Poverty and violent crime continue to plague Guatemala 25 years after its last left-wing guerrillas laid down their arms. More than half the population lives on less than $4 per day. Youth are particularly vulnerable to predatory street gangs. After spiking in 2009, crime rates fell due partly to investigations by a UN-sponsored commission, but the government terminated that body’s mandate early in response to a series of corruption probes, imperilling efforts to curb impunity. Thousands of Guatemalans risk being robbed or assaulted on migratory routes. In its research and advocacy, Crisis Group encourages holistic reform and crime-fighting approaches that get at the root causes of insecurity.

CrisisWatch Guatemala

Standby monitoring

Despite judicial and other interference, presidential election went ahead, resulting in landslide victory for centre-left candidate Bernardo Arévalo; President Giammattei endorsed result.

Surprise candidate won presidential election. Bernardo Arévalo of centre-left Movimiento Semilla won landslide victory in presidential runoff on 20 Aug, securing 60.9% of vote compared with 37.2% for Sandra Torres of right-wing Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza; Arévalo, who takes office on 14 Jan, promised to fight corruption after victory. President Giammattei 21 Aug congratulated Arévalo, inviting him to launch transition. Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) 28 Aug confirmed result.

Attempts to undermine Arévalo and his party persisted. Torres, who had not conceded by end of month, repeatedly claimed election may be stolen and 18 Aug alleged fraud in first round; hours later, director of Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (accused of corruption) echoed Torres’ accusations, implying possible international interference and claiming advances in investigations into Semilla party. TSE 18 Aug criticised comments so close to second-round vote, but 28 Aug provisionally suspended Semilla after Judge Orellana, at request of Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity, issued order. Organization of American States (OAS) 28 Aug called decision an “abusive interpretation of the law”. Ruling unlikely to affect Arévalo but for now leaves him without party.

International community kept close eye on proceedings. Amid concern about efforts to alter electoral process, external actors including U.S., OAS and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called for transparent elections with no interference. OAS 10 Aug extended observation mission until Jan transition upon request from outgoing president and others. OAS 24 Aug asked govt to provide Arévalo and running mate Karin Herrera with protection amid death threats.

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