Guatemala News Update: October 26-30

Former Comedian Jimmy Morales Elected as Guatemala’s New President

October 25, Guatemalans elected Jimmy Morales — a comedian with no political experience and backed by military hard-liners — to serve as the country’s next president. Morales defeated his opponent and former first lady Sandra Torres with over 67% of the country’s votes; at least half of the country’s citizens abstained from voting.

Though some Guatemalans are cautiously optimistic about the future, many remain skeptical that Morales will be able to pull the country out of its current political turmoil. A US Department of State press release congratulated Morales, stating: “We trust president-elect Morales will seek to work with his citizens and the Guatemalan Assembly to stimulate economic growth, reduce crime and violence, promote educational opportunities, target criminal networks responsible for human trafficking, and help create transparent and accountable governance and institutions.”

Read more about how the elections may affect civil society and impact human rights defenders in this Foreign Policy in Focus article.

Investigation into Passion River “Ecocide” Stalled

More than four and a half months after a mass die-off of fish occurred in the Passion River in Sayaxché, Peten, the investigation into what caused the event is at a standstill. Though authorities report that they are still collecting evidence, community members are denouncing the delays in the process, as well as the fact that communities received no aid in the aftermath of the contamination of the river.

Ministry of Finance Announces Plan to Cut Spending

Guatemala faces a financial crisis due to the fact the State did not meet its tax collection goals for this year. The government plans to address this shortfall by cutting spending across several units, except in those considered “key ministries,” such as the interior and health ministries.