Latin America Daily Briefing
Guatemalan president-elect Bernardo Arévalo is set to take office on Sunday, despite months of legal maneuvers against the anti-corruption crusader and his Movimiento Semilla party. Arévalo has repeatedly denounced a “slow-motion coup d’etat” by the country’s corrupt political elite, under way ever since he unexpectedly came in second in the June first round election, reports AFP.
“For many Guatemalans, Sunday’s inauguration represents not only the culmination of Arévalo’s victory at the polls but also their successful defense of the country’s democracy,” reports the Associated Press.
Nonetheless, the intense efforts of a political and economic elite unwilling to renounce its hold on power, often dubbed “el pacto de los corruptos,” to block Arévalo’s presidency are unlikely to let up even after the inauguration. Politically motivated legal efforts since Arévalo’s second-place finish in June have focused on everything from the legality of the signatures validating the Movimiento Semilla’s conformation, to support for student protests, to alleged electoral irregularities.
Members of Movimiento Semilla have been detained, and there have been unprecedented and illegal audits of ballot boxes that even involved a scuffle between security officials and an electoral judge. These efforts have been spearheaded by attorney general Consuelo Porras, senior prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche and Judge Fredy Orellana, all of whom have been formally designated as corrupt and undemocratic by the U.S. Justice Department.
“Bogus arrest warrants are constantly being issued against journalists, students, activists, lawyers, and members of Semilla, creating a climate of intense fear throughout the country,” reports Jacobin.
A months-long series of protests in defense of democracy and calling for Porras’ resignation, largely sustained by Indigenous groups, was key to defending Arévalo’s victory. (WOLA)
So was the international community. “U.S. diplomats played a key role, in one of the Biden administration’s most aggressive campaigns to shore up democracy in the hemisphere,” reports the Washington Post.
Arévalo’s unlikely electoral success was due to the maneuvers of the corrupt elite which blocked the candidacies of more well-known reformists. But, “Semilla’s triumph was, above all, down to the support of young urban voters, who successfully encouraged their relatives to back Arévalo,” reports the Guardian.
- On Thursday, Guatemalan police arrested the country’s former interior minister for allegedly not carrying out his duties when he opted for dialogue with protesters rather than using force to remove them as a court had ordered, reports the Associated Press.
- Semilla’s lawmakers have been temporarily declared “independent,” due to the legal attacks against the party’s standing, which could complicate the incoming government’s efforts to build Congressional alliances and implement its legislative agenda, reports Quorum GT.
- The typical portray of Guatemala’s business sector as an “oligarchic cabal” determined to thwart a reformist presidency “obscures the diversity among the country’s elites—and hurts the international community’s attempts to ensure that Arévalo can take office on January 14 and then govern effectively,” argues Benjamin Gedan in Americas Quarterly.
- A major operation aimed at rooting out narco-corruption at the highest levels of Ecuador’s government, launched weeks ago by attorney general Diana Salazar, led to raids across the country and more than 30 arrests — and likely played a key role in the spate of coordinated violent attacks that pushed the Noboa administration to declare a state of internal armed conflict this week, reports the New York Times.
- Nearly 900 people have been arrested in Ecuador since Tuesday in a militarized effort to quell a spate attacks by criminal organizations, according to the country’s government. The presidency says 94 of the 859 people detained are members of what they call “terrorist” groups, reports CNN.
- Ecuador’s criminal groups “are looking for strategic targets because the violence they are committing has a political rather than an economic goal,” writes James Bosworth at Latin America Risk Report. “That politicization, which started during the election and worsened over the past week, will make the situation more dangerous in the weeks to come.”
- The U.S. send top military, State Department and law enforcement officials to Ecuador to offer assistance to President Daniel Noboa’s efforts to quell violent attacks by criminal gangs, reports Bloomberg.
- Belize is challenged by the encroachment of Guatemalan cattle ranchers into protected areas. The incursions of these ranchers, who are suspected of having ties to powerful individuals and possibly narco-trafficking operations, have significant implications for Belize’s ecosystem and territorial integrity, according to the Caribbean Investigative Journalism Network. (See yesterday’s Just Caribbean Updates.)
- Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s efforts to relaunch his flagging governement will be challenged by high-profile trials involving his son, his brother and his former chief of staff, reports El País.
- The U.S. embassy in Colombia warned that foreign visitors to the country should take serious caution when using dating apps after a spate of suspicious deaths, reports the Guardian.
- Mexico’s Citizen’s Movement unexpectedly nominated its Chamber of Deputies leader Jorge Álvarez Máynez to head its presidential ticket. (El País)
- “A wave of suicides at a Mexican women’s prison suggests pattern of negligence,” reports El País.
- “Archaeologists have uncovered a cluster of lost cities in the Amazon rainforest that was home to at least 10,000 farmers about 2,000 years ago,” reports the Guardian.