Hungry for change, Guatemalans voted last night to elect anti-corruption candidate Bernardo Arévalo as the country’s next president.
Bernardo Arévalo emerged last night as the new president-elect of Guatemala. He won the second round of yesterday’s general election with around 58% of the 4.2 million votes cast, defeating his opponent Sandra Torres in the run-off.
Arévalo, 64, a sociologist and diplomat, is the son of Guatemala’s first democratically elected president, the popular Juan José Arévalo, who served from 1945 to 1951. Arévalo has promised to follow in his father’s footsteps, pledging to change the status quo in Guatemala and reverse the poverty, violence and corruption that cause thousands of people to leave the country every year.
Speaking last night, Arévalo pledged to fight corruption when he takes office in January next year.”We are going to form a government that cares for all the people, regardless of their differences, and we are going to make sure that the institutions deserve their trust,” he said. “Thank you, people of Guatemala. This victory does not belong to us, it belongs to you who supported us in this electoral process. This victory belongs to the people and now, united, as a people, we will fight against corruption”.
Many thought that yesterday’s election would not take place at all after Arévalo and his Movimiento Semilla party surprised everyone by making it into the run-off. It seemed that Guatemala’s ruling establishment elites were doing everything they could to cancel Arévalo’s candidacy and disqualify him. At the end of last week, prosecutors were still threatening to issue arrest warrants for Semilla party officials.
Arévalo addressed this last night, saying that he hoped the scale of his victory would deter those trying to derail the process.
“The people have spoken strongly… they should go out and ask those who are celebrating outside,” he said.
In some ways, the threats and intimidation against Arévalo and his party may have served to strengthen the resolve of the Guatemalan people. There was a real fear that the sense of growing uthoritarianism in Guatemala could turn into a full-blown dictatorship if Arévalo was crushed. There was a real sense of now or never for Guatemala, as if yesterday could be the last chance to save the country from the abyss.
“I voted for Arevalo because he is the only option we have,” voter Roberto Alvarez told Al Jazeera in Guatemala City. “To vote for Sandra is to support the same people who came before.”
In a tweet, outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei congratulated Arévalo and invited him to take part in an “orderly transition” of power.