Democracy Dialogues: Guatemalan Elections and the State of Democracy in Central America

Eric L. Olson discussed corruption and democratic backsliding facing Central America.


  • Eric L. Olson, Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives, Seattle International Foundation 
  • Eric Farnsworth, Vice President, Americas Society/Council of the Americas

"We are really in an authoritarian moment in Central America," said Eric L. Olson, director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives at the Seattle International Foundation, in a conversation with AS/COA Vice President Eric Farnsworth. The two discussed the outcome of the first round of the presidential election in Guatemala, which produced surprising results and in which other frontrunners were eliminated just before the election. Anti-corruption candidate Bernardo Arévalo earned the second-most votes after Sandra Torres, a former first lady. On July 1, Guatemala's constitutional court ordered votes to be reviewed, citing complaints from rival political parties after Arévalo's surprise success. 

Olson and Farnsworth also discussed an issue that affects Guatemala and the rest of Central America—corruption. "The question is not does [corruption] exist or doesn't it, but do you have the institutions? Do you have the capacity, the guardrails to hold it back, to fight it?" said Olson, highlighting the importance of other public institutions—such as the attorney general's office—for democracy to thrive. "Democracy has to go beyond elections."

Democracy Dialogues is a series of conversations we need to be having now on the state of democracy in the Americas. Hosted by Eric Farnsworth, these one-on-one interviews with leading democracy practitioners explore the most difficult issues of regional democratic governance with an eye toward pragmatic, well-calibrated solutions.

Past featured guests have included Colombia's then-President Iván Duque, NBA Basketball Star Enes Kanter Freedom, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, CubaDecide founder Rosa María Payá, Editor-in-Chief of Americas Quarterly Brian Winter, and founder and Editor of Nicaragua's Confidential Carlos Fernando Chamorro.

Follow the conversation: #DemocracyDialogues | @ASCOA

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