Between a rock and a hard place…..

The results of the Guatemala Presidential elections, which took place on Sunday, 11th September, left two candidates to run-off on the 6th November. According to PlazaPública, Otto Pérez Molina gained 36.08% and Manuel Baldizón was second with 23.3%. Presidential elections in Guatemala, as well as Department and Mayoral elections, are seldom about the political parties involved. The parties tend to be used as personal vehicles for contenders in order to achieve their ambitions and, as such, tend not to have a long life span. As such, they have little or no relevance though this may change. It will be interesting to see if Sandra Torres decides to run, or is allowed to stand, in the next elections in 2016 on the UNE ticket. UNE, as well as Pérez Molina’s PP, did well in the Mayoral elections, much down to Torres for UNE.

So come the 6th November, Guatemalans should they vote, will have a choice between a former military and a business man – each with their own murky backgrounds and each who wield considerable power and influence among those who rule Guatemala. I mentioned, ‘should they vote’ on purpose. Guatemalans tend to turn out more for the 1st round of these elections rather than the run-offs. Elections tend to be local affairs and the capital is so far away and can have very little affect on peoples’ day to day lives. For the 1st round, the local Department and Mayoral candidates are very generous in ensuring that transport is laid on for their supporters come election day. For the 2nd round, people have to make their own way and considering the costs involved, many decide to stay at home. The more local the election, the more interest is taken.

Regarding Otto Pérez Molina, much has been written here – less so for Manuel Baldizón. However, two articles provide some interesting background to them both. Regarding Pérez Molina, as article in PlazaPública entitled “Por sus actos lo conocerás” (‘By his actions you will know him’). It is a long piece by Enrique Naveda, which thanks to a rush translation by the Guatemala Times, is available in English. The piece also references the film mentioned here previously making the point that this film had apparently been lost. Naveda provides a good outline to the political and military machinations that Pérez Molina has had to navigate down through the years.

Manuel Baldizón, on the other hand, wields considerable power and influence in El Petén, the hugely important Department in the north where oil, gas and drugs are the mainstay of the economy. The dominant extractive company being the British/French concern Perenco. A report by InsightCrime.org, was the background to an article published on PlazaPública and the Executive Summary has been translated into English on the Foro Huelga de Dolores. It makes for interesting reading about the capture by certain interests of the public purse and opens up questions about that same purse in the future. Also interesting is that it seems the report link on InsightCrime.org no longer works.

More here from Al Jazeera.

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Categories: Presidential Elections

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