In a push for change, Guatemalans last night voted for the anti-corruption candidate Bernardo Arévalo to become the next president of the country.
Bernardo Arévalo emerged last night as the new President-Elect of Guatemala. He won the second round of the general election with some 58% of the 4.2 million votes cast yesterday, defeating opponent Sandra Torres in the runoff.
Arévalo, 64, a sociologist and diplomat, is the son of Guatemala’s the first democratically elected president, the popular Juan José Arévalo who held office from 1945 to 1951. Arévalo has promised to follow in his father’s footsteps with a commitment to changing the status quo in Guatemala, and reversing the poverty, violence, and corruption that leads thousand of people to leave the country every year.
Anti-corruption candidate Bernardo Arevalo has scored a landslide victory in Guatemala’s presidential election ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/s2r65rJ1Kk
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) August 21, 2023
Speaking last night, Arévalo pledged to fight corruption when he takes office in January next year
“We are going to make a government that cares for all people, regardless of differences and to ensure that the institutions earn their trust,” he said. “Thank you people of Guatemala. This victory is not ours, it is yours who supported us along this electoral path. This victory belongs to the people and now united, as a people, we will fight against corruption.”
Many thought that yesterday’s vote would not happen at all after Arévalo and his Movimiento Semilla party surprised everyone by making it through to the runoff in the first place. It seemed that the ruling establishment elites in Guatemala were doing everything possible to cancel Arévalo and disqualify him from running. Even late last week, prosecutors were still threatening to issue arrest warrants against Semilla party officials.
My comment for the Financial Times on Bernardo Arévalo’s big win 🇬🇹 🇬🇹 🇬🇹 pic.twitter.com/ZHFCqmtsUW
— Will Freeman (@WillGFreeman) August 21, 2023
Arévalo addressed this last night, saying that he hoped the size of his victory would stop those attempting to derail the process
“The people have spoken forcefully… they should go out and ask those who are outside celebrating,” he said.
In a way, the threats and intimidation against Arévalo and his party may have served to strengthen the resolve of the Guatemalan people. There was a real fear that a sense of growing authoritarianism in Guatemala might blow up into full-blown dictatorship if Arévalo was quashed. People felt a genuine sense of now-or-never for Guatemala, like yesterday could be the last chance to save the country from the abyss.
“I voted for Arevalo because he is the only option we have,” voter Roberto Alvarez told Al Jazeera in Guatemala City. “Voting for Sandra is backing the same people who came before.”
In a tweet, outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei congratulated Arévalo and invited him to participate in an “orderly transition” of power.
Felicito a los guatemaltecos por la realización de las #EleccionesGT2023 en paz, con pocos incidentes aislados.
— Alejandro Giammattei (@DrGiammattei) August 21, 2023