joint statement in support of the president and demanded that the transfer of powers be carried out. , For his part, the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, has sent his support to the elected President of Guatemala in a message published on the social network X. “The will of the Guatemalan people, freely expressed in the elections.” An electoral process is transparent, it must be respected,” he said.

Ultimately, the Semilla movement, which has a minority of representatives in Congress – 23 out of 160 – has gained the support needed to overturn the judicial decision and 31-year-old Semilla deputy Samuel Pérez has been elected president of the Guatemalan parliament. The investiture ceremony is expected to begin in the next few minutes and, finally, social democrat Bernardo Arévalo de León will become the new president of the Central American country.

For his part, the outgoing President – ​​Alessandro Giammattei – assured through social networks that “I am given a position different from that established by the Constitution of the Republic.”

Transfer of powers fraught with judicial hurdles

Arévalo has assumed the presidency, replacing current President Alessandro Giammattei, who has the lowest approval levels on the continent, with anti-corruption speeches and many expecting change, according to various polls. Giammattei delivered the balance of his mandate on Friday, saying “we are leaving the country better than we found it” and we are leaving “with our heads held high.” He leaves behind a legislature filled with allegations of corruption and judicial harassment against opponents. In recent years, dozens of prosecutors, journalists and human rights defenders have been jailed or forced into exile.

The newly elected president won the first electoral round in June, and won against all odds two months later with 60.9% popular support, making him the favorite of the country’s traditional political elite. Since the unexpected victory of the Semilla movement, the Public Ministry headed by Attorney General Consuelo Porras became the protagonist of the electoral process. Through a wide range of court cases, he has sought for several months to outlaw the political party and block the inauguration of the president-elect and his vice president, Karin Herrera.

Last September, Arévalo publicly accused the head of the prosecutor’s office of leading a coup attempt against him. The complaint followed an investigation by the Public Ministry against the party for alleged forgery of signatures in the political organization establishment process.

These attempts to hinder the popular will failed because they faced great internal resistance and direct condemnation from the international community. Within Guatemala, indigenous movements along with other social sectors have been mobilizing for more than 100 days with the aim of defending democracy and the results expressed in the elections. For their part, the Organization of American States (OAS), the European Union (EU) and the United States have also played an important role in condemning each judicial attack by the Prosecutor’s Office and imposing sanctions on actors accused of corruption.

Although the assumption of power represents a small victory for Semilla that no one could have imagined a few months ago, most analysts agree that judicial harassment will not end after January 14. In the coming months, the newly elected government will face criminal cases that the prosecutor’s office keeps open and that attempt to limit government action.

In this sense, Arévalo had said weeks ago that “one of the first actions, if not the first, would be to demand the resignation of the Attorney General”, Consuelo Porras, who was sanctioned by the United States for participating in significant acts of corruption. Was given.

Arévalo, a sociologist with an international profile, heads a social democratic political formation that emerged from the so-called “Spring of 2015”, a wave of protests against the corruption of the government of Otto Pérez and Roxana Baldetti. During the presentation of the new government announced this week, for the first time in the country’s history, Bernardo Arévalo assured that his main challenge is to “save” public institutions “weakened by corruption”.

A legislature that is against everything

Besides facing judicial harassment, the new executive will have to govern with a minority in Congress, which is largely controlled by conservative forces. With only 23 delegates out of 160, the inauguration marks the beginning of a new legislature that is not going to be easy for the left-wing formation. The need for alliance and understanding with other political formations will be one of the major challenges they will have to face if they wish to develop their political programme.

The country getting the new president is undergoing a significant democratic decline, where 60% of the population lives below the poverty line and one of the highest inequality rates on the continent. In addition to avoiding legal obstacles to carrying out his government action, Arévalo will have to manage the high expectations that a large sector of the population has for his government of change.

These areas also include the indigenous movement, which has led more than 100 days of protests against judicial efforts to invalidate the elections. In this sense, his Cabinet’s announcement disappointed the sector that among the new ministers there is only one indigenous person, Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Miriam Roque. In a country where indigenous people represent 42% of its more than 17 million inhabitants, one of the new government’s big challenges will be to ensure these communities are not traditionally ignored by the political elite. Although communal officials assure that they give a vote of confidence to the new government, they affirm that they will closely monitor the actions of the executive.


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