First, a well-known leftist Indigenous candidate was eliminated from Guatemala’s presidential race. Then, a right-wing populist. Finally, a businessman who built his campaign on TikTok. They had nothing in common besides their outspoken criticism of government corruption. But in Guatemala that is enough to get you wiped from the ballot.
Central America’s largest nation might be holding general elections on June 25, but it is rapidly losing its claim to be a democracy. Although no single despotic ruling family or dominant party is completely in control, a cohort of predatory factions—including the political machine built by incumbent President Alejandro Giammattei—has been jointly coopting independent institutions and pushing opponents into exile or jail since 2019. Outside of plainly authoritarian Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela and El Salvador, it’s hard to find a Latin American country that leaves less space for the political opposition.
Given the truncated list of candidates, you can’t blame Guatemalans for seeing the presidential election as a pointless farce—and based on dwindling turnout in recent elections, many probably do. But there is still at least one major presidential contender who might chart a course back toward democracy: Edmond Mulet.