Jan 9, 2024 - World

Guatemala's Arévalo likely to be inaugurated Sunday

Guatemalan President-elect Bernardo Arévalo and his vice president, Karin Herrera, stand up each holding a bouquet of flowers. they are surrounded by people

Guatemalan President-elect Bernardo Arévalo (right) and Vice President-elect Karin Herrera last month. Photo: Johan Ordóñez/AFP via Getty Images

Guatemalan President-elect Bernardo Arévalo, after months of uncertainty, is poised to be inaugurated this Sunday, but experts say some of his political foes will likely continue trying to hinder his administration.

The big picture: Arévalo ran on an anti-corruption platform, making him popular among voters who distrust politicians, some of whom have faced allegations or have been convicted of various types of wrongdoing.

Driving the news: Arévalo and Vice President-elect Karin Herrera yesterday announced their incoming cabinet in a sign of their confidence in being inaugurated Sunday. The Constitutional Court ordered the inauguration to go forward late last month after months of legal maneuvers, largely from the attorney general's office.

  • Pamela Ruiz, an analyst for Central America at the International Crisis Group, says mass protests from citizens demanding their vote be respected, and pressure from the international community, such as new banking and visa sanctions from the U.S. and EU, were effective.
  • "There are still some moves trying to impede Sunday's events, but this decision is from a high court and unappealable, so it's almost assured that the transition will happen," adds Marielos Fuentes, executive director of nonpartisan political watchdog Guatemala Visible.

Background: Despite presenting no evidence, the attorney general's office launched an investigation into voting fraud and raided the offices of the electoral court shortly after Arévalo's victory in August.

  • The AG's office also successfully pushed for Movimiento Semilla's registration to be annulled, although an appeal is pending.
  • Arévalo and Semilla have denied any wrongdoing, and Guatemalan constitutional lawyers say the AG's office doesn't have jurisdiction over party registrations or electoral court documents.

Yes, but: Even if Arévalo is inaugurated Sunday, he will still face several obstacles to his agenda, Ruiz and Fuentes say.

  • Attorney General Consuelo Porras and lead special prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche will remain in their posts until 2026, giving rise to questions as to whether they will continue to attack Arévalo or "finally do their jobs and investigate" pending criminal cases, Ruiz says.
  • Plus, Semilla does not have a majority in Congress, and Fuentes expects strong opposition to Arévalo's agenda from the outgoing ruling party and others.

But, but, but: Fuentes also says that "many Congress members will be first-timers, so they may avoid party posturing and could be open to actual political negotiation" with Arévalo's government.

  • She adds citizens who have been protesting and closely following the maneuvers against Arévalo will also likely continue to be vigilant.
  • Ruiz says that several government branches are scheduled for leadership turnovers, like lower tribunal judges and Supreme Court justices, meaning Arévalo will have a chance to root out excessively partisan officials and push forth other experts and people that back his anti-corruption measures, she says.

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