Global Exchange will be investigating, observing, and reporting on Guatemala’s historic (run-off) presidential elections. 
Tune in here for updates and news.

The August 20th election is in the international spotlight because emergent democratic forces represented by the Semilla Movement and their candidate, Bernardo Arévalo, won a run-off spot in the general elections that took place last June and then successfully defended it against trumped-up legal attacks that sought to disqualify their party and close the door on democracy.

Hundreds of observers are expected to be in the country during the election.

Tension between Guatemala’s authoritarian ruling structures and the democratic impulses of its people are nothing new.

In 1944 (during the final days of WWII) Guatemala had a popular uprising that brought Bernardo Arevalo’s father, Juan Jose Arevalo Bermejo out of exile and into the Presidency, where he built a broad consensus, modernized education, established the first ever labor code and created the social security system that still exists today.

When Arévalo’s successor, President Jacobo Arbenz, sought to expand those gains with a land redistribution program he came up against an implacable oligarchy that welcomed the notorious CIA led coup of 1954 that snuffed democracy and led to generations of terror, repression, civil war, and the genocide of Indigenous communities –much of it with the direct or implicit support of the United States.

Things began to improve in Guatemala following the signing of the 1996 Peace Accords, but recent decades have seen an upsurge in criminal violence, environmental destruction, and rampant corruption, while the structures of extreme wealth and enforced poverty continue much the same as in1944

History may or may not be repeating itself as the candidacy of Bernardo Arevalo takes center stage, but there is no doubt the Movimiento Semilla has created high expectations and infectious positive energy throughout Guatemala and Latin America.

Our delegation is being convened by CESJUL, the Bogota, Colombia based legal training and human rights organization. They have assembled a stellar group of journalists, human rights specialists, scholars, and elected officials from Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and the United States.

Our observers will be just that, observers. And they will report on what they see.  That’s where you come in. Working closely with [Prensa Comunitaria] the journalists on our team will deliver contextual analysis and up to the minute coverage of this hotly contested event.

For the latest on upcoming pre, during and post election webcasts and live updates please visit our webpage.

¡Viva la democracia!

Guatemala’s June 25th (first round) elections surprised pundits who had expected a sweep by right wing forces who had tilted the electoral playing field by cracking down on free speech and dissent – jailing journalists and sending others into exile.

Nevertheless, a relatively new party called Semillas — that had emerged from the student-led mobilization of 2015 and 2016 — came in second place, stunning even its own party activists. Their candidate, Bernardo Arévalo (son of Guatemala’s first ever democratically elected president), is now in the runoff elections scheduled for August 20th.

Challenges emerged immediately as conservative elements of the power structures that have ruled Guatemala for decades sought to use their influence over the country’s judiciary to discredit the election tally. But to date those efforts have failed, and Guatemala looks to be headed toward an August 20th runoff.

Global Exchange has been watching closely – consulting with our trusted contacts in Guatemala and with the team of Latin American observers we sponsored to report on the first round.

To deepen our understanding of what is happening and what may be in store during next month’s final election round, we held a webcast (in English) with former Guatemalan Congresswoman Sandra Moran and researcher Megan Thomas.

Sandra Moran is Guatemala’s first openly lesbian member of the Congress. She organized the country’s first lesbian group in 1995, and was elected in 2015. She is well-known for her vocal support for women’s rights, Indigenous women’s rights and LGBTQIA+ rights in Guatemala.

Megan Thomas is a political analyst, social science researcher and development worker in Guatemala. She was born in New York City of US parents and raised in Guatemala, where she has lived most of her life. She participated in the Guatemalan revolutionary movement between 1970 and 1992 and is currently part of the FOCO action research collective working on generating information and analysis on and for social organizing in Guatemala.

Ted Lewis, Global Exchange co-Executive Director hosted the conversation.