Guatemala’s first elected evangelical president is out of office and in exile after he assumed extraordinary powers, which he claimed were necessary to solve serious problems in his country. His ouster has raised anew reservations about the role of evangelicals in the Guatemalan government.

Jorge Serrano Elias announced on May 25 that he had dissolved the Congress, fired the Supreme Court, and would rule by decree. He also called for immediate elections for a Constituent Assembly to reform Guatemala’s 1985 Constitution. He said he would not remain in power beyond his term, due to end in January 1995, but that this was the only way to end corruption.

In a speech on radio and television, Serrano accused the Congress and court system of blocking his attempts to root out corruption and fight mushrooming drug traffic. Serrano said he had been subjected to “political blackmail” by some of the members of Congress, and he accused the Supreme Court of “selective application of justice,” which protected criminals.

Serrano hoped to take a leaf out of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori’s book, but when the military withdrew its support in the face of national and international protests, he was forced to resign. During several days of confusion, the army first backed Vice-president Gustavo Espina, also an evangelical, then put pressure on the reinstated Congress to elect national human-rights advocate Ramiro de Leon Carpio to complete Serrano’s term.

Facing criminal charges of abuse of power, Serrano opted to accept political asylum in Panama. Espina, accused of complicity with Serrano, fled to Costa Rica.

Considered a prophet

An engineer by training and a businessman and politician by profession, Serrano first came to national attention ...

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