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Guatemalan Politics: A Reflection of the Mess in the U.S.

 The Guatemalan system will determine the outcome, as it should be. The national consensus is that barring some spectacular reversal, Mr. Arévalo will assume the presidency on January 14th, at 14 hours, as per Guatemalan law. 

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Nicholas Virzi |
02 de octubre, 2023

Guatemalan politics are apparently in turmoil. Against all predictions, the official results were that the leftwing candidate Bernardo Arévalo came in second place in the first round of elections held in June. In Guatemala, second-round elections are mandated when no single presidential candidate achieves a majority of the votes cast. According to official results, Mr. Arévalo won the second round of elections held on the 20th of August. He was thereafter officially declared the president-elect of Guatemala, and has been so recognized by the chief institutions of the country.

Since then, there have been all types of complaints and legal challenges, on many matters such as the legal standing of the party, and the election results themselves. These cases will be resolved in Guatemala´s competent courts of jurisdiction, as Guatemalan law dictates. Meanwhile, the U.S.-led international community is apparently losing its collective head over the ensuing legal battles. These international efforts will result in nothing. The Guatemalan system will determine the outcome, as it should be. The national consensus is that barring some spectacular reversal, Mr. Arévalo will assume the presidency on January 14th, at 14 hours, as per Guatemalan law. 

In sum, Guatemala has suffered a popular dispute of electoral results among a swath of the electorate, legal challenges to the results, accusations of government persecution of the political opposition, as well as allegations that the prosecutorial agencies fail to pursue accusations of corruption of those in power or their families. 

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All this should sound familiar to citizens of the U.S. In America, the powers that be first launched a smear campaign in 2016 against Trump, an outsider politician who ultimately won the Presidency. Undeterred, they then established a special counsel investigation to undermine his presidency after he won. After that came to naught, they initiated not one but two impeachment trials against him, both failing. This year alone, they have launched four criminal investigations against Trump in order to block his participation as a candidate in the upcoming 2024 elections. 

Given this background of facts, whatever may be happening in Guatemala, the U.S. government cannot give lectures and sermons to other countries on their electoral and judicial processes. Not at the precise time when polls show that American´s trust in their electoral and judicial institutions, norms, and processes are at their lowest point ever recorded. The world sees what happens in America. Other governments are not stupid. They perceive that the American narrative on democracy and the fight against corruption is not about liberty and good governance, but about power. 

Who can blame them? After all, the U.S. is a country where one side can freely contest the legitimacy of elections, but the other side cannot. Politicians on one side can leave office with official documents free from the fear of criminal persecution, but politicians on the other side cannot. Similarly, one side can engage in political protests with impunity, but the other side cannot. Persons from one side can lobby for foreign governments with impunity, and line their pockets doing so, but the other side cannot even appear to do so. 

Given this reality, it is laughable that the U.S. government should pose itself to the world as the leading voice on the benefits of democracy and the rule of law. No wonder that America´s rivals are laughing at us. It is also no wonder that our allies around the world, especially in Latin America, are running full sprint to the China camp. In an anarchic sphere of international politics ruled by self-interested nations, naked power relations are preferable to stark hypocrisy.

Independent of the facts on the ground, a full-blown color revolution is underway in Guatemala. Activist journalists, some admittedly so, and allied commentators have shed any pretense of professional objectivity. They shamelessly parrot the official talking points, which are invariably replicated by certain ex-officials of the U.S. State Department. They tirelessly and quite obviously strive to fuel indignation in the masses in order to incite mass protests, with the ultimate aim of provoking social disorder and an attendant confrontation with the authorities charged with maintaining law and order in the country. 

All this explains the change in tone among certain supposed journalists and commentators, who incessantly spew, with increasing vulgarity, their calls for action. They publish photos of guillotines, and make references to the violent French Revolution, all from their safe perches, course. It is no surprise that some reside outside of Guatemala, or live within the confines of gated communities and do not move outside the swankiest zones of the capital city. They want to incite violence but remain safe. Their cowardly call to arms, to take the streets, is for others, not them. 

The ultimate goal of these enlisted pigeon-hearted protestors is to photograph the Guatemalan authorities “crushing dissent”. From their safe perches, they badly seek that viral photograph of the political violence they so desperately yearn for, but have not yet obtained. 

All they need is the photo. Their narrative is already written and pre-placed in the regional and international media outlets that they have always at the ready. 

It would be wise for the Guatemalan government to avoid any and all such confrontations, or even to comment on the intent to provoke them. It has enough on its hands to handle the difficult, but necessary, process of governmental transition. Democracy is messy but better than all the other alternative forms of government.