June 25, 2024

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Guatemala: Bernardo Arevalo is the new president

Guatemala: Bernardo Arevalo is the new president

Bernardo Arevalo was elected as the new president of Guatemala after his great electoral victory in the second round of voting yesterday, Sunday (20.8.2023), which came as a surprise, despite the efforts of the judiciary to remove him from the race.

Bernardo Arevalo He won 59% of the vote, compared to 36% of his opponentfrom former First Lady Sandra Torres, after 95% of the votes were counted, announced the President of the Electoral Commission of the Supreme Court of Elections of Guatemala, Irma Palencia.

“The people of Guatemala have spoken clearly and loudly,” the 64-year-old former sociologist and diplomat told the press after winning a speech denouncing corruption. In his campaign, he promised to eradicate corruption in the most populous Central American country, which is plagued by poverty and violence.

He said two presidents from neighboring countries, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico and Najib Bukele of El Salvador, had called him to congratulate him and discuss joint programmes.

The outgoing right-wing president, Alejandro Yamate, responded immediately via X (ex-Twitter), congratulating Mr. Arevalos and calling on him to “start an orderly transfer (of power) the day after the official results.”

Analyst Miguel Angel Sandoval noted, “Mr. Arevalo’s victory marks the defeat of the old political (guard), the ruling party (…) a new era has begun for our country and we must move for a peaceful handover of power.”

The Electoral Tribunal said the vote had taken place without any “significant” problems being reported. Attendance has reached a “historic average”.without specifying which one.

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The candidates, Bernardo Arevalo and Sandra Torres, 67, say they belong to the left of centre. However, he was the first to capitalize on the hopes for change in the deeply unequal country, while his opponent was considered a representative of the establishment class, the elite.

The UNE candidate promised her own anti-gang and anti-poverty campaign, announcing food aid for the poorest and job training programs. But in her attempt to secure the support of the right and evangelicals, she also preached conservative-leaning sermons.

“Arevalo’s diplomatic and parliamentary experience gives him a base of knowledge and experience to form a broad government team. This will strengthen its legitimacy,” Francisco Rojas, President of the University for Peace (UPEACE) estimated.

“complicated period”

“It remains to be seen if Sandra Torres will concede defeat, but there will be a long period until she takes office (i.e. January 14, 2024). This will be a complicated period,” he added.

The former wife of center-left ex-president Alvaro Colom (2008-2012) had the tacit support of the outgoing president, His four-year term was marked by crackdowns on judges and journalists who fought corruption.

In the native town of San Juan Sacatepeques, about thirty kilometers from the capital, voters hoped for change.

“You can’t live anywhere anymore, there’s too much crime,” said Maria Roque, a 66-year-old housewife. Evren Potts, a 47-year-old truck driver, said he hoped the new president would “fight the corruption that affects us.”

“We are confident: the winner will be the people of Guatemala,” said Mr. Arevalo, casting his ballot at a high school in the capital.

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Ms. Torres made no statement after casting her vote.

Arevalo, who caused a widespread upset by finishing second in the first round on June 25, appears to have seized on voters’ hope for change, especially young people, who make up 16% of the 9.4 million registered voter catalogs.

“corrupt politicians”

«For years we have been victims – prey – of corrupt politicians. By going to vote you will be sending a clear message that it is the people of Guatemala who rule this country, not the corrupt.”

He is the son of the country’s first democratically elected president, Juan Jose Arevalo (1945-1951).

Perhaps his resounding success alarmed the Guatemalan economic and political elite, who saw him as a threat to their interests, and the prosecution doubled its investigations against him.

At the request of the public prosecutor, a judge on July 12 ordered the legal status of his party, the Simela (“Sid”) movement, to be revoked due to alleged irregularities in its creation in 2017. The decision was suspended by the Constitutional Court. But the prosecution investigated the party’s headquarters.

And on Thursday, 3 days before the second round, Prosecutor Rafael Korsica – who was sanctioned by the United States for “corruption” and “undemocratic” actions – announced possible arrests of leading members of Somaya, without excluding “raids, arrest warrants, requests to lift immunity after August 20”.

Three decades after the end of a brutal civil war, Guatemala is still plagued by poverty, violent crime, and corruption, a situation that drives thousands of Guatemalans to immigrate each year, primarily to the United States.

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Source: APE – MEB / with information from AFP and Reuters