Remarks Before the Permanent Council on the Situation in Guatemala

Ambassador Francisco O. Mora addresses the OAS Permanent Council. (OAS Photo)

Remarks by
Ambassador Francisco O. Mora
OAS Permanent Council
August 10, 2023

Thank you very much, Chair, first the United States wants to join you, the Secretary General, my colleagues in strongly condemning the assassination of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, an outspoken critic and opponent of organized crime and corruption.

We offer our condolences to his family and to the people of Ecuador.

The United States stands ready to support local authorities to bring the perpetrators of this heinous act to justice, which is a brazen attack on democracy and the rule of law.

Mr. Chair this is only the latest example of how democracy is being threatened by nefarious forces committed to undermining and indeed destroying the important achievements in democracy and human rights that we have seen in the hemisphere for over three decades.

During tragedies such as the one before us now, it imperative that we all stand together as a region to express our solidarity with people, government, and democracy of Ecuador.

Mr. Chair, the United States thanks the Secretary General for his report on the current political situation in Guatemala.

We were a strong proponent of his visit, which was at the request of the Government of Guatemala. We thank Guatemala for welcoming the Secretary General and for facilitating the visit, in keeping with the spirit of the Inter American Democratic Charter. Transparency and accountability remain vital characteristics of working democracies.

On the report itself, Chair, the United States is pleased that the OAS Secretary General has secured the commitment of the Government of Guatemala that the runoff election will take place on August 20 between Sandra Torres and Bernardo Arévalo without interference; to respect the results from that election, and to ensure a smooth and timely transition of power in January 2024.

These commitments are a positive outcome of the Secretary General’s visit, and we thank both the Secretary General and the Government of Guatemala for constructively engaging to reach this result. It will be important for the OAS and its member states to continue to serve as an accountability mechanism for these commitments, as expressed eloquently by the delegation of Antigua and Barbuda

Nonetheless, we remain concerned with the reports by the Secretary General related to judicial intimidation and threats. We strongly agree that the OAS should remain engaged and continue to have a monitoring mechanism in place until the new Administration assumes office in January 2024.

To be clear, the United States does not support any specific candidate or party in Guatemala’s elections. Elections are the opportunity for Guatemalans to decide the future of their own country. The United States supports the integrity of the process authorized by the Guatemalan constitution.

As we all know, on June 25, Sandra Torres and Bernardo Arévalo received the most votes and advanced to participate in Guatemala’s August 20 runoff election for the presidency. As I said, the United States supports the rights of Guatemalans to vote for their preferred candidates without interference in that runoff.

Any effort to interfere with the June 25 election result and the August 20 runoff threatens to undermine Guatemala’s democratic process and its continued adherence to the terms of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

We stress that a broad range of diverse voices from Guatemalan society, including from the private sector and civil society, have expressed concern that the Public Ministry’s actions violate Guatemala’s electoral law and basic constitutional protections The intimidation of essential staff from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal who make this voting possible must cease.

This is because, Mr. Chair, protecting people’s right to vote for the candidate of their choice in the second round is essential to the democratic future and integrity of elections in Guatemala.

Democracy as we all know today is fragile in the Americas, Chair, and we are at a critical moment when it comes to the future of our democracies. It is no secret that we have all seen significant regional democratic backsliding in recent years.

Colleagues, let there be no doubt that the situation in Guatemala is a real test for this body and the Inter-American Democratic Charter. And this test extends well beyond August 20 all the way to the transition of power in January 2024. We must remain engaged and steadfast in our call for adherence to the Charter in the week and months following the August 20 runoff.

To this end, we strongly call on the Government of Guatemala to protect its democratic process and let the voices of the Guatemalan people be heard at the ballot box. It is important not only for the people of Guatemala, but as I have often said here in this body, for all OAS member states as we continue to work to ensure that all our democracies – all our democracies – continue to deliver for the people of the Americas.

Again, we concur with Secretary General on the need to continue assessing and monitoring the situation through January 2024 to ensure the will of the Guatemalan people is not silenced by government action. The United States also believes the OAS Permanent Council should continue to receive updates on the election process in Guatemala.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.