TAPACHULA, CHIAPAS.- On Sunday, August 20th, progressive Guatemalan presidential candidate Bernardo Arevalo was elected in a landslide victory over his opponent, Sandra Torres, long known for her corruption as a former first lady and political operative.
Mr. Arevalo ran on a platform that railed against Guatemala’s institutionalized corruption and the mishandling of the nation’s response to insecurity underscored by corruption as well as violent street crime.
Mr. Arevalo came out of nowhere to place second in the first round of voting. He did so as a result of his unorthodox campaign which, unlike his opponents, was almost exclusively on social media, attracting young and independent voters who sought change and who looked for a candidate whose campaign style and message reflected their own preferences.
If his presidency is to succeed, I believe that he must focus on irradicating corruption and working to reestablish the legitimacy and credibility of democratic institutions. If he chooses to pursue too many objectives, he risks being diverted and losing the chance to eliminate the one overriding weakness that plagues every sector of Guatemalan society.
Corruption has long been a pervasive issue in Guatemala, hindering its progress and undermining public trust in the government. It takes many forms, including bribery, embezzlement, nepotism, and favoritism.
It erodes the rule of law, undermines democratic institutions, and diverts resources away from essential public services. In Guatemala, corruption has been deeply entrenched in various sectors, including politics, law enforcement, and the judiciary. This has resulted in a lack of accountability, widespread impunity, and a culture of mistrust among the population.
One of the key consequences of corruption is the misallocation of resources. When public funds are siphoned off through corrupt practices, it deprives the country of much-needed investments in education, healthcare, infrastructure, and social welfare programs. This perpetuates social inequality and hinders the country’s development.
According to Transparency International, Guatemala ranks 149 out of 180 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index, indicating a high level of corruption.
To overcome corruption and secure a brighter future, Mr. Arevalo must take decisive action against it on multiple fronts.
First, the government must strengthen its institutions and promote transparency. This includes implementing effective measures, such as establishing independent anti-corruption bodies, strengthening oversight mechanisms, and acting to ensure the independence of the judiciary.
Additionally, the government should promote transparency in public procurement processes, financial transactions, and the declaration of assets by public officials. By doing so and by holding corrupt individuals accountable for their actions, Guatemala can start to restore public trust.
Furthermore, international cooperation is essential in the fight against corruption. Guatemala should collaborate with international organizations, such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States, to receive technical assistance, share best practices, and strengthen its efforts.
Additionally, Guatemala should work closely with neighboring countries to combat cross-border corruption and money laundering, which often involve transnational criminal networks.
Addressing corruption also requires the active participation of civil society organizations, the media, and the private sector. The government must create an enabling environment for civil society organizations to operate freely, protect whistleblowers, and ensure the independence of the media. By fostering a vibrant civil society, Guatemala can harness the power of collective action to combat corruption effectively.
Overcoming corruption is not an easy task, and it requires sustained efforts and political will. Corruption stands as a major obstacle to Guatemala’s future. It undermines the country’s progress, perpetuates social inequality, and erodes public trust in the government. However, by taking highly focused decisive action, Guatemala can overcome corruption and pave the way towards a better future.
Strengthening institutions, promoting transparency, fostering a culture of integrity, and engaging in international cooperation are key steps in this journey.