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Guatemala Human Rights Comission/USA

As we dive into our work for the New Year, we wanted to take a moment to thank you. You’ve helped bring about change  in Guatemala! Shortly after midnight. on January 15, Bernardo Arévalo was inaugurated as Guatemala's president, fulfilling the hopes of many for a new Guatemalan spring.

Until the last minute, sectors opposed to his presidency threatened to derail the inauguration, which was delayed  by nearly nine hours. At around 11:00 PM, former president Alejandro Giammattei–who has now been denied a visa for the United States, due to well-founded evidence of corruption–turned the office over the to Guatemalan Congress rather than to Arévalo, saying he feared that midnight, the deadline for the transfer of power, would arrive without the transition. He did not appear at the inauguration.

The long delay in the inauguration ceremony owed to heated arguments in the Guatemalan Congress, as lawmakers disputed the make-up of the congressional delegation that would be involved in the inauguration and argued over the status of 23 Semilla lawmakers, given the party's suspension. The debate surrounding the Semilla Movement's classification as a political party had escalated in November, when the Constitutional Court upheld the temporary suspension of its legal status due to alleged registration flaws. Prosecutors allege irregularities in signature collection during the party's founding. The Court’s order implied the removal of Semilla’s ability to hold legislative positions as a party. Temporarily, on the night of January 14, Semilla won the debate, as Congress agreed on an accord (5-2024) that would allow those sworn in as independents to in fact represent their parties. Semilla lawmaker Samuel Pérez Álvarez was elected president of Congress, and he invested Arévalo with the powers of office. Soon, however, Semilla’s status was changed; the Constitutional Court, in response to an injunction requested by the so-called Foundation Against Terrorism, the Liga Pro Patria, and members of Congress representing the Vamos party, ruled that Semilla legislators were independents, and they could not lead congressional committees or form part of the congressional leadership council. On January 19, a new election for the presidency of the Congress will take place, since Semilla lawmaker Pérez Álvarez has decided to step down from the presidency in light of the Constitutional Court’s ruling.

International pressure was intense on January 14 as deliberations in Congress dragged on. Representatives of various diplomatic missions met urgently, and international leaders issued a joint statement, read by Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, calling on Congress to fulfill its duty. Samantha Power, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) who headed the US delegation to the inauguration, called on all parties to remain calm as the delay continued and demonstrations outside the congressional building were repressed with teargas. The inauguration at las took place, shortly after midnight, amid much fanfare. 

In his inaugural speech, President Arévalo expressed gratitude to the Indigenous communities and youth for their pivotal support during the historic 105-day resistance. He highlighted his anti-corruption agenda and deemed as priorities social justice and the strengthening of democracy, cautioning against authoritarianism and corruption. His first official act involved visiting the site outside the Attorney General’s Office, where Indigenous people had maintained a 105-day resistance, to acknowledge the resilience and strength of the Indigenous communities, which in Arevalo’s words served as inspiration for thousands of Guatemalans advocating for democracy.

On January 19, in an apparent effort to combat corruption, Arévalo in a letter to Attorney General Consuelo Porras requested a detailed report and a meeting with her to discuss the progress of criminal cases subject to rulings made by the Inter-American Court; the criteria used for criminal prosecution of cases linked to freedom of speech and the press; the protocol for action in response to protective measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; and the investigation into the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines. 

In the face of legal and political challenges, President Bernardo Arévalo's inauguration and his first actions as president have marked a moment of pivotal change for Guatemala. The resilience of the Guatemalan people and the support from international leaders underscored the significance of upholding democratic values. Crucially, the 105-day Indigenous resistance emerged as a driving force, indicating the Guatemalan people's determination to shape the nation's future. As President Arévalo embarks on his presidential journey, his commitment to social justice and anti-corruption measures have sowed hope for a new era in Guatemalan governance.

We are so grateful to share this work and this moment with you. Your donations, actions, and commitment to supporting human rights in Guatemala are inspirational and critically important.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

All of us at Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA