In Guatemala, progressive Bernardo Arevalo inaugurated president at the end of a day full of tensions

Until the last moment, Guatemala held its breath and its anger, in the face of the maneuvers of the political and judicial elites to try to prevent the new president Bernardo Arevalo, elected on August 20, 2023 under the colors of the Semilla (“seed”) Movement

In Guatemala, progressive Bernardo Arevalo inaugurated president at the end of a day full of tensions

Until the last moment, Guatemala held its breath and its anger, in the face of the maneuvers of the political and judicial elites to try to prevent the new president Bernardo Arevalo, elected on August 20, 2023 under the colors of the Semilla (“seed”) Movement. ), to take power. The inauguration ceremony of the new head of state began on Sunday January 14 at 11:50 p.m., when it should have started at 3 p.m. Several international delegations, including those led by the Chilean President, Gabriel Boric, or the King of Spain, Felipe VI, left Guatemala without having seen the new president wearing the presidential sash.

What was supposed to be a day of celebration to celebrate the inauguration of the country’s first progressive president in seventy years turned into a long wait punctuated by moments of tension between protesters and police. From 9 a.m., the outgoing deputies delayed by more than seven hours the taking of office of the new parliamentarians supposed to sworn in the president, going so far as to lock themselves in a room of the legislative palace, under the pretext of verifying documents.

Around noon, and while the desire to obstruct the transfer of power seemed obvious, several groups of demonstrators marched up to the barriers installed by the police in the streets leading to Congress. A few scuffles broke out before representatives of the indigenous authorities calmed the protesters. “We had to avoid at all costs that violence would be a pretext for not allowing Arevalo’s inauguration. These corrupt elites are entirely capable of using chaos to avoid ceding power,” explained, visibly moved, Oscar Ralon, member of the Social Platform for Change, a group of civil society organizations that defend democracy.

Road blockages

The crowd then converged in front of the presidential palace, where several concerts tried to beat the wait. But the atmosphere was no longer festive and worry was beginning to show on faces. Three friends were typing feverishly on their phones, searching social media for information on the situation in Congress. “Honestly we didn’t expect the MPs to get into it! After the judicial power, today the legislature is attacking democracy! », said Mariajosé España, a 34-year-old communicator.

Since winning the first round of the presidential election in June 2023, when he was only credited with 5% of voting intentions on the eve of the election, candidate Arevalo and his party, Semilla, have faces an avalanche of legal appeals, orchestrated by the public prosecutor's office and supported by former president Alejandro Giammattei. But the more he was attacked, the more his popularity rose, to the point that this 65-year-old former diplomat finally triumphantly won the presidency in the second round on August 20, with 58% of the vote.