Guatemala witnessed a historic moment as Bernardo Arévalo was finally inaugurated as the country’s president. Despite facing numerous obstacles and a nine-hour delay in the congressional proceedings, Arévalo persevered and took the oath of office.
A Delayed Inauguration
The long-awaited inauguration ceremony took place at the Miguel Ángel Asturias Cultural Center, commencing close to midnight after a grueling day in Congress. The delay, lasting over 12 hours, was marred by a spectacle created by certain deputies attempting to hinder the transfer of power.
International delegations, present to support the new president, witnessed and promptly denounced these attempts in real-time. Unfortunately, the prolonged delay resulted in some guests, including the King of Spain and the President of Chile, departing before the swearing-in ceremony.
Bernardo Arévalo, at the age of 65, received the presidential sash and the key to the Constitution from Samuel Pérez, a young deputy from his party. Perez, a 31-year-old serving his second term, achieved the position of President of Congress, a significant victory for the ruling party despite being the third-largest force in the chamber.
Congressional session reconvened at the cultural center, where Karin Herrera, the vice president, also took her oath of office.
Arévalo’s Vision for Guatemala
In his first speech as president, Arévalo emphasized the historical significance of the moment for the nation. He stressed the importance of democracy and social justice, stating that the two are inseparable. Arévalo acknowledged the four major Guatemalan communities – Maya, Xinka, Garífuna, and Ladino – as well as the international community and institutions such as the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the Constitutional Court. T
hese entities are crucial for fulfilling the desires of the Guatemalan people to live in a democratic society.
Tensions and Challenges
Arévalo candidly acknowledged the complex tensions and challenges he has faced in recent months. Many had feared that the country was heading towards authoritarianism. He highlighted the global surge of authoritarianism, the spread of intolerance, and the restriction of dissent as new authoritarian phenomena.
Arévalo specifically pointed out the corrupt cooptation of state institutions by criminal groups, exploiting the facade of democracy to betray the principles of freedom, fairness, justice, and brotherhood. Guatemala, along with other parts of Central America, is engaged in a struggle against these forces.
Arévalo’s Background and Promises
Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and the son of former Guatemalan president Juan José Arévalo, the current president won the August elections unexpectedly. His campaign promised to combat the pervasive corruption in Guatemala and halt the rise of authoritarianism in recent years.
However, Arévalo faces challenges due to opposition within the judicial system and his minority position in Congress.
Parliamentary proceedings became the center of attention throughout the day. What should have been a five-hour protocol event for the swearing-in of deputies and the appointment of the executive board extended well beyond 12 hours due to intentional delays and disputes among the deputies.
Constitutional Court had to intervene to ensure the proper functioning of Congress.
Support and International Observers
As the uncertainty grew within Congress, tensions escalated in the streets. Guatemalan citizens gathered around the Congress building to demand that the deputies fulfill their duty and inaugurate Arévalo as president, as decided by the people’s votes.
Indigenous movements, who have been protesting in defense of democracy for 105 days in front of the Public Ministry, also expressed support and called for mobilization if necessary.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro condemned the events, asserting that the judiciary had orchestrated a coup d’état while Congress obstructed the inauguration. He even postponed his trip to Davos to show solidarity with Arévalo’s inauguration.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric, who could not attend the ceremony, criticized the blatant attempts to prevent Arévalo from assuming office. The international community, including the Organization of American States (OAS) and various foreign ministers, expressed support for Arévalo and democracy in Guatemala.
Celebration and Hope
While the drama unfolded within Congress, the Guatemalan people demonstrated peaceful resilience in their defense of democracy. The Plaza de la Constitución, a symbolic location for the new government, filled with citizens who patiently waited for hours.
They celebrated, danced, and finally breathed a sigh of relief when Arévalo was inaugurated. In his speech, the president acknowledged and paid tribute to the indomitable spirit and democratic resilience demonstrated by the Guatemalan people.
Bernardo Arévalo’s inauguration as the president of Guatemala marks a pivotal moment in the country’s history. Despite facing significant challenges and attempts to obstruct his inauguration, Arévalo’s determination prevailed.
Now, he faces the formidable task of fulfilling his promises to combat corruption and authoritarianism. The Guatemalan people, as well as the international community, stand in support of Arévalo’s vision for a more just and democratic society.