New Internationalist

Keeping it in the family

It’s no secret that Guatemala City is a dangerous place. Central America’s largest metropolis is teeming with violence, gangs and crime. But will the upcoming presidential elections bring with them an end to the corruption that dominates Guatemala’s capital, or is it set to worsen as Guatemalans go to the polls this September? 

Campaign posters litter the roads of Guatemala City’s capital with various party slogans emblazoned across them:

Guatemala election poster

Guatemala election poster

But since you can only legally declare yourself as a candidate once the elections are called (in May), the contenders have already overstepped the mark. Not that playing by the rules is particularly important in this race.

So far there are three potentially illegal candidates all vying for the country’s top spot.

Since 1985, Article 186 of Guatemala’s constitution has prohibited close relatives of past or present presidents from running for office – so as to prevent a dictatorship.

However, the current president’s wife, First Lady Sandra Torres de Colom, is vying to continue her husband’s tenure and has even sought a divorce from her other half in order to compete. Zury Rios Mont, the daughter of ex-general and military dictator Efraín Rios Mont, also wants to throw her hat into the race. And lawyers of ex-president Álvaro Arzú are scrambling to find a loophole in the constitution that would permit him to run again too.

Many Guatemalans are becoming increasingly frustrated and angry over the unlawful behaviour of their country’s political élite who, they believe, are making a mockery out of the Guatemalan constitution.
How can the future president hope to reduce the violence that controls the city if they themselves have risen to power through corrupt means?

On 20 March, a group of people gathered outside the Constitutional Court in Guatemala City to ‘defend the country’s constitution’ and show their objections to Torres’ and Arzú’s bids for presidency. The political rally attracted over 17,000 fans on Facebook and was subsequently shut down by the social network. The event’s organizer, Rodrigo Mencos, said: ‘It’s not important to these politicians that they’re violating the laws.’

Another demonstration rally has been organized for the end of March.

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