‘Yes, We Did’

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Anti-corruption crusader Bernardo Arévalo became Guatemala’s president early Monday after an inauguration that was delayed due to efforts in Congress to stall his swearing-in, Reuters reported.

As the inauguration began, Guatemalans danced in the streets, set off fireworks and waved blue and white national flags as attendees broke into chants of “Yes we did it!”

Arévalo was set to be inaugurated earlier on Sunday. He won a stunning landslide victory in last year’s presidential election, in which he campaigned on an anti-corruption agenda. But afterward, Arévalo has faced the machinations of Guatemala’s most powerful institutions, and some of the most corrupt in the Western Hemisphere, determined to prevent him from taking office.

First, the attorney general launched investigations into the president-elect and his party, Semilla, for alleged fraud, while prosecutors tried to annul the election of Semilla members elected to parliament. Then, on Sunday, the party’s legal status was suspended by a last-minute constitutional court decision.

Finally, lawmakers argued over the seating of the party’s newly elected members and the appointment of a new speaker, delaying the president’s inauguration by nine hours.

In its moves to prevent Arévalo from entering office, the Guatemalan establishment – the so-called “Pact of the Corrupt” which includes politicians, narcotraffickers, former army officials, and business people – has faced the opposition of civil society and world leaders, the Washington Post said.

The country’s indigenous population, supporting Arévalo, led nationwide strikes in October to denounce the congressional and prosecutorial maneuvering. On Saturday night, hundreds of citizens slept in the streets of Guatemala City to ensure the man they had voted for would be sworn in.

Meanwhile, the US government has sanctioned top officials, including canceling the visas of two-thirds of lawmakers for attempting to replace the top electoral court with judges opposed to Arévalo. Others, such as officials from the European Union and Latin American leaders, criticized the delays and obstructions facing the new leaders.

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