Critical Updates on Guatemala’s Democracy, Election Interference, and Human Rights Concerns

As voters go to the polls this Sunday, Guatemala’s democracy is being tested. The international community, which has been alarmed by the Guatemalan government’s attempts to interfere with the process, has put strong diplomatic pressure on the government to allow for free and fair elections and a peaceful transition of power.

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, visited Guatemala two weeks ago, at the invitation of President Alejandro Giamattei, and submitted his report to the Permanent Council of the OAS on August 10. His report revealed that he had secured from the Guatemalan government a commitment that elections will take place on August 20, as scheduled; the run-off on August 20 will be between the two winners of the first round, Sandra Torres and Bernardo Arévalo, and a peaceful transition of power will occur on January 14 to the winner of the run-off. The OAS will continue monitoring the situation through the nearly five-month lame duck period. As Almagro put it, “From August 20 to January 14, the Mission will continue to accompany, and after January 14, 2024, it will depend on the governance conditions of the country and the new government that takes office.” Almagro called for an end to the harassment of Supreme Electoral Tribunal officials, “whether it is the results transmission system, arrest warrants against officials, requests for election records, or calls to testify, among other actions. The TSE cannot be under harassment, with more than a dozen accusations, all made during the first and second electoral rounds,” he said.

Speaking of the future after the elections, Almagro said that the fight against organized crime would be “essential,” along with “ensuring the governability of the country.” He said, “We are clear that governability does not only consist of coming to agreement with the parties in Congress, but that is an unavoidable job for whoever wins… Working on these different agreements during the transition process will be essential for the governability of the country, but essentially for the stability of democracy.” He also stressed the importance of “fair, adequate, and appropriate levels of representation for the country’s indigenous population, which is currently absolutely underrepresented.”

As the world’s attention is on the upcoming elections, targeted violence against journalists and prosecutors continues. On the night of August 11, two journalists, Edin Alonzo and Hugo Gutierrez, were shot to death in Caballo Blanco, Retalhuleu. The journalists managed the “Noticias Caballo Blanco” Facebook page, which has about 34,000 followers, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. They were attacked while returning home after covering the killing of a local woman, according to reports.

Judge Carlos Ruano, one of many anti-corruption prosecutors under attack, is facing a procedure to remove his judicial immunity, in retaliation for having denounced Supreme Court Justice Blanca Stalling in 2027. The procedure, like many, was initiated by the Foundation Against Terrorism.

Thank you for supporting the people of Guatemala and our efforts to promote human rights.

If you’re in the Washington, DC area, please stay tuned for information about an event we’re hosting after the elections that will feature an analysis of the results by GHRC friend and Guatemalan lawyer Alvaro Montenegro, who is in Guatemala now to observe the elections. The event will likely be held on Saturday, August 26, at 4:00 pm. More details will follow.






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