Guatemala will hold elections on June 25. With none of the presidential candidates likely to receive the necessary majority to win outright, runoffs for president will almost inevitably be held in August. 

Candidates Blocked

Several significant presidential contenders have been excluded from the race. Popular presidential candidate, Thelma Cabrera, was excluded from the race because of false accusations against her running mate, vice presidential candidate Jordán Rodas. Cabrera, a Maya Mam activist with a long record of grassroots organizing, reached fourth place in the last presidential elections as the Movement for the People’s Liberation (MLP) candidate. Her running mate, Rodas, had previously served as the Human Rights Ombudsman. His commitment to human rights infuriated many in the Pacto de Corruptos (Covenant of the Corrupt), who sought to remove him from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s role, prevent his election to the presidency of the public university and halt his vice-presidential run. The Cabrera-Rodas campaign was the only progressive ticket with a real chance of gaining executive power. Thus, electoral and legal institutions acted quickly to remove them from contention.

Barred MLP candidates, Thelma Cabrera and Jordán Rodas. Photo credit: Nelton Rivera

Popular right-wing candidates who threatened the status quo have also been blocked from running.

Current Presidential Frontrunners Tied to Corruption, Historic and Present-Day Violence

Current frontrunners include Sandra Torres (UNE), the former first lady of Guatemala accused of a series of corruption and campaign finance crimes before the Giammattei administration dropped the charges against her.  Edmond Mulet, another strong contender, has been accused of organizing illegal adoptions during the Internal Armed Conflict. Both have surrounded themselves with actors embroiled in corruption. 

Among the frontrunners, Zury Ríos is the most infamous. Ríos, the daughter of genocidal dictator, Efraín Ríos Montt, got her start in politics at her father’s side. She has surrounded herself with notorious actors involved in political terror and widespread corruption. These include Álvaro Arzú, son of ex-president Arzú; Ricardo Mendez Ruíz, son of a suspected war criminal and the head of the Foundation Against Terrorism, which has dedicated itself to terrorizing and criminalizing judges, prosecutors, reporters and organizations seeking justice; Enrique Degenhart, the former Interior Minister under former President Jimmy Morales (2016-2020); and Ana Lucrecia Marroquín Godoy, a current congresswoman whose husband was one of Ríos Montt’s defense lawyers. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), which oversees election matters, approved her candidacy without explanation, despite a constitutional prohibition against coup orchestrators’ relatives running for office. Previously, the TSE banned Ríos from a 2019 electoral bid due to this very constitutional restriction.

Survivors of Ríos Montt’s genocidal reign have protested her candidacy time and again.

Members of the Genocide Never Again coalition call for vote with memory, photo credit: CALDH

Community Organizations Decry Corruption, Violence, Lack of Policy Proposals

While the elections themselves are a fresh opportunity for the Pacto de Corruptos to cement their hold on power through the pretense of democracy, community organizations call out candidates’ utter disregard for the issues that most affect the people of Guatemala. CCDA coordinator, Leocadio Juracán, recently noted that “We are living through an electoral context in which you don’t hear anything about rural and campesino communities, you don’t hear anything about agrarian issues.” Further he pointed out that in that same context, many communities across Guatemala were facing violent evictions, in violation of international and national protocols.

Communities and organizations are pessimistic about the results of the election. Indeed, the MLP has called for voters to void their presidential ballot, while still voting for members of congress and mayors. This would indicate a general rejection of the presidential election process. 

Organizations note that elections often bring heightened violence and repression, especially against activists and press. They call on the international community to watch these questionable elections and their effects on communities’ struggles for justice.

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