In a stunning and detailed declaration, a multilateral human rights body issued a resolution calling for the Guatemalan government to further protect the president-elect and his vice president-elect in what is an increasingly uncertain and dangerous post-election climate.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos - CIDH) released the resolution on August 24 ordering the Guatemalan government to take "all necessary measures" to protect the “life and personal integrity” of Bernardo Arévalo and his running mate, Karin Herrera Aguilar, the landslide winners of the August 20 run-off election.
According to the resolution, the two have faced multiple credible threats to their lives extending back to Arévalo’s surprise second-place finish in the election’s first round on June 25.
One plot, the commission said, was to assassinate Arévalo. It allegedly involved unidentified public officials and was reportedly dubbed “Colosio,” a reference to Luis Donaldo Colosio, the Mexican presidential candidate who was assassinated in 1994.
While Arévalo’s security team had knowledge of the plot as far back as July 4, it was not able to corroborate the credibility of the threats until August 15, when government officials told the party about the danger.
"The credibility [of the information] comes from who leaked this information to the party, and it was three individuals who are part of the government that do not know each other,” Alfredo Ortega, a human rights lawyer who filed the case with the CIDH, explained to InSight Crime about the sourcing.
Ortega filed the case with Christian González, also a human rights lawyer, who previously worked at the CIDH.
Another plot to assassinate Arévalo was allegedly organized by "criminal gang structures”, the report added, though the details and the culprits remain unclear.
The report also noted that Arévalo had been the subject of repeated abuse and threats via social media accounts, “Presumably coming from persons linked to the Attorney General's Office.” Accounts posted pictures of Arévalo’s relatives, reported on his location, and made homophobic and racist remarks.
Arévalo has yet to respond publicly to the resolution and possible threats against him, but his party postponed a planned victory celebration on August 22.
For its part, in a press release, the Guatemalan government said it had been in contact with Arévalo’s political party, Movimiento Semilla (Seed Movement), and had notified it of the elevated threat level, making available government resources to protect its members.
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The CIDH rarely issues these types of resolutions for politicians, a testament to how serious the commission believes these threats to be.
“It's not very common that they would grant these measures to a political candidate,” González told InSight Crime, referring to the CIDH’s official request for government protection. “They wouldn't want it to look like they’re intervening in the political process.”
Arévalo’s victory came as a surprise. He is a political outsider and does not represent any of the major political forces that have held sway in the country for decades, some of which are connected to corruption networks that have used their control of the political system to eliminate rivals. Earlier in the elections, corrupt elites leveraged their influence to oust the then-leading candidate, Carlos Pineda, with the help of an administrative court.
Following Arévalo’s second-place finish in the first round of elections, those same corrupt networks have made multiple attempts to derail his candidacy. Their efforts have come via the Attorney General’s Office, headed by Attorney General Consuelo Porras, and the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (Fiscalía Especial contra la Impunidad - FECI). In addition to meddling in the first-round results, these authorities have tried to suspend Semilla from the elections altogether, have raided the offices of the country’s electoral authorities, and are now seeking to bring criminal charges against top electoral officials.