We spoke with Carlos Castresana, a Spanish prosecutor who for 10 years was in charge of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, about the prospects for the second round of the Guatemalan elections on August 20.
This Monday, the United States called for a transparent Guatemalan second round, without interference or harassment of the candidates, after the democratic guarantees of the elections had been endangered by a series of irregularities. Among them, the raid on the headquarters of the Semilla party of candidate Bernardo Arévalo and the immediate non-officialization of the electoral results in the first round. Carlos Castrana helps us understand the situation.
RFI: Candidate Arévalo denounced that all this action is nothing more than maneuvers by the leaderships of power, eaten away by corruption and scared of losing their influence… Did you say something similar in 2017 when the continuity of the CICIG was in question?
Carlos Castresana: It was a country that unfortunately lived outside the principle of legality. Controversies were resolved with bullets instead of being resolved with the tools of the rule of law. The main contribution of the CICIG was to show Guatemalans, and I think they perfectly understood the message, that in a democratic society, the differences that exist between people, between institutions, or between political parties must be resolved through the democratic channels established in the Constitution.
We have lived in the presidency of Jimmy Morales, but above all in the presidency of Alejandro Giammattei, how groups that had felt harmed by the action of legality grouped together against the enemy of legality that threatened their interests. What we are experiencing these days and these weeks, these attempts to trip up certain candidates, is nothing more than trying to win in a tricky way what is not won fairly at the polls. But I hope that the will of the Guatemalan people prevails.
RFI: The first electoral will in Guatemala left a popular will for change, to what do you attribute it?
Carlos Castresana: I want to be optimistic. I believe that the message for Guatemalan society has been consolidated that it is better to live in coexistence, with the tools of the rule of law, than to live in an eternal circular of violence and corruption. Another thing is that those groups that felt harmed by these advances have reacted very violently, and this is what we have experienced in recent years and also what they are trying to reproduce in recent weeks.
I believe that Guatemalan society with serenity, plus the determined support of the international community, the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and other influential countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region, will make it possible for the popular will to be respected and for the president to be elected whoever Guatemalans decide and not whoever wants to impose these groups that are always against the mainstream, protecting their particular interests instead of the general interest.
RFI: Regardless of who is the winner of that second round, they must govern in a country where there are corruption networks, pressure groups, etc. Will governance be possible?
Carlos Castresana: A few people who still control the institutions in the country are going in a direction that favors certain particular interests. And I don’t care if you say the drug trafficker or the groups linked to violence in the armed conflict, etc. I believe that the will of the majority of Guatemalans, whatever it is, whether it is candidate A or candidate B, has to prevail. And once that is guaranteed, and I hope it is guaranteed, those elected have to make sure that representative public positions are held by suitable people, of recognized honor and who, as I said, serve the general interests and not the particular interests of these pressure groups.