© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Guatemala enters a 5th day of a national strike brought on by a political crisis


Guatemala is in the middle of a huge political crisis.


Yeah. OK, so here's what's happening. A presidential election was held in August. The results were already certified. But the attorney general and other officials have made it clear that they want to challenge those results. And that's led protesters to take to the streets all over the country.

FADEL: Guatemala is now entering a fifth day of a national strike. NPR's Eyder Peralta is in the middle of it all in Guatemala City, and he joins us now. Hi, Eyder.


FADEL: So start by telling us how we got here and what's at stake.

PERALTA: So look, as you mentioned, this starts earlier this summer when Bernardo Arevalo wins the presidential election. And this was a huge surprise because Arevalo came from a small reformist party, and he was the anticorruption candidate. No one thought he could win. And almost as soon as he does win, the ruling elite here, who have been terrified of actually being held responsible for their corruption, well, they have done their best to undo this win. The electoral commission actually certified the results, but the attorney general has said she is investigating the president-elect's party. And on Saturday, her office raided the electoral commission.

The investigators ripped into bags of elections material. And then, by force, they left with a bunch of electoral materials, and they haven't said why. One constitutional expert I spoke to says that Guatemala is clearly in extraconstitutional territory where important branches of government are fighting with each other for supremacy. And that fight may very well determine if Bernardo Arevalo, who was elected in a landslide, will actually take power in January.

FADEL: You said that this may determine the fate of Bernardo Arevalo. How have people taken to the streets? Are they defending the results? What are they saying, what are you seeing?

PERALTA: Well, look, this is the fifth day of a national strike, and some major roads across the country have been blocked. And here in Guatemala City, an encampment has grown outside of the attorney general's office. There are tents, there are food stations. The fence around the building is plastered with posters calling for the resignation of the attorney general and her allies. And what I heard was indignation. Noe Gomez Barrera (ph) says when Bernardo Arevalo won, he felt hope that Guatemala could change, that they could finally build a just and honest nation. And when he saw the attorney general's office raid the electoral commission, he was enraged. He picked up his things and he came to the protest. Let's listen.

NOE GOMEZ BARRERA: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: And he's saying they have not respected the will of the people. And that's why we are here, to tell them that we don't want to see them here anymore because they are the shame of Guatemala.

FADEL: Wow. So where does this go now?

PERALTA: It's worth repeating that these election results have already been certified. And there was hope that the constitutional court would step into this debate and tell the attorney general that these elections are settled. But that is not what's happening. Instead, the courts here seem to be siding with the attorney general. And they've also ruled that some of the protests are illegal, so they seem to be laying the groundwork for security forces to clear the streets. So the table is set for a confrontation because the protesters here say that they will not leave the streets until the attorney general and her allies resign.

FADEL: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta in Guatemala City. Thank you, Eyder.

PERALTA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.