Jan 16, 2024 - World

New Guatemalan president faces major battle in carrying out agenda

Guatemala President Bernardo Arévalo is shown close up, looking straight out,not smiling. there is a red orb under him.

Guatemala President Bernardo Arévalo delivers a speech on Monday. Photo: Johan Ordóñez/AFP via Getty Images

Guatemalan President Bernardo Arévalo's bumpy start to his term points to the difficulties he's likely to face while in office, but there are also glimpses of a path forward for his party and his agenda, a political analyst tells Axios Latino.

State of play: Arévalo and Vice President Karin Herrera of the party Movimiento Semilla were inaugurated in the early hours of Monday after a nine-hour delay caused by the outgoing opposition-held Congress.

  • Arévalo was finally sworn in shortly after Samuel Pérez Álvarez, of Movimiento Semilla, was elected to lead Congress, which allowed him to move the process forward.

What they're saying: "The delay for the swearing-in was certainly cause for alarm in that there was no legal base for it, which is clearly of concern," says Pamela Ruiz, Central American analyst at the International Crisis Group.

  • But Ruiz says the fact that several parties backed Pérez's appointment "shows Semilla's capacity to find consensus and its strong negotiating abilities."
  • "That brings a lot of hope that some things will be able to change, that this Congress will flip the script compared to the previous legislature that Guatemalans lament pretty much accomplished nothing," Ruiz says.

Many Guatemalans strongly back Arévalo, who ran on an anti-corruption campaign and who plans, along with other measures, to create a national anti-corruption system and guide to make government spending and planning more transparent.

  • Yes, but: Researchers and NGOs have warned that corruption has been festering within some branches of government for years, notably increasing after 2019, when then-President Jimmy Morales shut down a special anti-corruption unit.
  • Now some of those officials who have been accused of wrongdoing could face accountability.
  • Arévalo has also proposed a series of reforms such as increasing health care funding and access, improving public education, and other social issues.

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