Righting the country’s wrongs
TRANSLATED BY THOMAS LANG
The recent victory of Bernardo Arévalo and Karin Herrera from the Semilla Party in the polls brings us closer to rebuilding our Democratic State. Much can be expected of President-elect Arévalo, a man with a long academic and diplomatic career, including positive changes that will, for example, mean that journalists and those who fight for justice do not have to chose between jail and exile.
However, the victory of Arévalo alone is not enough to fight all that is bad. The so-called Pact of the Corrupt, that group of businessmen, politicians, the military and organized crime held on to their majority in Congress, and still have a tight grip on the courts and Public Ministry, an entity that sees Arévalo as a threat and wants to put an end to his Party. The reign of terror continues.
Semilla will only have 23 deputies. The President-elect will need the dedicated support of Guatemalans and the international community, as well as rigorous press coverage that looks beyond the bright lights of his electoral victory.
The role of the press
This support will be especially relevant when it comes to the press. José Rubén Zamora, whose continued imprisonment sends a dark message about freedom of expression, must be urgently released. Likewise, the prosecution of the journalists and columnists from elPeriódico, who cannot be judged for their writing without going to trial, must be put to an end.
What Arévalo will have direct influence on is the creation of a journalist protection mechanism, with the goal that the State will begin to take on a role. In just the first seven months of this year, the Guatemalan Journalist Observatory reported 120 cases of attacks gainst journalists, nearly double the rate seen in 2022.
This shows that the path forward will be full of obstacles, but the vision of Guatemalans: a future with development, freedom of expression, and a strong fight against organized crime where the State is a protector and not oppressor, is just over the horizon. Girls, boys, women and men will be seen and their needs will be met. Arévalo can take a strong first step because Guatemala, in voting for him, decided to hope.
Evelyn Blanck is a journalist and general coordinator of Centro Civitas, an organization that works to support the freedom of expression in Guatemala.