Press release January 15, 2024
Guatemala: Celebrating the Democratic Transfer of Power
The inauguration of President Arévalo is a triumph for democracy in Guatemala.
WASHINGTON—Following the presidential inauguration of Bernardo Arévalo on January 15, Freedom House president Michael J. Abramowitz issued the following statement:
“We celebrate this morning’s peaceful transition of power as a historic moment that brings hope for more just and accountable governance in Guatemala.
“President Arévalo’s inauguration is a testament to citizens’ resilience and refusal to allow the electoral process to be subverted by co-opted institutions. Peaceful mass protests, resistance by civil society and Indigenous peoples, and pressure from the international community were crucial in successfully pushing back against efforts to prevent democratically elected president Arévalo from taking office.
“Alongside anticorruption efforts, the new government should focus on decriminalizing and protecting human rights defenders, journalists, and other prodemocracy advocates, as well as ensuring the safe return of those previously forced into exile for defending the rule of law and human rights.
“Several challenges lay ahead for President Arévalo, who will have to meet the high expectations of an electorate exhausted by decades of corruption and exclusion now demanding a transparent and more inclusive policy agenda. The international community should continue to provide support for the new government and condemn any future attempts to undermine the Guatemalan people’s fundamental freedoms.”
Just past midnight on Monday, after a nearly 10-hour delay and several last-minute attempts by the outgoing Congress to obstruct a constitutionally mandated transfer of power, Bernardo Arévalo was sworn in as president of Guatemala. In August, Arévalo, a reform-minded candidate with an anticorruption message, won Guatemala’s second-round elections after receiving 58 percent of the vote. Since then, Arévalo and his Movimiento Semilla party have faced repeated attempts by Congress and the attorney general’s office to undermine their electoral victory. These measures triggered massive peaceful protests throughout the country, mainly led by Indigenous peoples, as well as strong condemnation from the international community. This resounding demand for the government to respect the vote of the Guatemalan people warded off an internal attempt by the outgoing government to subvert the popular will of voters, who clearly wanted change.
Guatemala is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2023.
Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to create a world where all are free. We inform the world about threats to freedom, mobilize global action, and support democracy’s defenders.
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