A voter's finger is marked after casting a ballot in Guatemala. (AP)

A voter's finger is marked after casting a ballot in Guatemala. (AP)


LatAm in Focus: Guatemala's Electoral Crossroads

By Carin Zissis

Veteran journalist Juan Luis Font of ConCriterio covers who’s in—and out—of the race, democratic hurdles, and voter worries ahead of the June 25 election.

When Guatemalans vote for their next president on June 25, they will get the chance to choose from nearly two dozen names. But three notable aspirants won’t be on the ballot: conservative outsider and poll frontrunner Carlos Pineda, indigenous leader Thelma Cabrera, and the fson of a former president Roberto Arzú. With all three eliminated from the competition by the country’s courts, they are urging Guatemalans to void their ballots and calling their disqualifications “electoral fraud.”

Juan Luis Font
Juan Luis Font

“There are three [contenders] that might be very dangerous for those who are governing right now. And these are the three who have been eliminated,” says Juan Luis Font, an award-winning Guatemalan journalist with over three decades experience at outlets such as Canal Antigua, Revista ContraPoder, Emisoras Unidas, and the recently shuttered elPeriódico. Although Font continues to cover his country’s political scene from the United States with ConCriterio, he is among the dozens of Guatemalan journalists, prosecutors, and judges forced into exile in recent years amid a backlash against anti-corruption efforts. 

What Font and others have faced reflects a difficult moment for Guatemalan democracy—that coincides with this round of elections. Voters, who will select a replacement for current President Alejandro Giammattei as well as all 160 legislators, are also largely pessimistic: 83 percent say the country’s general situation has worsened over the past three years, and only 16 percent trust the electoral tribunal

Font explains to AS/COA Online’s Carin Zissis that this competition is a battle between those with an authoritarian philosophy of governance and those who support democracy and “would like to have a republic back in Guatemala.” He also notes that, with security a top concern and young voters looking for solutions, many are looking to the mano dura tactics being carried out by the government of Nayib Bukele in neighboring El Salvador as a model.

So who are the top candidates? Font shares the background of poll leaders Sandra Torres, a former first lady; Edmond Mulet, ex-head of Congress and UN diplomat, and Zury Ríos, a long-time legislator and daughter of a military dictator. He also explains why the center-right Mulet appears to be the greatest beneficiary from Pineda’s elimination and that the support he gains could propel him into what will be a likely August runoff. “He's a diplomat [who has been] positively viewed by international community,” says Font. “And he seems to be a little bit more in favor of respecting human rights and democratic principles in the country.”

This podcast was produced by Executive Producer Luisa Leme and Associate Producer Jon Orbach. Carin Zissis is the host. 

The music in this episode is "El arpómetro de Carlos," by P. Coulon and H. Martínez, performed by Ángel Tolosa for Americas Society. Learn more about upcoming concerts: musicoftheamericas.org