Speeches and other documents by the Secretary General


November 15, 2023 - Washington, DC


Since the last report, which was delivered on October 10, 2023, the political and judicial landscape in Guatemala has been dynamic but the transition process continues to move forward. On November 2 and 3, members of the OAS Transition and Mediation Missions—specifically, Isabel de Saint Malo, the former Vice President of Panama; Ambassador Liliana Ayalde, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of State; Luis Rosadilla, the former Minister of Defense of Uruguay; and Diego Paz, the OAS Representative in Guatemala—held a series of meetings with government authorities, including representatives of the office of the President and the Supreme Electoral Court, domestic observers, members of civil society, the judiciary, Congress, and other interested parties. Through those meetings, the Mission saw that the will existed to support the Transition Process as the path toward the inauguration of President-elect Bernardo Arévalo and Vice President-elect Karin Herrera on January 14, 2024.

Status of the ongoing 2023-2024 Transition Process

On September 11, 2023, at an event at the National Palace of Culture that we attended along with the President of the Republic of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, President-elect Bernardo Arévalo, and the teams appointed by the outgoing and incoming administrations, the Governmental Transition Process began, of which I was a firsthand witness.

On that occasion, President Alejandro Giammattei said: “An orderly, transparent, and efficient Transition Process begins today, one that is unique in history and based entirely on good faith and the truth.” Similarly, President-elect Bernardo Arévalo said: “We must congratulate the leadership and the visionary teams of the person who put the government team to work on preparing the information required for a professional transition.”

We acknowledge the continued cooperation and focus of the Government of Guatemala to ensure the existence of an effective and productive transition process that promotes dialogue between the Presidential Commission for the Government Transition and the Transition Team appointed by President-elect Bernardo Arévalo, with the oversight of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States, which met officially on October 4, 2023.

The Transition Process arose in the midst of threats and active interference from the Public Prosecution Service (MP) regarding the final results of the first and second rounds of the general election held, respectively, on June 25 and August 20, 2023. The transfer of necessary and quality information from the outgoing to the incoming administrations, through several meetings of each ministry, has continued to progress in the spirit of national unity, with the last ministerial meeting scheduled for November 24, 2023.

The Presidential Commission for the Government Transition is delivering the necessary information, with the requisite quality, to its counterpart. The time for the meetings is unlimited, since once the information in question has been delivered and the peer-to-peer dialogue has been established, new meetings will be scheduled, as is happening in the case of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for example.

These transition meetings are held in a climate of trust and collaboration between the parties. The delivery of information and the meetings within the bureaucracy have continued to advance and they have been further consolidating themselves in recent weeks.

The OAS Transition Mission was also able to detect a conviction that power will be handed over to President-elect Bernardo Arévalo and Vice President-elect Karin Herrera on January 14, 2024. This was made clear by the executive branch and other leading political actors in the country.

Conclusion of the electoral process

On October 31, 2023, the Supreme Electoral Court concluded the electoral process by officially declaring that the results of the June 25 and August 20 elections were final and “unalterable.” There are two significant moments in the safeguarding of Guatemala’s transition process: this conclusion of the electoral process on October 31, and the Constitutional Court’s decision of October 7, 2023, stating that “in order to guarantee the effective and timely inauguration and assumption of office by the candidates who were elected by universal suffrage in the current electoral year, during the handover of functions the authorities shall undertake all the necessary and pertinent acts and shall refrain from any action or omission to the contrary, in order to guarantee their effective inauguration on January 14, 2024.”

We have continued to monitor political developments in the country. The General Secretariat continues to condemn the events of September 29, 2023, when the Public Prosecution Service, acting under a court order issued by Judge Freddy Orellana, raided the offices of the Supreme Electoral Court in order to confiscate the ballot boxes containing Acts Nos. 4 and 8 and other electoral materials that should never have been removed from their safe, legal place of keeping.

The confiscation of ballot boxes seriously violates and undermines representative democracy and electoral procedure, and the Public Prosecution Service, together with the other actors involved, are inextricably irresponsible, as they have damaged the political will, the chain of custody, and the legality protected by the Constitution of Guatemala. As of today—but, more specifically, 47 days after September 29, 2023—the ballot boxes remain in an external location beyond the premises of the Supreme Electoral Court. The moment the ballot boxes were confiscated by an agency that has no jurisdiction over electoral matters, the measure of Guatemala’s democracy diminished significantly. Following the conclusion of the electoral process on October 31, 2023, the Seed Movement Party was provisionally suspended on November 2, 2023, until the conclusion of the ongoing fraud investigation against the political party that was triumphant in the 2023 electoral cycle and that participated in previous elections: that is, in the 2019 electoral cycle.

In its decision of October 5, 2023, the Constitutional Court concluded that matters involving the suspension or cancellation of a political party by a criminal judge “correspond to the criminal justice system only in cases involving the possible commission of illicit acts provided for in the Law against Organized Crime.” The General Secretariat therefore again states that since this is a matter not of criminal but of electoral law, the ballot boxes must return to the place where they belong constitutionally, where they belong in accordance with the Supreme Electoral Court’s competence over them.

Preliminary Results Transmission System (TREP)

Alleged irregularities in the data of the TREP system have also been investigated. As the report of the Electoral Observation Mission has stated: “The OAS Mission found that the TREP functioned correctly, with a constant and uninterrupted flow of tally sheets during the night and early morning following the election. The Mission confirmed and reaffirmed that the results produced by the TREP coincided with those gathered by the EOM/OAS and the domestic observers. At no time during the election or in the days following did the Mission observe or receive any evidence to call into question the integrity of the process or the order of the preferences that emerged from the ballot boxes. The EOM therefore considers that the accusation of fraud by the Public Prosecution Service is inadmissible and does not contribute to the certainty of the electoral process.”

Inter-American Democratic Charter

At the invitation of the Government of Guatemala, and as stipulated in Articles 17 and 18 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the OAS General Secretariat continues to conduct visits and missions in order to strengthen and preserve the democratic system in Guatemala. The cooperative and transparent engagement between the transition teams of the President and the President-elect has remained ongoing; however, we are continuing to monitor the judicial outcomes deriving from the attacks on the electoral process by the Public Prosecution Service, as they could still potentially contribute to a failure to respect the popular vote.

Mediation Process

During the ongoing Transition Process, a social protest was led by the 48 Cantons and other Indigenous Ancestral Authorities of Guatemala before the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) following the Public Prosecution Service’s seizure of sensitive electoral material. Thus, in response to the government’s request of October 6, made through Foreign Minister Mario Búcaro, we responded immediately by sending a Mediation and Dialogue Mission—composed of Luis Rosadilla, the former Minister of Defense of Uruguay; Maricarmen Plata, the OAS Secretary for Access to Rights and Equity; Paulina Corominas, an advisor within the OAS Secretariat for Access to Rights and Equity; and Diego Paz, the OAS Representative in Guatemala—which met with various interlocutors between October 9 and 18. The invitations to dialogue, which were in response to a broad and inclusive call, were received positively, and the Mission found that the mobilizations, blockades, and public outcry were related to the actions of the Public Prosecution Service threatening the integrity of the electoral process.

The OAS Mediation Mission, in a communiqué issued on October 13, highlighted the professionalism of the National Civilian Police (PNC). However, on October 16, 2023, the Public Prosecution Service (MP) asked the Constitutional Court (CC) to dismiss the Minister of the Interior for failing to comply with an order issued by that body, in an injunction granted by the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH), and because he had not taken any action to evict the demonstrators who were preventing access to the Office of the Attorney General by members of its staff.

The common points and concerns shared by most of the actors with whom the Mediation Mission spoke included the importance of guaranteeing and respecting the right to social protest and of refraining from criminalizing or persecuting protesters and institutions alike.

As part of its mandate, the Mission organized a dialogue meeting on Thursday, October 12, between the government of President Alejandro Giammattei and representatives of the Indigenous Authorities, which was attended by the Mediation Mission. The work carried out by the Mission in this regard is commendable, and achieving that dialogue was fundamental in reestablishing much of the political reasonableness and work sought through the indigenous communities’ actions.

Recognition of the Indigenous Community and its Peaceful Protest

We would like to extend special recognition to the indigenous communities and their peaceful protest. The OAS Mission accompanying the transition process has met with several indigenous groups, including Ancestral Indigenous Authorities of the Maya, Xinka, and Garifuna communities, the Indigenous Women’s Platform, and the 48 Cantons of Totonicapán, during several visits to the country at the invitation of the Government of Guatemala. We admire the maturity with which the 48 Cantons of Totonicapán and other indigenous communities conducted the peaceful protests after the elections, and the work done in this regard has been commendable. The courageous efforts of these indigenous groups and their community defenders in defense of democracy are worthy of our praise and respect for leading this struggle for the democratic order and democratic institutions in a peaceful and orderly fashion.

When the inauguration of President-elect Bernardo Arévalo takes place, the citizens of Guatemala will want more democracy. All Guatemalans have the right to an integrated and inclusive political fabric. We support efforts to develop capacity-building measures to accommodate the full participation and representation of indigenous communities in all branches of the government structure and in all sectors of Guatemalan society.


In conclusion, we will continue to defend the results of the June 25 and August 20 elections and we will reaffirm our support for and continue accompanying the transition process that will conclude on January 14, 2024, with President-elect Bernardo Arévalo and Vice President-elect Karin Herrera assuming the mantle of governance in Guatemala.

Democracy and the independence of the national vote must always prevail.

The country’s transition still requires significant institutional efforts. Recent weeks have shown us that this transition still entails innumerable institutional problems. The most evident, the most impactful, the ones that pose the greatest complications for the country’s constitutional order are those problems and difficulties caused by the actions of the Public Prosecution Service. The population’s lack of confidence in the actions of the government is notorious, but that distrust also trickles down to other state institutions.

The population has clearly demanded what it considers ethical, politically responsible, and necessary. It would be very difficult for the process to suffer permanent setbacks and reversals if the political will to make that happen did not exist.

A normal transition process cannot endure such complications; it is absolutely inappropriate, and an effective change is needed to resolve the situation, so that there are no more threats to the event that must take place, to what must happen on January 14.

The problem is easily identifiable: the actions of criminalization and judicialization emanating from the Public Prosecution Service, with specific actions by other judicial actors in the country. This is a clear, evident, and undisguisable problem that requires actions that make its inadmissibility evident. The actions of the Public Prosecution Service are exacerbating the conflict by being largely at odds with the optimal functioning of the rule of law and the principles of justice and constitutionality. For example, actions involving the harassment of relatives of political exiles continue to occur on a regular basis and entail intimidation, harassment, and the exacerbation of the conflict.

We would like to highlight the actions of the former Minister of the Interior, Napoleón Barrientos, which were in accordance with the law and carried out with absolute responsibility and civility, such as, for example, when entry to the premises of the Public Prosecution Service was achieved through dialogue with the demonstrators. Actions such as those build trust between the government and the people. Unfortunately, his forced resignation was yet another setback in building trust. These actions must reestablish the vital bridges that have to exist between the institutions and the public in any rule-based democratic political system.

The mission by Liliana Ayalde and Isabel de Saint Malo revealed a much more robust transition than during the last visit to Guatemala. Even the private sector has understood that it must cooperate with the president-elect and is doing so. And the president-elect is working hard to build his team and an action plan for the first months of his administration.

The meeting with President Giammattei made it clear that the transition will take place; and we believe that there should be a Mission presence later in November and that monitoring of the situation should continue. It is clear that a robust process of exchange exists at the sectoral level and that trust is being strengthened between the two sectoral technical teams, as I mentioned earlier. This is important work, which is being accompanied by the continuous and valuable presence of Diego Paz. There has been some frustration because the public has been reluctant to recognize or appreciate the progress of this effort. This remains ongoing despite the many judicial and political distractions of the transition, and it deserves to be recognized and well documented.

The other issue that we must raise is that some political actors continue to accuse the Seed Movement of manipulating votes at the polling stations. This is a topic that certain political actors, particularly those linked to the ultra-right and with authoritarian sympathies, have refused to let drop and that continues to affect the process and exacerbate the conflict.

The sole framework for political action must be the Constitution of the Republic. It is vital that Congress and the Constitutional Court reinforce actions and decisions that will inexorably lead the country toward respecting the election result, as determined by the Constitution, in accordance with the statements on the electoral process issued by the electoral authority and consolidating the January 14 handover to Bernardo Arévalo and Karin Herrera, without ambiguities or difficulties. Congress and the Constitutional Court must abide by legal reason and the principles of the rule of law on which this process is based and that guarantee the President-elect will be sworn in as President of Guatemala on January 14.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.