Most Guatemalans unhappy with options in this weekend's presidential election
Violence is down compared to the last presidential election, but Guatemalans deserve more than what they have been offered in this campaign of candidates with questionable backgrounds.
I really can’t say that the 2011 electoral campaign has been a major step forward for Guatemalan democracy.Skip to next paragraph
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In terms of the presidential candidates, front runner Otto Perez Molina of the Patriotic Party is an alleged war criminal from the country's civil war years and a person who retains close ties to hidden powers in the postwar period. I always thought that given what we’d read about Perez, he would have been on the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala’s (CICIG) radar. Now, there’s a good chance that he’ll be president.
The candidate person with the second most electoral support, Sandra Torres of the National Unity for Hope (UNE) and Grand National Alliance (GANA) coalition, is constitutionally barred from competing because her relationship with President Alvaro Colom violates Article 186 of the constitution preventing close relatives of the president from running for the presidency. Torres and her family are still rumored to be tied to drug trafficking and money laundering. On Wednesday, a judge opened an investigation into Torres because she urged Guatemalans not to vote in the presidential election after the constitutional court rejected her final appeal.
UNE and GANA are two of the country’s largest political parties and account for approximately one-third of the congress’ seats. The two parties have no presidential candidate and their short-lived electoral alliance will likely end in a matter of days. I wouldn't be surprised if one, if not both, were not around in 2015.
Given that Sandra Torres cannot compete, Manuel Baldízon of LIDER is now running as Perez' main competitor. Baldízon is a politician who offered $61,000 to other members of congress to switch to his new political party LIDER. Offering cash to switch parties is not illegal, but it’s not something that inspires confidence. It speaks to the general weakness of the country’s parties and overall party system.
Baldízon and his family are also allegedly connected to drug trafficking and organized crime in the Peten. Those are still illegal. CICIG anyone? While Baldízon does not believe that he is the messiah, he is perfectly willing to pretend that he is in order to capture votes in this weekend’s contest.