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Four scenarios for Guatemalan President Arévalo’s first year

After nearly two weeks in office, dark clouds of unease loom over the new administration

El presidente de Guatemala, Bernardo Arévalo
Guatemala's President Bernardo Arévalo takes part in a Mayan ceremony, in Guatemala City, on January 16, 2024.CRISTINA CHIQUIN (REUTERS)

From the day he won the presidency on August 20 to the unconventional time of his swearing-in during the early morning hours of January 15, Bernardo Arévalo has faced relentless, anti-democracy snipers commanded by Attorney General Consuelo Porras. Armed with high-powered weaponry, these snipers were openly or covertly supported by the Corrupt Pact of crooked politicians, decaying oligarchies and powerful drug traffickers. Arévalo would not have survived their assault without a special form of kryptonite — the protection and support of Guatemala’s Indigenous peoples and the international community. After nearly two weeks in office, the clouds of uncertainty around Arévalo’s administration are beginning to dissipate, yet some are actually getting darker. While I don’t anticipate any dramatic plot twists right now, I do foresee the possibility of strange happenings in the future, and offer the following four scenarios for President Arévalo’s first year in office.

1. A shadowy labyrinth

The winds of change brought by Arévalo and his Movimiento Semilla (Seed Movement) party are blowing through the darkest power centers in the corrupt and authoritarian regimes of his predecessors. However, the Semilla political leaders seem unsure how to exercise the newfound influence that a weary public has bestowed upon them. The system they seek to challenge has not imploded and remains resilient. The revolving door of bureaucracy continues, diluting the potential for real change. Anonymous social networks have become battlefields, not only between sworn enemies but also among presumed allies. Misinformation confuses and paralyzes society, while credible media outlets are sidelined by the new government. Prediction: the shadowy forces in power are unable to resolve any problems and merely sweep them under the rug.

Probability: Very high.

2. A mosquito storm

The Corrupt Pact relentlessly attacked the democratic transfer of power, oblivious to the fact that if they didn’t win, they would ultimately lose. Political clocks never stand still. On January 14, a crucial day in Guatemala when the president is sworn in and congressional leadership is elected, the Corrupt Pact remained confident that their nefarious machinery would protect their ill-gotten privileges. They were wrong. The configuration of the new Congress made this abundantly clear.

The “mosquito storm” scenario assumes that the Corrupt Pact will recalibrate and revert to its tried and true methods of fueling corruption among legislators in an attempt to destabilize the Arévalo administration. Yet, they are also racing against the clock, desperately seeking short-term results. Prediction: the opposition will try to bog down the new administration with flurries of petty allegations of corruption and abuse. If this trap fails, they will lean on their stubborn ideological opposition and gamble on a Trump win in November. Both strategies may be less effective than the opposition thinks.

Probability: High

3. A resilient democracy

President Arévalo’s experienced inner circle and the young politicians of the Semilla bloc in Congress find common ground on the crucial goal of promoting civil and political liberties to empower and unite the youth, Indigenous communities, women, marginalized people, migrants, and intellectuals. This collective vision represents a democratic reawakening in the 21st century, harnessing both domestic and international support to forge a path towards a democratic future. Prediction: this vision and unity will offer shelter from the internal political disputes, conspiracies and hate campaigns launched by their far-right adversaries.

Probability: Medium

4. A pipe dream of overthrow

A resilient core of coup plotters is still alive, navigating through legal setbacks in the courts and the removal of Attorney General Consuelo Porras, their shield of impunity. Their lobbyists in Washington eagerly anticipate a Trump win that will turn the tide against the progressive Arévalo and his party. Meanwhile, the war drums continue to echo in Congress and on social media, as the coup plotters dream of overthrow. Prediction: although the corrupt regime still harbors ambitions of a complete restoration to power, international sanctions will undermine their efforts, prompting some of the people affected to turn to Arévalo for help.

Probability: Medium low

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