How Guatemala Defied the Odds

Issue Date October 2023
Volume 34
Issue 4
Page Numbers 21–35
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Guatemala has experienced sustained democratic backsliding, including the manipulation of the 2023 electoral playing field. Yet, against the odds, Guatemalan citizens defied the ruling regime’s electoral authoritarian strategy, voting an anticorruption reformer into power. This article analyzes Guatemala’s (anti)democratic trajectory and explains how opposition actors resisted further backsliding during the 2023 electoral process. The authors argue that the Guatemalan regime reflects a “criminal oligarchy,” and examine how rule-of-law advances prompted elite backlash that eviscerated democratic institutions. The unexpected 2023 electoral outcome, however, illustrates the possibilities of exploiting fissures in the criminal-oligarchic coalition to arrest authoritarian consolidation.

About the Authors

Rachel A. Schwartz

Rachel A. Schwartz is assistant professor of international and area studies at the University of Oklahoma and author of Undermining the State from Within: The Institutional Legacies of Civil War in Central America (2023).

View all work by Rachel A. Schwartz

Anita Isaacs

Anita Isaacs is the Benjamin R. Collins Professor of Social Sciences at Haverford College.

View all work by Anita Isaacs