Step by step: how a coup was averted in Guatemala

The President of Guatemala, Bernardo Arévalo de León, was finally able to take office after several attempts to prevent him, first his victory and then his coming to power (EFE/David Toro)

(Washington, United States) just 48 hours later Alessandro Giammattei Because he was no longer President of Guatemala, the State Department banned him and his children from entering the United States. “Reliable information” about “bribes” Which he received. But this, which appears to be an extreme measure, is actually The result of a large number of political and diplomatic actions taken by the Joe Biden administration to help Bernardo Arévalo take over the government As opposed to what the citizens decided this week and what some local actors were trying to do.

During his last hours in government, Giammattei had already faced harsh news from the North: His son Alejandro was deported from Miami the same day he ceased to be president, Mike Lee, a close associate of former President Giammattei Jr., tried to enter the United States and was detained there, according to Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah.

Republican United States Senator from Utah, Mike Lee, reported the deportation of the son of former President Alessandro Giammattei

The US took the previous step last month, when it was also designated as a corrupt actor miguel martinez, a former official of his government. Although this may seem like a measure against a younger actor, it was quite a gesture given Martínez’s personal closeness to the President. Guatemala’s outgoing government knew how to encode that message: The United States had run out of patience.

The thing is that at the beginning of the whole long process of election and transition, in which there was an attempt to prevent Arévalo from reaching the government, the United States played a very important role, which led to that. First with direct criticism of the judicial system and especially the Public Ministry, which was the branch implementing the destabilizing efforts.

but later, When he saw that Giammattei – whom the Biden administration had long described as an ally – was doing nothing to stop or question the coup attempts, he began to alienate the president and put pressure on him.

A week before leaving power, Alessandro Giammattei was in Washington to speak before the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (EFE/Lenin Noli).

as he knew infobae, Diplomatic and political work of the United States took place both publicly and privately. During all these months. The US is important to Guatemala because, among other things, it is its main trading partner. 40% of exports go to the US and there are more than 3 million Guatemalans living in that country, bringing in US$19 billion in remittances each year. For this reason, every gesture or action of the United States government has great importance in Guatemalan politics.

A week before leaving power, Giammattei was in Washington to speak before the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS). He spoke against America for the first time and said there that it is threatened By the US government.

The first steps that the United States took to defend democracy in Guatemala were taken with an almost imperceptible gesture: funding through the Organization of American States (OAS), the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), which helps the Central American country Was present in. First and second presidential terms.

OAS was present in Guatemala during the electoral and transition process (@OEA_oficial)

The OAS’s EOM, as well as the EU’s EOM, were important to avoid destabilizing earlier efforts. Through complaints that later proved to be unfounded, he tried to remove Arévalo and the Semilla Movement from the race, as they had less than 5% of the vote according to all polls, so they were not vetoed or removed. I went. Race like other candidates. Anti-establishment.

Arévalo ran a campaign by placing the fight against corruption at the center of the speech. In the first round he managed to reach second place behind former first lady Sandra Torres. (or in third place if it is assumed that the most commonly chosen option was a blank or void vote). Thus, despite efforts to push him out of the way, Arévalo entered the runoff.

in the second roundWhere OAS were also present, they won It was overwhelming with 60% votes, This, despite the fact that the Public Ministry, led by Attorney General Consuelo Porras, had already initiated a series of steps to remove him from the race through judicial means.

According to what the former president said some time ago, Porras, who was already designated as a “corrupt actor” by the US in 2022, is a personal friend of Giammattei.

Former Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said he was a “friend” of the attorney general, Consuelo Porras, who was initially appointed by then-President Jimmy Morales in 2018 and then approved by Giammattei in 2022, the year the U.S. Had described them. As a corrupt actor. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

From then on, pressure from the United States as well as the entire OAS was very strong. The main actor at the OAS was Ambassador Frank Mora. With harsh speeches and proposals for the organization to issue statements on the situation in the Central American country and then also led the negotiations.

Personally, also through the embassy Visits by senior State Department officials such as Under Secretary Jose Fernandez and Under Secretary Brian Nichols, as well as a bicameral congressional delegation led by Senator Tim Kaine. In addition, Vice President Kamala Harris, in charge of relations with Central American countries, spoke to Arévalo and expressed their intention to support their government and cooperate with their anti-corruption agenda.

However, Porras and his team continued to try to prevent Arévalo’s inauguration.

In negotiations with the Giammattei government, United States officials received the same message that the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry had given publicly: they assured that the transfer of command would take place as usual in January and that they had nothing to do with the actions of the prosecution. Do not give.

As time passed and the crackdown against the Semilla movement increased, pressure from the United States also increased. The OAS, which played a leading role in the crisis, sent three separate missions during the months it was present in the country. One of them was also led by Secretary General Luis Almagro, who visited the country on several occasions.

On one of his many visits to Guatemala, the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, had a strong clash with the Office of the Attorney General, headed by Consuelo Porras, when he was recorded in a private meeting to reveal the content of the conversation. I went. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo, File)

The pressure increased but the silence of Giammattei and his team did not change. The response his government gave was that although they had nothing to do with the actions of the Prosecutor’s Office, they would not do anything to interfere with them.

That silence and inaction was fundamental so that the United States and most of the countries on the continent involved in the case began to firmly believe that the outgoing government was behind the destabilizing action against Arévalo and his party.

If elements were failing to believe it, some actions of the outgoing ruling party in Congress confirm the hand of Giammattei government behind these actions.

The story had a happy ending in the judicial sphere as the Constitutional Court protected Semilla and Arévalo, allowing the transition, But even in Congress, Giammattei’s party made it difficult for him to take office till the last moment. The outgoing President did not even participate in the change of command,

In an article published last week, Ana María Méndez Dardón, Central America director of the Washington Office on Latin American Affairs (WOLA), explained how The steadfast support of the “international community,” particularly the United States, was crucial for Arévalo to hold the presidency despite shaky efforts.

“The Semilla Movement Party has maintained consistent dialogue with the Biden Administration and the U.S. Congress, reaffirming Arévalo’s commitment to collaborative efforts to promote democracy, development, and good governance. The US government has demonstrated its support by sanctioning relevant anti-democratic actors, among other actions, Méndez Darden wrote.

months ago, in conversation with infobaeThe WOLA expert highlighted how Migration policies affect bilateral relations between the US and Guatemala And why, in his opinion, the Biden government’s defense of democracy throughout the post-election process proved to be “right” after some “wrong” messages in the past. “Because of migration issues, Giammattei received calls saying that they are great structural partners, but without mentioning the justice problems in the country. With the electoral process, they claimed to call things by their name,’ Méndez Dardón said.

The Biden administration understands that migration issues must also be addressed by supporting countries to prevent the reasons that lead citizens to leave their countries of origin. Along with lack of opportunities, corruption is also a reason many Guatemalan migrants cite when leaving their country.

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