Guatemala’s Democratic Transition Is on Life Support

Guatemala’s Democratic Transition Is on Life Support
Guatemalan President-elect Bernardo Arevalo leaves a press conference in the Plaza of Human Rights in Guatemala City, Guatemala, Nov. 16, 2023 (AP photo by Santiago Billy).

When former U.S. President Donald Trump lost his 2020 bid for reelection and set out with his supporters to find a path to staying in power, he had exactly 11 weeks left in office before then-President-elect Joe Biden was to be sworn in. Imagine what would have happened if the period between the presidential election and Biden’s inauguration had been twice as long.

That’s the case in Guatemala, where a shock election result in August handed the presidency to Bernardo Arevalo, an anti-corruption campaigner, and the political establishment—widely believed to be tainted by corruption—has been using the months since then to carry out a soft coup before Arevalo’s inauguration in January.

Efforts by the outgoing administration of President Alejandro Giammattei to prevent Arevalo from taking office are continuing despite evidence that Guatemalans are determined to defend the electoral results. Most recently, the government appears equally determined to cook up a criminal case against Arevalo to keep him out of office.

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