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News > Guatemala

Torres and Arevalo To Vie for the Guatemalan Presidency

  • Guatemalan presidential candidates Sandra Torres (L) and Bernardo Arevalo (R).

    Guatemalan presidential candidates Sandra Torres (L) and Bernardo Arevalo (R). | Photo: Twitter/ @InfoNodal

Published 26 June 2023

In the 2023 Guatemalan elections, absenteeism exceeded 40 percent and invalid votes reached 17.4 percent.

On Sunday, the Guatemalan presidential elections were riddled with allegations of irregularities and yielded several surprises. After counting over 96 percent of the votes cast by citizens, the null vote count reached 17.4 percent, a figure that exceeded even the number of votes obtained by the winner of the first round.


Guatemala To Hold Second Round of Presidential Elections

Abstentionism also yielded an unexpected result, reaching 40.2 percent of registered voters, which could be interpreted as a massive rejection of the Guatemalan party system.

Moving on to the second round of elections are the candidates Sandra Torres and Bernardo Arevalo, whose political profiles are presented below.

Sandra Torres, the former First Lady aspiring to the presidency

She entered the front ranks of Guatemalan politics in 2011 when she divorced then-President Alvaro Colom in order to participate in that year's presidential elections. Subsequently, Torres also attempted to reach the presidency in 2015 but lost in the runoff against Jimmy Morales.

Now, the former First Lady finds herself once again close to governing the country. The election results place Torres as the winner of the first round, with 15.6 percent of the votes.

"We are going to win," warned the former First Lady in the early hours of Monday, referring to the second round of elections scheduled for August 20.

In the 2019 presidential elections, Torres obtained 1.1 million votes in the first round but succumbed in the second round to the current President Alejandro Giammattei.

The 67-year-old candidate has devoted her entire life to politics and entered the 2023 elections as the favorite with the National Unity of Hope (UNE), a long-standing political party that claims to be center-left and governed the country with Colom (2008-2012).

Torres has a bachelor's degree in communication sciences and claims to have directed different clothing and textile manufacturing companies owned by her family until 2015.

Born in Peten's apartment, Torres has politics in her blood. Teresa Casanova, her mother, was mayor of her hometown, Melchor de Mencos, from 1996 to 2008.

In 1993, Torres became associated with the left-wing Authentic Integral Development (DIA) party, which was led by her first husband, businessman Edgar De Leon. In 1995, DIA launched her brother Rolando Torres as a presidential candidate.

In 2019, Torres was accused of using around US$700,000 in her 2015 presidential campaign without reporting it to the electoral authority. In 2022, however, charges against her were dropped by the judges due to lack of evidence.

Bernardo Arevalo, the unexpected leftist contender in the elections

Popularly known as "Uncle Bernie," Bernardo Arevalo is the son of Juan Jose Arevalo, who governed Guatemala between 1945 and 1951. 

The party sponsoring him in the presidential race is SEMILLA, an organization that emerged from the 2015 anti-corruption protests.

Currently, this 64-year-old candidate serves as the head of his party's caucus in Congress, where he and four legislators have tried to lead the opposition to the ruling party.

Although the polls did not give him a chance of victory, Arevalo swept the urban areas and made it to the second round with 11.9 percent of the votes.

Before entering politics, Arevalo was known as an academic dedicated to writing books and articles on civil-military relations and security.

In the 1990s, he served as Guatemala's Consular Secretary in Israel. In 1994, he was the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and he served as Guatemala's ambassador to Spain between 1995 and 1996.

Arevalo was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, where his father was in exile. He lived in this South America country during his childhood until the age of 15 when he returned to Guatemala.

He has earned degrees in sociology, philosophy, and social anthropology from universities in Israel, Spain, and the Netherlands.

In 1995, Arevalo was awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle by former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo.

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