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.