Working for the People, Elections and Foreign Service

Publication Date: 
4 Oct 2012

While with IFES, Libna Bonilla worked hand-in-hand with Maximo Zaldivar, then chief of party in Guatemala, and other team members to help Guatemala's Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) deliver the 2011 general elections. Bonilla is starting a new chapter as deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of Guatemala in Washington. She tells us about her work with IFES and her country’s foreign policy goals.

When did you work for IFES, and what was your role?

I began working as a political communication consultant at IFES in January 2011 as part of a team providing technical assistance to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) in Guatemala.

Some of my responsibilities included analysis of the TSE’s communications department, and the design and development of an institutional electoral process communication strategy. It was very interesting to work as a team advising the TSE on crisis communications and developing various political scenarios that we might need to respond to as Election Day neared. Beyond analyzing and responding to the media and acting as a liaison between the TSE and reporters, one of our most important roles was collaborating with other IFES consultants.

What is your best memory of your work with IFES?

I have more than one best memory working with IFES, but something I will never forget is how we cultivated a great relationship within the team, and our commitment to the electoral process in Guatemala.

How did you get into the field of democracy and governance?

In 2007, I started working for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as a communications consultant on a program to strengthen the Guatemalan political system. In this role, I worked on a collective study of the internal communications of political parties represented in the Guatemalan Congress (2008-2012).

I was in charge of advising and coordinating the political parties’ communication teams as they developed working plans. I advised on the design of internal communication systems and monitored the use of new technologies. This work included the design, coordination and implementation of the training and education plan. And, I also coordinated the logistics of seminars and workshops. It was a really great experience working with different political parties in Guatemala.

Why is it important for you to give a voice to your fellow citizens, whether it’s through the electoral process or by representing them abroad?

For me, it was an honor to help during the elections in my own country – elections hold great importance for citizens’ democracy. Now, I am very proud to take up a new public office abroad in the Guatemalan Foreign Service. I will continue to work to strengthen the friendly historic, commercial and political relations and ties between Guatemala and the United States.

When did you become involved with Guatemala's Foreign Service?

This is my first time with Guatemala’s Foreign Service. Since last January, I have served as deputy secretary of political affairs for the President’s Office in Guatemala.

What are some of Guatemala's current goals for its electoral process?
One year from now, in October 2013, Guatemala will hold a referendum simultaneously with Belize on the territorial and maritime dispute between the two countries. The TSE will have to work closely with the government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to ensure a successful referendum. The next general election will be held in 2015.

What are the cornerstones of Guatemala’s foreign policy?

Guatemala's priority is and always will be upholding the ideals of democracy, justice and peace within a framework that respects international law. Specific actions will be taken regarding migration and border violence related to narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering and gun trafficking. The Guatemalan Government wants to show the world its commitment to new and serious approaches to solving some of the big problems affecting democratic security in developing nations.