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Guatemala blocks leftist Indigenous leader from presidential race, in ‘electoral coup’

Guatemala’s notoriously corrupt right-wing government banned Indigenous leader Thelma Cabrera and her leftist Movement for the Liberation of the Peoples (MLP) party from running in the presidential election. International observers warn this is an “electoral coup”.

Thelma Cabrera Jordan Rodas MLP Guatemala
Thelma Cabrera and Jordán Rodas of Guatemala's Movement for the Liberation of the People (MLP) Party

Guatemala’s notoriously corrupt right-wing government has blocked a prominent leftist Indigenous leader from running in the June 2023 presidential election, in a move that international observers have condemned as an “electoral coup”.

Nearly half of Guatemalans (44%) identify as Indigenous. The Movement for the Liberation of the Peoples (MLP) is a left-wing party that was created to represent the First Nations who have for so long been ignored by Guatemala’s political system.

The MLP is led by Thelma Cabrera, a social movement activist and human rights defender from the Maya Mam community. She has pledged to fight poverty in Guatemala (one of the poorest countries in the region), resist neoliberalism, and establish a plurinational state that gives full rights to Indigenous nations, like Bolivia.

The newly created MLP party ran for the first time in the 2019 presidential election. Cabrera came in fourth place, winning more than 10% of the vote in the first round, compared to just 14% for current right-wing President Alejandro Giammattei.

Since then, the MLP has only become more popular, gaining support across Guatemala. Giammattei, a staunch conservative and wealthy dual citizen of Italy, has seen the growth of the MLP as a threat.

The MLP’s vice-presidential candidate is Jordán Rodas Andrade. He was appointed Guatemala’s human rights ombudsman in 2017. Before his term ended in 2022, Rodas had become well known for his criticism of President Giammattei and the blatant corruption in his government.

Upon leaving the position, Rodas condemned Guatemala’s wealthy corporate oligarchs. “They think they are the plantation owners. They have done so much damage to this country”, he said.

In late January 2023, Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) blocked Cabrera and Rodas from participating in the upcoming election, which will be held on June 25.

Guatemalan social movement activists and international observers have reported that the TSE is deeply politicized and acts in the interests of Giammattei and the country’s powerful oligarchs.

Cabrera and her MLP party filed an appeal, but on February 2, the TSE ruled against them, officially banning them from the race.

The Guatemalan electoral authority claimed they cannot run because their application was “invalid”.

Cabrera shared the completed paperwork on Twitter, insisting that “we fulfilled all the legal requirements”. Rodas also explained that he submitted all the required paperwork, and a review of his record found no legal cases or complaints against him.

“Any additional requirement is not found in the law; it cannot be invoked to avoid my candidacy and violate my right to be elected”, he said.

Guatemala’s ‘electoral coup’ bans leftists while allowing convicted drug money launderers and family members of war criminals to run for office

Hundreds of activists protested at the TSE, condemning the electoral court’s decision. An MLP supporter said, “If you all don’t register our candidates, there won’t be elections”. Their movement has vowed to go on strike and hold large demonstrations until the decision is reversed.

Even Western government-funded organizations that are deeply biased against the Latin American left have warned that the Giammattei government is increasingly authoritarian.

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), which is funded by the US government and multiple European states, has long shown prejudice in support of the Latin American right. But IDEA’s regional director, Daniel Zovatto, admitted that TSE’s ban of Cabrera and Rodas is a kind of “electoral coup”.

“The decision declaring inadmissible the appeal for annulment by the MLP, leaving the Cabrera-Rodas ticket out of the electoral contest, is an ‘electoral coup’ that corrupts the integrity and credibility of the elections”, Zovatto said.

Vicenta Jerónimo, the lone MLP representative in Guatemala’s congress, referred to the struggle as “a battle of the oligarchy against the peoples”.

“That is because we also know that all state institutions are co-opted in the hands of corrupt thieves in this country”, she said.

In one of the many demonstrations that have taken place throughout the country, Jerónimo stated, “We also see in the Supreme Electoral Tribunal that they have registered children of the genocide that murdered my parents, my grandparents, my uncles in the armed conflict”.

Jerónimo was alluding to Zury Ríos, a right-wing presidential candidate who is the daughter of Guatemala’s former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt.

The United States supported the Ríos Montt regime in the 1980s, as he massacred Indigenous communities. In 2013, he was sentenced for crimes against humanity and genocide.

An independent truth commission found that, during Guatemala’s civil war, the US-backed military carried out 93% of civilian killings, whereas socialist guerrillas were responsible for just 3%.

It is estimated that as a result of the genocide perpetrated by Ríos Montt, at least 200,000 children became orphans and around 5,000 more disappeared.

The vast majority of attacks perpetrated by the Guatemalan military against the population were against civilians who had no connection to the conflict.

Ironically, Zury Ríos launched her presidential campaign for the 2023 elections despite having a constitutional ban that kept her out of the race in 2019, due to her close ties with her father.

But the TSE is now allowing Zury Ríos to run. The same electoral body that once banned the proud, unapologetic daughter of a convicted war criminal is today blocking the candidacy of an Indigenous leader and prominent human rights defender.

Likewise, the TSE has allowed wealthy right-wing businessman Manuel Baldizón to run in the 2023 elections, despite the fact that he was imprisoned in the United States for laundering drug money, and deported to Guatemala in 2022.

Baldizón is running for congress, as part of the right-wing Cambio party. His son Jorge Eduardo Baldizón Vargas is also a congressional candidate, and their fellow family member Álvaro Manuel Trujillo Baldizón is running for president.

Why is the Guatemalan oligarchy afraid of Thelma Cabrera and Jordán Rodas?

When Thelma Cabrera won more than 10% of the vote in the first round of the 2019 election, coming just a few points shy of making the run-off, she frightened Guatemala’s oligarchy.

Among the ideas she was advocating for included recovering territories exploited by agribusiness and extractive corporations, creating an anti-monopoly law, asserting collective rights of the lands of Indigenous peoples, and reducing poverty in one of the poorest countries in the region.

These proposals are very popular among working-class Guatemalans. This explains the large protests the country has seen in response to the TSE ban.

Cabrera is also a supporter of Latin American integration, and has praised other left-wing governments in the region.

Under Giammattei, Guatemala recognized US-appointed coup leader Juan Guaidó as supposed “interim president” of Venezuela. In 2019, he unsuccessfully tried to enter Venezuela using his Italian passport, hoping to meet with Guaidó.

Guatemala’s right-wing regime is one of the very few governments in Latin America that has supported Ukraine in the NATO proxy war against Russia. Cabrera criticized Giammattei for visiting Kiev and posing for photos with its Western-backed leader Volodymyr Zelensky.

The next step for Cabrera and her running mate Jordán Rodas will be to appeal the TSE’s decision at Guatemala’s Supreme Court of Justice.

In the mean time, their Movement for the Liberation of the Peoples is organizing protests, demanding systemic change in the country.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Glory

    2023-02-06 at 16:41

    Brilliant article, this author is wonderful??

  2. María Franco

    2023-02-07 at 07:04

    Excelente artículo! gracias por difundir la actual situación política de Guatemala, cada vez más parecida a la dictadura de los 80’s.

  3. Maricata

    2023-02-07 at 16:56

    I traveled through Rios Monte’s Guatemala in 1984 on my way to Nicaragua, where I lived all of 1985 working for the Sandinista Government, Ministry of Culture.

    Traveling by bus through the country, we were stopped and all the men were told to get out of the bus and stand in a circle.

    15 year olds with automatic rifles went man to man looking for any ties to Marxism.

    I later came to find out that Veteran’s for Peace member, CIA Ray McGovern had prepared all the presidential briefings and reports regarding mass genocide in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua and Grenada.

    The current state of affairs in Guatemala are due to centuries of US imperialism but especially late stage imperialism that McGovern was intimately involved in.

    Take “Short-Term Prospects for Central America”, published in 1982 and is part of the CIA’s Special National Intelligence Estimate (SNIE) which Ray McGovern chaired while at the CIA.

    https://archive.ph/4QvIc

    This document was designed to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of “Marxist-Leninist communists” “communist-supported insurgencies” and “Marxist revolutionaries” and “Leftist terrorists” in Latin America to “United States National Security” and “US Interests” specifically focusing on Cuba and Nicaragua.

    Date:
    Jul 12, 1982
    Description:

    According to the CIA’s Special National Intelligence Estimate (SNIE), the principal threats emanating from Guatemala in mid-1982 are the terrorist acts of the Guatemalan insurgents and Ríos Montt’s political instability.

    According to the Historical Clarification Commission of Guatemala (CEH), between the March 23 coup that ousted Lucas García and the end of May 1982 – just before this SNIE was finished – the Guatemalan Army had carried out a minimum of 64 massacres against indigenous communities of men, women, children, and elders in which more than 1,500 unarmed civilians were slaughtered – attacks that also involved rape, torture, burning alive, mutilation, beheadings, and forced disappearances. The US intelligence assessment of threats to US interests makes no reference to the genocide underway in Guatemala at the time of the SNIE’s publication.

    “For the longer run, beyond the period of this Estimate, the future holds many severe threats to US interests in Central America. The many weaknesses will grow in the absence o continuing strong international support, and there is no guarantee that even such support will enable moderate forces there to carry the day. Events have demonstrated however, that there is an inexorable downward path ahead.”

    Source:
    Central Intelligence Agency

    https://archive.ph/4QvIc#selection-2003.0-2051.27

    Another Ray McGovern prepared document is a Presidential briefing from Oct 23, 1983 recommending US intervention in Grenada.

    Two days after this briefing, the United States invaded Grenada to crush any chance for the people of Grenada to build Black Power there.

    The remaining NIE documents published during McGovern’s tenure have been posted below:

    Below is a list of *all* the currently publicly available declassified NIE reports released during his time chairing, in no particular order.

    The original links directly to the CIA website so we recommend using the archive links provided.

    The formatting and naming conventions are not standardized, the CIA has not made it easy to locate these.

    THE SOVIET CHALLENGE TO U.S. SECURITY INTERESTS (NIE 11/4-82) (Link) (Archive)

    IMPLICATIONS OF RECENT SOVIET MILITARY-POLITICAL ACTIVITIES (SNIE 11-10-84) (Link) (Archive)

    TRENDS IN SOUTH AFRICA’S NUCLEAR SECURITY POLICIES AND PROGRAMS (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET MILITARY FORCES IN THE FAR EAST (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET POLICY IN EAST ASIA (NIE 11.40-84) (Link) (Archive)

    EL SALVADOR: ELECTION OUTLOOK (Link) (Archive)

    THE CHANGING SINO-SOVIET RELATIONSHIP (NIE 13/11-84) (Link) (Archive)

    THE USSR AND THE THIRD WORLD (NIE 11-10/2-84) KEY JUDGEMENTS (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET MILITARY SUPPORT TO ANGOLA: INTENTIONS AND PROSPECTS (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS IN THE GLOBAL POWER ARENA (NIE 11-4-78 M/H) (Link) (Archive)

    NICARAGUA: SOVIET BLOC AND RADICAL SUPPORT FOR THE SANDINISTA REGIME (SNIE 83.3) (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET SHORT-TERM OPTIONS IN SOUTH ASIA (SNIE 11/30-82) (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET MILITARY OPTIONS IN IRAN (SNIE 11/34-4-80) (Link) (Archive)

    SOUTH AFRICA’S CHANGING POLICY AGENDA: IMPLICATIONS FOR US-SOUTH (Link) (Archive)

    THE OUTLOOK FOR MEXICO (Link) (Archive)

    PROSPECTS FOR SOUTH AFRICA: STABILITY, REFORM, AND VIOLENCE (Link) (Archive)

    CUBAN POLICY TOWARD LATIN AMERICA– NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE (Link) (Archive)

    CUBAN POLICY TOWARD LATIN AMERICA: NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE VOLUME II– (Link) (Archive)

    USE OF TOXINS AND OTHER LETHAL CHEMICALS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA AND AFGHANISTAN (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET POLICY IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND SOUTH ASIA UNDER ANDROPOV (SNIE 11/30-83) (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET SUPPORT FOR INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM AND REVOLUTIONARY VIOLENCE (Link) (Archive)

    INSURGENCY AND INSTABILITY IN CENTRAL AMERICA– NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE (Link) (Archive)

    REPORT: CHILE: PROSPECTS FOR A DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION (Link) (Archive)

    IRAN’S POSITION IN THE EAST-WEST CONFLICT (Link) (Archive)

    PAKISTAN: THE NEXT YEARS (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET PROBLEMS, PROSPECTS, AND OPTIONS IN AFGHANISTAN IN THE NEXT YEAR (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET POLICIES AND ACTIVITIES IN LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN (Link) (Archive)

    THE SOVIET OFFENSIVE CHEMICAL WARFARE THREAT TO NATO (SNIE 11/17-2-84) (Link) (Archive)

    PANAMA: PROSPECTS FOR THE ELECTION (Link) (Archive)

    THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS OF SOUTH AFRICA: ORGANIZATION (Link) (Archive)

    MOZAMBIQUE: SHORT-TERM PROSPECTS (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET GLOBAL MILITARY REACH (NIE 11-6-84) (Link) (Archive)

    DOMESTIC STRESSES ON THE SOVIET SYSTEM (NIE 11-18-85) (Link) (Archive)

    REPORT: CHILE: DAYS OF PROTEST (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET POLICIES IN SOUTHERN AFRICA (NIE 11/70-85) (Link) (Archive)

    SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: IMPLICATIONS OF THE AIDS PANDEMIC (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET STRATEGIC AND POLITICAL OBJECTIVES IN ARMS CONTROL IN 1985 (SNIE 11-16-8 (Link) (Archive)

    PERU: PROSPECTS FOR INCREASED SOVIET BLOC INFLUENCE (SNIE 97-85) (Link) (Archive)

    THE SOVIET BLOC ROLE AND INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM AND REVOLUTIONARY VIOLENCE (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET NAVAL STRATEGY AND PROGRAMS THROUGH THE 1990S (NIE 11-15 (Link) (Archive)

    PROSPECTS FOR ESCALATING HOSTILITIES BETWEEN NICARAGUA AND HONDURAS (Link) (Archive)

    IMPLICATIONS FOR THE UNITED STATES OF THE COLOMBIAN DRUG TRADE-[33] (Link) (Archive)

    SOUTH YEMEN- USSR: OUTLOOK FOR THE RELATIONSHIP (NIE 36.9/11-84) (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET FORCES AND CAPABILITIES IN THE SOUTHERN THEATER OF MILITARY OPERATIONS (Link) (Archive)

    YUGOSLAVIA: AN APPROACHING CRISIS? (SNIE 15-83) (Link) (Archive)

    IMPLICATIONS OF SOVIET USE OF CHEMICAL AND TOXIN WEAPONS FOR U. S. SECURITY INT (Link) (Archive)

    SOVIET INTERESTS, POLICIES, AND PROSPECTS WITH RESPECT TO THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR (Link) (Archive)

    NEAR-TERM MILITARY PROSPECTS FOR EL SALVADOR (Link) (Archive)

    COLOMBIA: PROSPECTS FOR THE NEW GOVERNMENT (Link) (Archive)

    THE SOVIET GAS PIPELINE IN PERSPECTIVE (SNIE 3-11/12-82) (Link) (Archive)

    GUATEMALA: PROSPECTS FOR THE NEW GOVERNMENT (Link) (Archive)

    THE SOVIET APPROACH TO ARMS CONTROL AND IMPLICATIONS FOR START AND INF [NIE 11-37] (Link) (Archive)

    PLO: IMPACT OF THE LEBANESE INCURSION (Link) (Archive)

    They represent an enormous project of mass murder and regime changes in favor of American imperialist interests throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

    It is difficult to understate the importance of such documents to imperialist foreign policy in Latin America.

    And it is important to note its source.

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