Guatemala: President-Elect Promises Radical Changes for the Country

By Alejandra Garcia and Bill Hackwell on January 4, 2024

44% of the Guatemalan people are Mayan. photo: Bill Hackwell

Guatemala’s president-elect, Bernardo Arévalo de León, will take office on January 14 with high expectations for radical change. It remains to be seen if his ambitious plan will succeed, but for the time being, any of his decisions will be a step forward in a country that is 44% Mayan and where more than 50 percent of the population lives in conditions of extreme poverty.

In statements to the foreign press, Arevalo indicated that the first action he will take upon assuming power will be to revoke “irresponsible” and “absurd” decrees of the outgoing government of right wing President Alejandro Giammattei. “To guarantee transparency, we have to revoke some irresponsible decrees made by this government in its last days in office”, Arévalo de León told EFE during an interview in his office, when there is little more than a week to go before he is sworn in as President for the 2024-2028 term.

Giammattei will leave his successor a terribly weakened executive branch, because corruption not only steals money, but also atrophies institutions, the president-elect stressed. Arevalo, son of former President Juan José Arévalo Bermejo (1945-1951), also described as “absurd” Giammattei’s decision to create a decree at the end of last December, to grant security personnel and vehicles to the closest circle of his Administration for the next five years.

“There are more than 80 vehicles and 700 security people for a set of outgoing officials, and to do this is absolutely unfeasible,” criticized the future leader of the country with more than 17 million inhabitants, who surprisingly won the elections last August 20, 2023.

Another great challenge for the president will be to make public institutions respond to the needs of the population and recover executive capacity, amid claims that Giammattei is responsible for the deterioration of the rule of law and democracy in the Central American country. The outgoing president is also criticized for hindering Arevalo’s promotion in the process of transition of powers, after the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office allegedly tried to annul his electoral victory. When asked about Giammattei’s attitude, Arévalo assured that the people of Guatemala are the ones responsible for “evaluating his administration”.

Would a coup be possible in Guatemala?

It should be noted that from the time of the runoff on August 20, when Arévalo won convincingly with 61% of the vote, until his inauguration will be almost 5 months, an exceptional and unusual amount of time. What this has done is to give the oligarchs and Giammattei a lot of time to come up with all sorts of plans to create a coup atmosphere and undermine Arévalo’s mandate

 Regarding the uncertainty that has existed in these months with the winds of a possible coup d’état swirling around, the president-elect responded that “there is no room for doubt”. Fortunatley the recent resolutions of the Constitutional Court are forceful in terms of defending the decision expressed at the ballot box last year, he commented.

“The coup plotters are going to keep trying everything, but they are desperate. They know that their control is running out, and they know that we are going to start exposing the things they have done in the office.  I am left with the commitment to carry out a public service with decency and with the objective of generating tangible changes in the living conditions of the population,” said the president-elect. It remains to be seen if he is capable or has the will to keep his promises.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English