4 hours ago
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Elections came and went and now the two leading candidates are off to a second round. These are very similar to the primaries in the United States, where the Republican and Democrat parties select their leading candidates from among all the contenders. After which, those two leading candidates go off to the final one-on-one presidential election.
For some reason, tiny Guatemala has been in the news quite a lot lately, with this election. I suspect because Guatemala has the dubious honor of being important to the Narco wars geopolitics and also perceived as a right wing (extreeeeeme right wing) wall of contention against the more left-leaning South America. These are, of course, general perceptions. Realities are much more complex.
Anyhow, I will provide here a series of articles and a video you can peruse at your leisure, in case you are interested in the topic.
1. PBS NewsHour published an article titled Guatemala's Presidential Race Heats Up Heading Into Runoff, which you can read by clicking here.
2. Al Jazeera published an interesting article, Narco Elite versus Oligarchy: Guatemalan Votes, which you can read by clicking here.
3. Former General to Face Runoff in Guatemala, a New York Times article, can be read by clicking here.
4. Another The New York Times an article titled Desperate Guatemalans Embrace an Iron Fist, which you can read by clicking here.
5. Kara Andrade, a Guatemalan-American journalist residing in Guatemala, published an article in the Christian Science Monitor titled Guatemala Election: Rising Crime Positions Otto Pérez Molina for Victory, which can be read by clicking here.
6. In case you read Spanish, you can read the article Vuelven los Militares, más no el Ejército (The military returns, but not the Army) printed in the online version of El País, an important Spanish newspaper, by clicking here.
7. There is a video on Global Post which summarizes the Otto Pérez Moline debacle in Guatemala, which you can view by clicking here. This was produced by journalists Nadia Sussman, Kara Andrade and Nicholas Wirtz.
8. Finally, there is a good opinion piece in Spanish titled La Agonía se Prolonga (Agony Prolonged) written by a Guatemalan academic and international relations expert, Roberto Wagner, which you can read by clicking here.
The left wing community here is throwing ashes over their heads and rending their clothes in mourning, etc., about "What happend with historical memory? How can the people of Guatemala vote for these two?" Interestingly (and sadly), there was a strong Mayan contingent campaigning for Otto Pérez Molina which, as you may know, was the military headman in the most affected areas in the years in which genocide occurred... a genocide he cynically denies really happened. So that complicates all this "Historical Memory" discourse.
I have to say who those that defend Otto Pérez Molina actually foam at the mouth about it. I am not exaggerating. Today I talked to a woman who assured me she has followed Otto Pérez Molina's career very closely and that is why she respects him. I said, "How about the years he was the headman of the military in the areas most affected by genocide? Does that not bother you?" She replied adamantly "That is what people say, but I know nothing about that. I don't believe everything they say about him." I said, "Okay, but you just told me you followed his career closely. This was an important point in his career" and she replied "I can't say anything about that because I wasn't there to see it, I have no proof that this was true." She was referring to his having serve at that military base, which is a matter of public record.
Wow. I mean, what can one say? And this is a very, very mainstream kind of thought process going on here. This woman, a sweet lady in general, is not the exception to the rule. Denial is massive around here.
In my humble opinion, it is not that historical memory was shunted aside. It is just that it never really mattered. Guatemalans, in general, seem short on compassion for genocide victims and for the plight of indigenous communities and the poor in general (as if we were any different in the US?) (But okay, here it is really worse).
I am not saying there are no efforts from some honestly caring NGOs and foundations, as well as to those who may care on an individual/private basis, to make things better. But the poor have never been a primordial element of government policy except lately. They were for this government, but sadly programs that were established for the poor were also, it now appears clearly to be the case, means and ways for the former first lady to enrich herself and fund her ill-fated presidential campaign. Loads of corruption going on there.
The current administration--Alvaro Colom's--was the first (allegedly) more socially conscious government in Guate. since the 1950s, and they managed to be so self-destructive and corrupt it just boggles the mind. I doubt there will be another less Tea Partyish government elected here for decades after the performance of the current presidential administration.
The other strong candidate is Manuel Baldizon, a sort of buffoon widely acknowledged to be hand-in-hand with drug lords. Both candidates have tons of money for campaign, who knows from whence. No real accountability about campaign funds in this country. Or about anything at all!
As a friend said, there was a Nobel Prize winner running for president (Rigoberta Menchú) and men tainted by accusations of genocide, Narco-trade, and other dark matters. As the electoral results show, the Nobel Prize winner gets squat ... and the rest, as they say, is history.
In the end, I am a strong believer that societies get the governments they deserve. Sadly, there are always victims--collateral damage?--and the kind of victims a society produce just show the kind of culture and community they foster.
And so, good night Guatemala, and good luck!
PS: Blogspot is telling me that I have filled up my quota for uploading photos. I think I am going to have to figure out what to do (I don't care to pay for more space nor delete photos from previous posts) and till then, this blog may be on a bit if a hiatus.