GUATEMALA CITY – The head of the Organization of American States’ electoral mission to Guatemala said that Central American country faces important challenges ahead of the June 16 general election, among them a lack of indigenous candidates.
Luis Guillermo Solis, a former Costa Rican president who is leading his first electoral mission, has met since Tuesday with outgoing President Jimmy Morales, other government officials, judges, candidates and business leaders.
He gave his initial assessment of the pre-election situation in an interview with EFE.
Solis said Guatemala’s most important challenge was what he called the “judicialization of politics,” or the fact that national legislation “allows legal measures to be filed permanently and throughout the electoral process.”
Just over a month before the elections, these legal measures have cast doubt on numerous candidacies, including those of two presidential hopefuls – former prosecutor Thelma Aldana of the center-left Semilla party and Zury Rios of the right-wing Valor party.
Rios is the daughter of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt (1926-2018).
The use of legal action as an element for delaying candidacies or preventing them from being registered “is a matter that all the political parties have mentioned as a key concern,” Solis said.
He described the issue as “very urgent” and said that in the coming days Guatemala’s Constitutional Court needs to resolve cases affecting at least three presidential tickets, including those headed by Aldana, Rios and Mauricio Radford (Fuerza).
“I think that not doing so will bring us dangerously close to the deadlines for printing ballots, and I think there’s a willingness to accelerate that process,” he said.
Solis also referred to the “underrepresentation” of indigenous peoples, given that only one candidate – a member of the Mayan Mam indigenous group, Thelma Cabrera (of the left-wing Movement for the Liberation of Peoples) – is among the presidential contenders.
He said that this is an issue that extends beyond the current election cycle and that it would be highly desirable to have steady growth in the number of indigenous candidates considering that that community makes up 60 percent of the population.
A total of 20 candidates are running for president in the June general elections, in which voters will elect the nation’s next president and vice president, 160 national lawmakers, 20 members of the Central American Parliament and members of 340 city and town councils for the 2020-2024 period.