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Progressive Leader Arévalo Wins Guatemala's Presidential Election

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Nitish Verma
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Guatemalans elect president in historic vote

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Guatemala has elected a new president in a historic vote that many hope will bring a renewal of democracy and social justice in the country Progressive Leader.

Bernardo Arévalo, a congressman and former human rights ombudsman, defeated Sandra Torres, a former first lady and leader of the conservative National Unity of Hope (UNE) party, by a wide margin in the run-off election on Sunday.

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According to preliminary results, Arévalo won 63 percent of the votes, while Torres received 37 percent.

A new era for Guatemala

Arévalo, who ran on a Progressive Leader platform of fighting corruption, reducing poverty, and strengthening institutions, celebrated his victory with thousands of supporters in Guatemala City on Sunday night.

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He said that his win marked a historic day for Guatemala and a rejection of the old political elites who have ruled the country for decades.

"We have shown that we can change the course of our history with our votes. We have shown that we are not afraid of the old political elites who have ruled this country for decades. We have shown that we want a new Guatemala, a Guatemala of dignity, justice, and peace," he said.

Arévalo's party, the Seed Movement (Semilla), was founded in 2017 by a group of activists, academics, and journalists who were inspired by the massive anti-corruption protests that led to the resignation and arrest of former president Otto Pérez Molina and his vice president Roxana Baldetti in 2015.

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The Seed Movement also performed well in the congressional and municipal elections held on June 25, winning 23 seats in the 160-member Congress and several mayorships across the country.

Challenges ahead

Arévalo will face many challenges when he takes office on January 14, 2024. Guatemala is still recovering from the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated the already high levels of poverty, inequality, and violence in the country.

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According to government statistics, nearly 60 percent of the population lives in poverty, and more than half of the children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition. Guatemala also has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, with more than 4,000 murders reported in 2022.

Arévalo has pledged to implement a comprehensive plan to address these issues, which includes increasing public spending on health, education, and social protection; creating more jobs and opportunities for young people; reforming the tax system to make it more Progressive Leader and transparent; and strengthening the rule of law and human rights.

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He has also vowed to restore the cooperation agreement with the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which was terminated by former president Jimmy Morales in 2019. The CICIG was instrumental in uncovering several high-profile corruption cases involving politicians, businessmen, and security forces.

International reactions

Arévalo's victory was welcomed by several regional and international leaders, who congratulated him and expressed their willingness to work with his administration.

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The United States Embassy in Guatemala issued a statement saying that it "looks forward to working with President-elect Arévalo to advance our shared goals of strengthening democracy, security, prosperity, and human rights in Guatemala and the region."

The European Union also congratulated Arévalo and reaffirmed its "commitment to continue supporting Guatemala in its efforts to consolidate democracy, fight corruption and impunity, promote sustainable development, and protect human rights."

Meanwhile, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador invited Arévalo to visit Mexico and said that he hoped to "strengthen the ties of friendship and cooperation" between the two countries.

Arévalo also received messages of support from other Latin American leaders, such as Argentina's Alberto Fernández, Bolivia's Luis Arce, Chile's Gabriel Boric, Ecuador's Guillermo Lasso, El Salvador's Nayib Bukele, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, Peru's Pedro Castillo, Uruguay's Luis Lacalle Pou, and Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro.

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