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Forecast podcast: Guatemala’s president-elect calls effort to block him from office a “coup”

Two men shake hands while seated at a table in front of the flag of Guatemala.

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Jeff Landset discuss the Guatemalan political crisis that President-Elect Bernardo Arévalo has called a “coup”, plus more on North Korea’s founding anniversary, the G20 Summit in India, Russia-organized elections in annexed portions of Ukraine and the UK launching autumn vaccination programs.

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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Vivian Wang, Ahmed Namatalla, Alex Moore and Joe Veyera. Produced and edited by Jimmy Lovaas. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

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Factal Forecast podcast transcript

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is Sept. 7.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got a look at Guatemala’s ongoing political crisis, North Korea’s founding anniversary, the G20 Summit in India, Russia-organized elections in annexed portions of Ukraine and the UK launching its autumn vaccination programs. 

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

Guatemala political crisis

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: Up first we’ll take a look at the political crisis continuing in Guatemala. For more on that we’ve got Factal editor Jeff Landset.

JIMMY: Hello, Jeff, 

JEFF: Hi, Jimmy

JIMMY: Glad you’re here. Guatemalan politics are never boring, but things have gotten really heated recently and I’m hoping you can get our listeners caught up to speed. Can you maybe start off by giving us a bit of a recap on how we got here?

JEFF: Sure, yeah. In order to understand what’s going on in Guatemala, you have to understand how prevalent corruption has been in the country in recent years. In fact, the UN actually had to step in and form a commission called CICIG [International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala] to investigate all the corruption that was going on in the country. That went well until then President Jimmy Morales dissolved the committee. And then the current President Alejandro Giammattei appointed an Attorney General María Consuelo Porras who started going after the judges, magistrates and prosecutors who were investigating the corruption. The US declared her as being involved in significant corruption herself last May. So, fast forward to this year’s election in which Bernardo Arévalo, the son of a former president running on an anti corruption campaign, managed an upset victory in the first round of the election. He managed to make it in despite polling somewhere around two, three or four percent – depending on the poll – and made it into the runoff with the presumed front runner, a former first lady named Sandra Torres. During the time between the two rounds, the attorney general revoked the legal status of Arévalo’s party, Movimiento Semilla, saying there were allegations of fake signatures during the process of starting the party. There was no evidence of that, but there were allegations. And so that was the beginning of the process of trying to keep Arévalo from winning the election. Fast forward to the second round, recently, and he scored a landslide victory; he won with more than 60 percent of the vote. Since then, the attorney general suspended his party again, a decision that has since been overturned. But during that process, Arévalo declared there was an “ongoing coup” to try to keep him from taking office. The top court in the land actually came through and said that he was the victor and certified his victory in the election. So he is in the process of taking office, which is supposed to happen at the end of the year. It remains to be seen what other things will happen between now and then.

Jimmy: What are the latest developments? How are things looking at the moment?

JEFF: Yeah, so right now, there have been calls for no more corruption and to keep the process in place in order to have him take office as president. This past weekend, there was a fairly large, peaceful protest in front of the political buildings there. He is currently on track to keep the process going in which he would become president, however, there are other things ongoing in which that may not happen. The top court’s decision to reverse the ban on his party is only temporary and so there may be a point in which his party is suspended, which would severely hamstring him in his process of taking office.

JIMMY: How have Guatemalans responded to all this? And, you know, any notable international reactions?

JEFF: Sure, yeah. Guatemalans generally are in favor of Arévalo. They are sick of corruption. Many of them are just trying to get through day by day. The economy there hasn’t been great, especially since COVID, and so they are hopeful for any sort of change and Arévalo represents that change. As for, kind of, the international response, many organizations and countries have come through and called for an ongoing peaceful transfer of power. None of them have come out and agreed with Arévalo, in his words, saying that this was an ongoing coup, but many of them expressed concern about the process of trying to keep him from taking office.

JIMMY: Well, what’s on the horizon, then? What Should folks be watching for next?

JEFF: Yeah, so watch for more attempts to keep him from taking office or keeping his party from taking power. You could also watch out for more response from the current president Giammattei. So far throughout this he has been pretty neutral, calling for a peaceful transfer of power, and hasn’t really stepped in to try to keep Arévalo from taking office. If he starts to change his tune, that would be a significant departure from the way things have gone. And yeah, if things go poorly for Arévalo over the next few months, we could see larger protests turning into violent protests. And yeah, things could get worse.

JIMMY: Well, I suppose we’ll pause there for today, but thank you so much for your time, Jeff. I know that you’ll be keeping an eye on things and I imagine we might have you back if things deteriorate. Appreciate it. 

JEFF: Thanks, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Take care

​​North Korea’s 75th founding anniversary

Information compiled by Vivian Wang

JIMMY: North Korea is expected to hold a military parade on Friday. The event is to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the country’s founding.

Pyongyang has already held two military parades this year, including one at the end of July. That one featured delegations from Russia and China – the first from Moscow since the fall of the Soviet Union, and the first from Beijing since the coronavirus pandemic began. 

Of course, in recent weeks, there’s been a flurry of military activity from North Korea, including a second failed spy satellite launch

And then there was the simulated nuclear attacks on South Korea that came amid Seoul’s joint exercises with the United States.

Now, North Korea’s parades are always an opportunity for the reclusive regime to flaunt advances in military technology, but with looser travel restrictions they are also becoming a way to demonstrate growing diplomatic ties.

Accordingly, Russian and Chinese representatives are again expected to attend the upcoming parade. 

These displays also come amid reports from Western officials that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may make a rare visit to Russia later this month. 

He’s expected to meet with President Vladimir Putin to discuss supplying Moscow with weapons for the war in Ukraine.

Russia’s defense minister has also floated the possibility of joint military exercises with North Korea.

G20 Summit

Information compiled by Ahmed Namatalla

JIMMY: Leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies will meet in New Delhi on Saturday. The gathering comes amid increasing competition for resources and influence in less-developed economies. 

Of course, this year’s summit comes against the backdrop of Russia’s continued war in Ukraine. It also comes amid a renewed diplomatic dispute between China and India regarding their shared Himalayan border. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping will miss the gathering for the first time since it was formed in 2008. 

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is also expected to skip the meeting. 

U.S. President Joe Biden said he’s “disappointed” he won’t meet with President Xi, though administration officials are talking about a possible meeting around the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference scheduled to be held in San Francisco in November.

Now, this G20 Summit is a chance for world powers to meet as they continue to face off in military conflicts, such as the war in Ukraine, or economic ones such as the ongoing trade battle between China and the United States. 

Meanwhile, Russia is making a significant push to boost its presence in Africa, promising increased aid and economic cooperation. 

The European Union is countering that effort with planned meetings with African leaders on the sidelines of this summit.

Russia-organized elections in annexed portions of Ukraine

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: Local elections in Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson regions are set to end on Sunday. All four regions are partially occupied by Russia. 

As you may recall, after initially conquering wide swaths of Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions during the 2014 invasion, Russia’s full invasion of 2022 saw Moscow’s forces take additional territory there while also establishing control over wide portions of Kherson and Zaporizhia. 

The invasion was followed by Russia’s decision last fall to annex the four regions of Ukraine and hold local elections to grant full terms to the Russian-appointed occupation officials in the territories.

Now, the outcome of the elections is all but certain with pro-Kremlin candidates running virtually unopposed

Still, Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive efforts in the south threaten to derail Russia’s farcical vote. 

Though progress has been grinding and attritional since Ukraine launched the operation back in June, Kyiv’s forces have made some progress in recent weeks along the main push axis heading south into occupied Zaporizhia. 

While efforts to sever Russian supply lines in the occupied southern regions continue, Ukraine has also launched a concerted drone war striking targets deep inside of Russia in recent weeks.

And that’s something that may further threaten to challenge the legitimacy of the elections.

U.K. launches autumn vaccination programs

Information compiled by Joe Veyera

JIMMY: Britain’s health ministry says it will begin administering flu and coronavirus vaccines on Monday. That’s weeks earlier than previously planned after the identification of a new coronavirus variant.

The BA.2.86 variant was first detected by U.K. health authorities in mid-August and has a high number of mutations. Still, it’s not currently classified as a variant of concern. 

Adult home care residents and those in vulnerable groups will be among the first to be eligible for the latest vaccine and will be offered a flu shot at the same time “whenever possible.” 

England lifted its last remaining coronavirus restrictions in February 2022.

Now, scientists say it’s unlikely the new variant will cause a significant wave of severe disease and death, due to prior infections and vaccination efforts. Still, they say surveillance efforts must continue.

JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.  

Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Vivian Wang, Ahmed Namatalla, Alex Moore and Joe Veyera. Our interview featured editor Jeff Landset and our podcast is produced and edited by me – Jimmy Lovaas. Our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Top photo: Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei held a transition meeting with President-elect Bernardo Arévalo on Sept. 4. (Photo: Gobierno de Guatemala / Flickr)

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