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Latam Brief: Guatemala’s (increasingly limited) presidential race (May 23, 2023)

Latin America Daily Briefing: Guatemala's (increasingly limited) presidential race (May 23, 2023)
Latin America Daily Briefing

A Guatemalan court suspended the candidacy of presidential front-runner Carlos Pineda on Friday. The ruling, just a month ahead of the vote, was denounced as undemocratic by the businessman outsider, reports Reuters.

Pineda appealed to Guatemala’s constitutional court, reports AFP. Ballots must be finalized by Thursday.

Critics say outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei and his allies are seeking to impose their own preferences on the race. Other strong presidential hopefuls, leftist Thelma Cabrera and conservative Roberto Arzu, were previously forced out of the race.

Last week, the Organization of American States reiterated its concern about the exclusion of candidates in the electoral process. And this week the European Union voiced similar concern. (EFE)

There are currently 23 presidential candidates in the race. But without the excluded candidates, right-wing Zury Ríos, conservative former first lady Sandra Torres, and former diplomat Edmond Mulet are the three frontrunners for the June 25 election. (AS/COA)

Guatemala’s constitutional court ratified Ríos’ candidacy last week, determining that a constitutional clause prohibiting de facto rulers’ relatives from running for office is limited to the period following the coup, not subsequent periods. Ríos is the daughter of dictator Efraín Ríos Montt and has been previously blocked from running under that constitutional clause. (El País)

See, also, Americas Quarterly’s profiles of the candidates.


  • The U.S. received more than 1.5 million requests from individuals hoping to sponsor the entry of migrants from four countries, in just a few months, according to internal government documents obtained by CBS. The sponsorship application on behalf of would-be migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela has overwhelmed caseworkers at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which can approve no more than 30,000 arrivals under the program each month.


  • Colombian President Gustavo Petro suspended a ceasefire with a dissident FARC rebel group in the four regions where it is most active, after the killing of four Indigenous teenagers by the left-wing rebel group EMC-FARC, reports the BBC.

Regional Relations

  • Denmark would like to host a summit in July aimed at finding peace between Ukraine and Russia, but the country’s foreign minister said such a meeting would be conditional on engagement from India, China and Brazil. (Reuters)

El Salvador

  • El Salvador’s main opposition parties — including the leftist FMLN and the conservative Arena — are negotiating an agreement to run a unity candidate against Bukele in next year’s presidential elections, reports El Faro.


  • Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele is TikTok’s most followed world leader, ahead of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Bukele’s social media profiles are daily flooded with admiring comments from residents of other Latin American countries, reports the BBC.

  • IDB head Ilan Goldfajn said the bank is focused on integrating the region’s countries through infrastructure and power projects, as well as efforts to protect biodiversity, a marked difference from his predecessor, a China hawk who sought to challenge Beijing’s influence in the region, reports Bloomberg.


  • Ecuador’s National Electoral Council (CNE) recommended unifying the date of the early presidential and legislative elections and a referendum on oil exploitation in the Yasuní National Park, in order to cut electoral costs and increase participation. (Telesur)

  • Allies of Eduardo Mendúa, an Indigenous environmental activist in Ecuador wonder if his organization against oil drilling was related to his assassination in February, reports Al Jazeera.


  • How will Chile’s second attempt at a new constitution differ from the first, and how likely is it to succeed? asks the Latin America Advisor.

  • “Chile now faces an almost farcical situation, in which the political sectors that have never wanted a new constitution will be in charge of drafting one, and those sectors that have for decades pushed for a new constitution are pretty much shut out of the drafting stage,” writes Robert Funk in response. (Latin America Advisor)

  • “Current polls show a razor-thin tendency for approval, but if the draft is perceived as exclusionary, it is highly likely that voters will reject it. This might push the working majority to moderate some of its positions and attempt some form of agreement with the left,” argues Noah Titelman. (Latin America Advisor)


  • Brazil has declared a state of animal health emergency for 180 days in response to its first ever detection of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus in wild birds. (Guardian)

  • Brazil’s government launched a working group to create a National Care Policy, led by the ministries of Social Development and Women, with the participation of 15 other federal organisms.


  • The Mayan Railroad, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s $20 billion pet project, is nearing completion. Indigenous groups living along the train’s route have pushed back against the development, as have environmental experts who say it could devastate important biomes. (Guardian)

  • AMLO said billionaire mining tycoon German Larrea asked the government to compensate his Grupo Mexico company to the tune of $531 million for a seized stretch of railway in the south of the country. The seizure on Friday has added to concerns in the business community about government intervention into the economy, according to Bloomberg. (See yesterday’s briefs.)

  • “Mexico’s military, already powerful and corrupt under AMLO’s predecessors, has expanded its influence, role in the economy, and expectations of impunity under the current administration,” according to the Latin America Risk Report.


  • At least 20 people were killed in a fire in a school dormitory in Guyana, in a school about 320 km south of Georgetown that serves mostly Indigenous students, reports the Associated Press.


  • In the midst of runaway inflation, Argentina’s government unveiled the 2,000 peso bill yesterday — though the now-highest denomination bill is only worth $4 at the blackmarket rate that serves as an economic benchmark. Inflation is at 109%, and might hit 130% by the end of the year. (Reuters)

  • Argentine intellectual Beatriz Sarlo analyzes the country’s complicated political scenario, a month before parties must submit their candidate lists for the national, open primaries in August. “Antipolitical prejudice exists in many parts of the world, but in Argentina it has increased dramatically. And it’s a feeling that didn’t exist before.” (Infobae)


  • A Peruvian judge ruled hat an investigation into alleged money laundering involving former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski needed to be done again. (Reuters)

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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