Bernardo Arévalo and the challenge of breaking Guatemala’s corrupt pact

Bernardo Arévalo and the challenge of breaking Guatemala’s corrupt pact

In Guatemala last Sunday, Bernardo Arévalo assumed the presidency of the country after an arduous struggle against attempts by a sector of the judiciary to undermine his inauguration. Arévalo, leader of the Semilla Movement and an expert in conflict resolution, won the elections in August of last year.

Over the past five months, he has faced numerous obstacles, including attempts to annul the electoral process and discredit his political formation. These challenges reflect the existence of a “corrupt pact” in Guatemala, an agreement between political, economic and judicial sectors that has prevailed during the governments of Jimmy Morales and Alejandro Giammattei.

Obstacle of Corruption

Fight against corruption has been central to Arevalo’s political trajectory. His unexpected election victory was fueled by growing social discontent, gestated in the student protests of 2015.

Now, as president, Arevalo faces the challenge of eradicating corrupt practices in the country. His first obstacle is the Public Ministry, headed by Consuelo Porras, an official sanctioned for corruption. The Public Ministry has tried to prevent Arevalo from taking office and will likely continue to try to limit his ability to govern.

The presence of illicit networks in the Public Ministry represents a serious challenge for the president.

Challenges in Economic Management

In addition to the challenge of corruption in the judicial sphere, Arevalo also faces challenges in the economic management of the country. During the previous administration, businesses related to transparency and legality were questioned, such as the container terminal in a Pacific port, oil concessions and highways.

These issues will be a priority for the president, who has proposed to deepen the fight against poverty, which affects 55% of the Guatemalan population.

Structural and Social Challenges

In addition to the challenges in the fight against corruption and economic management, Arevalo must face other structural and social challenges in Guatemala. Infrastructure, the health system, education and the backlog accumulated during the covid-19 pandemic are areas that require urgent attention.

Rural schools and security are also problems that the new president must address, especially considering the persecution of opponents during the previous term.

Weak Momentum of the Political Coalition

Despite the challenges Arévalo faces, some political analysts consider this to be the weakest moment of the dominant political coalition in Guatemala.

This coalition has co-opted the most important institutions in the country, from the Executive to the Presidency of the Legislative and the Public Ministry. However, the balance of power seems to have shifted, and Arevalo has the support of Guatemala’s indigenous peoples and the international community.

Role of Indigenous Peoples

For more than 100 days, Guatemala’s indigenous peoples have exerted pressure and resistance to protect the democratic transition.

This powerful indigenous organization, led by the authorities of the 48 cantons of Totonicapán, has become a new and powerful actor in Guatemalan politics. However, they are not necessarily Arévalo’s allies, which represents another challenge for the president.

Support from the International Community

The international community, led by the United States, the European Union and other Latin American governments such as Colombia and Chile, has provided broad support for Arevalo.

This support will be crucial during his term, just as it was during the transition to prevent the forces of the “corrupt pact” from hindering the change that the majority of Guatemalan voters support.

Tempering expectations and leading by example

Arevalo knows he will have to temper the expectations generated by his fight against corruption. To do so, he must begin by making his own government transparent, avoiding nepotism, favors and bad contracts.

Accountability will also be fundamental in his administration. In addition, he will have to seek agreements and consensus in the legislative arena, since legislative activity represents one of his main challenges.

Conclusion

Bernardo Arevalo’s challenge to break the “corrupt pact” in Guatemala is monumental. Despite the obstacles he faces, his election as president and the support of indigenous peoples and the international community provide him with a unique opportunity to drive profound change in the country.

Anti-corruption, economic management, structural and social challenges, and moderating expectations will be key to his mandate. With determination and support, Arevalo has the potential to transform Guatemala and lay the foundation for a more just and prosperous future.