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Report of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, to the Permanent Council on the situation in the Republic of Guatemala, after leading a Mission that visited the country between August 1 and 4, 2023.

  August 10, 2023

It is impossible to start today without referring to the murder of Fernando Villavicencio in Ecuador and how the enemy of democracy is organized crime and drug trafficking. They are willing to do anything to maintain power quotas, power spaces and their economic interests.

The importance today of defending democracy with all the means we have is a priority. We must focus our efforts on the national and international instruments that we have to ensure the rule of law and the fullest validity of our democratic system.

With regard to the Mission that we led in Guatemala, we want to express our gratitude to all those who met with us, powers of the State, political actors, CACIF (Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations), indigenous movements, indigenous women, churches of different religions, civil society, human rights and electoral observation. They have all made extraordinary contributions to this report.

We present this report today to the Permanent Council and this Council will receive a transcribed version of it.

We appreciate the presence of Guatemalan Foreign Minister Mario Adolfo Búcaro at today's meeting. The report focuses on the results obtained -in the framework and context in which those results were obtained by the Mission- as well as on the structural and situational problems facing the country and on our recommendations to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) regarding the second round.

First of all, I would also like to say that this report is presented pointing out that it reiterates and is consistent with the reports and statements of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) and the statements of the OAS General Secretariat, as well as with the expressions of the member states formulated here and in the capitals.

It is no secret that we are very concerned, it is a worrying situation in terms of the electoral process and in terms of the functioning of the institutions of a democratic state. This Mission achieved the commitment of all state powers that the second round will be held on August 20, and that the second round will be between the lists headed by Sandra Torres and Bernardo Arévalo. We have the commitment that the winner of that second round will be handed over power on January 14.

As the President of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, pointed out, "I will hand over power on January 14 at the time determined by Congress." As the OAS, we have also been invited to participate in the transition process until January 14, which will be done within the framework of the EOM but with political specialists in transition processes.

The assurances that President Giammattei gave us in this regard, reiterating these commitments assumed by the other powers of the State. These assurances that President Giammattei gave us in this regard and within the framework of his powers, are essential for this electoral process. Respect for the result of the first round and respect for the result of the second round within the framework of a fair, clear and transparent electoral process; an orderly and open transition and the handing over of power to whoever wins in the second round in this way.

The President pointed out, for example, that it is said that “Arévalo will not be allowed to take office, but I will transfer power to him, if the TSE says that he won. The same goes for the candidate, Sandra Torres.” On the other hand, it is added to that that security has been offered to the two candidates, especially when it was learned that the candidate Bernardo Arévalo could be in danger. The full support of both candidates in this regard has been indicated.

The second round electoral process will be extremely important, as will the transition process. For this second round, the missions of the European Union and the Organization of American States are highly coordinated. How to carry this process from June 25 to August 20 is what is important now, and the preservation of the two candidacies and the current integration of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal are priorities in this regard.

In this sense, the commitments assumed are essential for the continuity and validity of this process. The results of the elections in the first round and in the second round must be absolutely respected. Hence, August 20 was difficult at first, the Mission was able to achieve calm during its visit and afterwards. From August 20 to January 14, the Mission will continue to accompany and after January 14, 2024, it will depend on the governance conditions of the country and the new government that takes office.

This Mission took place in a context that had different aspects. One of them is a classic, excessive judicialization during electoral processes is common in Guatemala. It has been used in many cases to attack and intimidate. When this has happened, it has been accompanied by a strong campaign on social media, sometimes with violent messages for those threatened.

The actors of the powers of the State coincided in pointing out that there is a separation of powers. The issue has been that all of them have been involved in the elections. In this framework, the fullest respect for international treaties is very important. The Charter of the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the American Convention on Human Rights, among others.

The action was “judicialized” from the beginning. In addition, during the process several presidential candidates had been removed, such as the case of Carlos Pineda, who was removed along with his entire party. This was interpreted as prior attempts to adjust and obtain certain results. Three very different candidates were removed and they all had something in common and that was that they were not controllable by the system.

The facts showed that after the second round, there was only one party that had been attacked up to that moment, only one of 18 up to the date of the Mission's visit. This reality shows that the Movimiento Semilla had a position that was not visible and that at first it was not risky. The judicialization situation is always very worrying, since as certain politicians enjoy certain immunities, sometimes these actions go against the lawyers.

The situation of party members who do not have immunity is also particularly concerning. We appreciate that these actions have slowed down, that there have been no innovations, that new things have not come out for days, which we have grounds for maintaining that it has had to do with the work of the Mission.

It is important to note that the UNE party candidate (Sandra Torres) was judicialized and prosecuted during the previous electoral process. In this context, the OAS General Secretariat was the only organization that spoke out in this regard, demanding guarantees. It did so again this time in the Semilla case. As I pointed out, judicialization has been part of the electoral processes in Guatemala for a long time, there is always precedent for everything.

Currently, there are more than a dozen actions against the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Whether it is the results transmission system, arrest warrants against officials, requests for election records, or calls to testify, among other actions. The TSE cannot be under harassment, with more than a dozen accusations, all made during the first and second electoral rounds. We also and especially appreciate that these actions have slowed down and that no new such actions has been made in recent days.

We have indicated it and we reiterate it here; it is essential that this integration of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal remain during the entirety of this electoral process. We must say that even based on information received by the MOE and other actors in the international community, there was advancement of plans for judicial action, as had been indicated by party authorities that, if their candidates did not win, they were going to start taking these measures.

It began by questioning the June 25 election, then the request for the names of the polling stations and also questioning the results announcement system, in order to cast doubts on the process. We must also say that the second recount process was useless and did not change anything substantive, but it did have an intimidating effect and obscured the situation.

There was a situation in which the Justice apparatus seemed to attack the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and from there it affected the entire electoral process. The process of attacking the elections was pointed out by several actors -of those interviewed- that it could imply the decision to circumvent the decision of the sovereign and that the decision of the people of (the elections of) August 20 and that the two candidacies of Sandra Torres and Bernardo Arévalo could be affected.

We reiterate the commitments assumed: that there will be a second round, that this second round is between the winners of the first round, Sandra Torres and Bernardo Arévalo; and that a period of orderly, open and transparent transition will be available to them. And that those transition agreements are going to culminate in the handover of power to whoever wins in the second round on January 14.

There are also structural problems. Among them, it was specifically and repeatedly mentioned how corruption that works as something tacit, in that there are different groups that want to continue with immunity and privileges. It is not a secret organization rather it has been described as different circles that know each other, have common goals and sometimes have their own conflicts.

It is very clear that the protest vote was the one that won the elections. The two candidates who went to the second round must be clear that they are not going to negotiate with corruption. We will also ensure any eventual case of corruption in this electoral process must be cleaned up, but without lynching, without prejudgment and in full respect of the rule of law.

The fight against organized crime will also be essential in this coming period, likewise, ensuring the governability of the country is essential. We are clear that governability does not only consist of coming to agreement with the parties in Congress, but that is an unavoidable job for whoever wins. We understand that the governance of the country will depend on a space of consensus around the social, economic, political, security objectives and that it presents a support front and that tries to mitigate operations that may affect the system.
Working on these different agreements during the transition process will be essential for the governability of the country, but essentially for the stability of democracy. The fullest commitment to the rule of law and probity and transparency must be assumed. We understand that it is essential in the country's democratic and democratization process that there be fair, adequate, and appropriate levels of representation for the country's indigenous population, which is currently absolutely underrepresented.

Our recommendations to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal are to make the electoral process transparent through approved mechanisms, such as taking photographs of document number four, which is where the votes obtained by each political organization at each table are recorded.

It is essential to ensure that the polling station staff authorize the use of the telephone and therefore take pictures at the end of the vote count for the elections. Also to deliver -by the chairs of the polling station staff- copies of the result certification document, something that was not done in its vast majority in the first round.

This will allow the parties that compete in the second round to have physical evidence of the results, even above technological evidence, and clear up any doubts that may exist or exist about the results transmission system.

Mr. Chair, we appreciate the opportunity of this presentation before the Permanent Council, reiterating that the commitments obtained by this Mission are essential for the continuity of the electoral process and that the Organization of American States will continue to observe and monitor the situation, apart from what corresponds in the work of the Electoral Observation Mission and of the different electoral observation missions that exist in the country on those days.

Thank you very much.

Reference: S-010/23