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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  1. #1 bobbito 10 May 11

    Anna, I am surprised you make no mention of the prospect of Otto Perez Molina in the up coming elections, particularly given a) the potentially grave consequences of him being elected, including Civil War being a possibility and b) His involvement in War Crimes during the 1980s.

  2. #2 Annie 11 May 11

    Thank you for your comment. I understand that due to Otto Perez Molina’s former position, as Commander of the Quiché military base during the height of the Mayan genocide, many Guatemalans are extremely anxious about his current presidential campaign.

    However, the reason I did not refer to him in my article is because, whether or not we agree, there are no constitutional restrictions on his candidacy. ‘Keeping it in the Family’ is about politicians seeking to run for presidency even though it’s illegal in accordance with Article 186 of Guatemala’s constitution.

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About the author

Anna-Claire Bevan a New Internationalist contributor

Anna-Claire Bevan is a freelance journalist currently based in Guatemala City. She writes about political, environmental and social issues for magazines both in Guatemala and back home in the UK. Anna originally set up her first blog Vida Latina as a result of her travels in Latin America and frustrations at the lack of international media coverage that this area of the world receives.

Read more by Anna-Claire Bevan

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