Bernardo Arevalo’s Victory Marks a Turning Point for Guatemala’s Anti-Corruption Movement

In a surprising turn of events, Bernardo Arevalo, an anti-corruption candidate, has emerged as the winner of Guatemala’s presidential election. With a resounding victory, Arevalo’s win signifies a powerful repudiation of the country’s political elite, who have long been associated with corruption allegations. Garnering 58% of the votes compared to his rival, former first lady Sandra Torres, who secured 37%, Arevalo’s triumph is a signal that the people of Guatemala have had enough of the pervasive corruption that has plagued their nation. This significant outcome is a promising step towards restoring democratic values and addressing the deep-rooted issues of corruption, poverty, and gang violence that have disillusioned the citizens of Guatemala.

Arevalo’s victory reverberated through the streets of Guatemala City as his supporters filled the capital, waving flags and lighting fireworks to commemorate this historic moment. Sociologist Jorge Mendoza, one of Arevalo’s ardent supporters, emphasized that this triumph represents the defeat of a corrupt system that has hindered Guatemala’s progress for far too long. As the son of former president Juan José Arévalo, Bernardo Arevalo’s electoral success defied expectations, overcoming numerous hurdles such as unfavorable opinion polls, legal challenges, and attempts to disqualify his party, the Movimiento Semilla (Seed Movement).

The need for change in Guatemala has become even more apparent, especially considering the country’s abysmal performance in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Ranked 150th out of 180 countries in 2022, Guatemala’s position is on par with Afghanistan and the Central African Republic. This ranking highlights the urgent necessity for effective anti-corruption measures to be implemented under Arevalo’s leadership.

One of the key aspects of Bernardo Arevalo’s victory is his commitment to an orderly transition of power. Outgoing right-wing President Alejandro Giammattei, who is constitutionally prohibited from seeking re-election, conveyed his congratulations to Arevalo via X, formerly known as Twitter, and extended an invitation to collaborate on a smooth handover. Giammattei’s presidency has been marred by controversies, with several anti-graft prosecutors being arrested or forced into exile. His administration has also been criticized for suppressing critical journalists. Thus, Arevalo’s inauguration on 14 January 2024 comes at a crucial juncture, as the nation grapples with corruption, poverty, and the rise of gang violence that continue to contribute to widespread disillusionment among its 17 million citizens, prompting many to seek better lives elsewhere, notably the United States.

Following his victory, Bernardo Arevalo has received congratulatory messages from influential figures such as the ambassadors of the United States and the European Union, as well as the presidents of neighboring Mexico and El Salvador. These messages of support reflect the broader significance of Arevalo’s win, indicating a departure from outdated political practices and the dawn of a new era for Guatemala. Independent analyst Miguel Angel Sandoval describes this momentous event as a defeat for the old politics that have hindered Guatemala’s progress.

However, despite the celebratory atmosphere, it is crucial to remain cautious as attacks against Arevalo are likely to persist. Political risk consultancy firm Eurasia Group analyst Risa Grais-Targow warns that the ruling pact is likely to target electoral officials and Arevalo’s Semilla party with investigations in an attempt to undermine his government before the official transition in January. Thus, it becomes imperative for Arevalo and his supporters to remain vigilant and resilient in the face of such adversities to ensure the successful realization of their mandate.

Bernardo Arevalo assumes the leadership of a nation grappling with tremendous challenges. Ana María Méndez, the director for Central America at the think tank Washington Office on Latin America, characterizes his role as that of a transitional government seeking to restore the democratic values that have been eroded in Guatemala. The magnitude of the task that lies ahead is undeniable, and concerted efforts will be required to address the complexity of issues such as corruption, poverty, and gang violence. By promoting transparency, accountability, and inclusivity, Arevalo’s administration has the potential to reinvigorate Guatemala and instill hope in its citizens