WASHINGTON—Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) issued a statement today calling for free and fair elections and an end to corruption and impunity in Guatemala.
Guatemala has long been plagued by corrupt elites who have abused their authority to remain in power and avoid accountability. The presidential election on June 25th offers an opportunity for the Guatemalan people to forge a new path and reject the criminality that defined the tenure of outgoing president Alejandro Giammattei and many of his predecessors.
“Nearly three decades after the end of an internal armed conflict in which the army methodically carried out a scorched Earth campaign killing an estimated 200,000 Indigenous Guatemalans, the Guatemalan people deserve better,” said Sen. Welch. “Just as they need leaders who care more about solving the country’s problems than holding onto power and lining their pockets, the United States needs a credible partner in Guatemala. This month’s elections will determine whether the country will continue to be a source of desperate migrants fleeing organized criminal networks, persecution, and hunger in search of safety and a better life in the United States, or one whose government we can work with to finally provide the Guatemalan people hope for a better future in their own country.”
President Giammattei was elected in 2019 after his primary opponent, former Attorney General Thelma Aldana, was forced to withdraw due to false charges brought against her by the country’s Attorney General who was later barred from entry to the U.S. Aldana joined other former Guatemalan judicial officials who had fled the country after facing trumped up charges and death threats. Giammattei’s administration has since aggressively sought to eliminate any political opposition, silence its critics in the press and civil society, and retain strict control over the country’s judiciary.
Giammattei’s administration is not unique in this respect—previous Guatemalan leaders have also sought to disqualify political opponents and stifle dissent. Former President Otto Peres Molina was imprisoned for corruption, while former President Jimmy Morales shut down the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. In this month’s elections, the Guatemalan people will have an opportunity to reject the country’s long history of political corruption and express their desire for just and accountable governance.