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Struggle Advances Democracy in Guatemala

Photo Source: Comité de Unidad Campesina (CUC) on Facebook

#News and Press Releases#Human Rights Defense
February 2024

Christina Schiavoni

Senior Communications Coordinator

Following more than 100 days of sustained struggle for democracy, just past midnight on the evening of January 14, 2024, Bernardo Arévalo was sworn in as the third democratically elected President of Guatemala.

Our updates from Guatemala in recent months have shared how the Guatemalan people had taken to the streets to defend their democracy, led by Indigenous authorities and social movements like our partners Comité de Unidad Campesina/Peasant Unity Committee (CUC) and Sector de Mujeres. At stake was a pending change in power resulting from the most recent presidential elections. The election results represented a desire by the country’s Indigenous and peasant majority to end the right-wing regime that had been governing the country through corruption, repression, and resource extraction to the benefit of the elites — an alliance popularly known as the “Pacto de Corruptos” or “Pact of the Corrupts.”

Unwilling to cede power to the president elect, the Pacto de Corruptos went to extremes to hold onto power through a host of fraudulent claims and repressive actions. These attempts continued down to the actual day of inauguration, as did the popular mobilizations in the streets in defense of democracy.

Arévalo is the son of the country’s first democratically elected president, whose successor was removed through a US-backed coup, leading to decades of dictatorships and military regimes that robbed the Guatemalan people of hundreds of thousands of lives and left deep scars on the population. 

As described in a recent feminist mobilization in the lead-up to the inauguration, Guatemalan movements have seen their struggle not against a single corrupt regime, but against the ongoing legacies of colonization and genocide that their ancestors have resisted for centuries. As one Indigenous leader shared prior to the change in power:

“[Before the conflict] my dad used to have bees, and it produced income. But when everything happened, my dad fled. They burned our house down, they took our animals, they burned everything, they threw it all away. We were left with a scarcity of resources. [The Pacto de Corruptos] is in power of the Guatemalan economy. They are getting rich while we barely have enough for food and the daily essentials. So that’s why we are fighting.”

Today, we join our partners and other movements in Guatemala in celebrating a new political landmark, while also joining them in the recognition that the struggle continues and that lasting change will come from below. Indigenous authorities and social movements are clear that they will continue organizing for the rights of all peoples and of Mother Earth and pushing for a plural government that respects ancestral territories and is centered on justice. As Sector de Mujeres has stressed, “The future does not just arrive; it is built.”

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