On 25 June 2023, Guatemalans will go to the polls to vote in general elections.
Yet lawfare has already disenfranchised a leading candidate for the presidency. Despite having committed no crime, Guatemalan authorities have rejected the registration presidential ticket of Indigenous peasant movement leader Thelma Cabrera Pérez and former human rights ombudsman Jordán Rodas from the Movement for the Liberation of the Peoples (MLP). The presidential election has effectively already been stolen.
On 27 January, Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) informed both Cabrera and Rodas that their registration as a presidential ticket was rejected due to outstanding “legal charges and allegations” against Rodas, constituting a legal impediment to public office. Without a conviction or even official legal procedure, politically motivated allegations alone have denied one of Guatemala’s largest popular political parties their right to run for the country’s highest office. It is lawfare in its purest form.
Rodas said, “It is unprecedented that the TSE would reject our MLP ticket’s registration. Democracy in Guatemala has taken another step back — they fear the people and their sovereign decisions.”
This lawfare is no coincidence. The MLP is led by feminist Indigenous human rights defenders and frames itself as the political expression of massive social movements, organizing hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans from city to the countryside around a common project. Together they call for a new constitution drafted by a democratically elected constituent assembly, a plurinational state that represents the many Indigenous peoples of Guatemala, and building buen vivir for all.
This denial of democratic rights is simply the latest example of repression and injustice faced by Guatemala’s popular movements. In recent years, dozens of peasant, Indigenous, and trade union leaders have been assassinated in horrific echoes of the genocide against these same sectors just a generation ago. The racist oppression of Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt's military dictatorship has not gone away — it has simply transformed, and so have its tactics.
The official campaign began on March 27, the same day on which the MLP held the public hearing before the Supreme Court of Justice — one of its last appeals to be registered in the presidential elections — which was to rule on the constitutional appeal requested by the MLP, according to the current law, within three days following this hearing.
After years of civil war, austerity, and police brutality, the people of Guatemala are still fighting for their most basic democratic rights.
The Cabinet of the Progressive International denounces the arbitrary and politically targeted exclusion of the MLP presidential ticket in the 2023 Guatemalan presidential election as yet another attack on popular, peasant, and Indigenous movements of Guatemala. This is not just an attack on the MLP, but an attack on all Guatemalans’ rights to democracy and popular sovereignty.