The future of Guatemalan politics

Guatemala Corruption
Demonstrators in Guatemala City hold a banner showing the likeness of Guatemala's President Otto Pérez Molina, left. Photo: AP Photo/Luis Soto

With recent protests, exposure of wide-scale corruption and the resignation of president Otto Peréz Molina, Guatemala is experiencing rapid change. Elections on September 6 will determine the next leader to run the country.

See also: A history of murder, fraud and corruption in Guatemala

Main candidates

As of September 3, Guatemalan media outlet Prensa Libre predicts previous runner-up Manuel Baldizón, former first lady Sandra Torres and rising underdog Jimmy Morales will move on to the next round of elections. There are 14 candidates in total, including Zury Ríos, daughter of former leader Efraín Ríos Montt.

Before anti-corruption protests escalated, Manuel Baldizón was the frontrunner for Guatemala’s next president. In Guatemala, there has been an unspoken rule that the candidate who came in second in the previous election wins the next one. But a growing anti-corruption sentiment has turned the tide against Baldizón. Polls now predict he will win 22.9 percent of the vote. In late May, a poll predicted he would win 34.5 percent.

Candidate Jimmy Morales’ popularity has soared in recent months. Prensa Libre reports Morales will win 25 percent of the votes on Monday, more than any other candidate. Support for Morales has risen drastically recently because Guatemalans view him as the only candidate who has not been tainted by corruption.

Polls project Sandra Torres, the ex-wife of former president Alvaro Colom, is expected to come in third place in the race with 18.4 percent of the vote. In 2011, Torres divorced Colom to circumvent a law that bans close family members of former presidents from running for office.

Corruption and Clientelism

Although many have protested in urban centers of Guatemala, the country’s rural population has a major say in the elections.

More than 50 percent of Guatemalans live below the poverty line, and these people are particularly susceptible to a vote-buying tactic called clientelism. This is when politicians distribute gifts such as groceries or fertilizer in rural communities in exchange for votes.

Although voting is confidential, this practice is effective in Guatemala and throughout Latin America. This makes it difficult to determine if the demands of outspoken protesters reflect the voice of the entire country.

According to UNICEF, Nearly 25 percent of Guatemalans are illiterate. 50 percent of the population lives outside of urban centers. 48 percent of Guatemalan children experience growth stunting, an indicator of malnutrition.

See more:

Why you should care about Guatemala’s corruption scandal


Juan Manuel Santos
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos. Photo: AP Photo/Julio Cortez

As a second week ends during the Venezuela-Colombia border dispute, a video of President Nicolás Maduro has not been well received by the neighbors.

In the Youtube video, Maduro appears dancing to the traditional Colombian song “La Pollera colorá” (a pollera is a long skirt used for typical dances) with his wife.

Ironic that Maduro is in the party spirit since around 1000 Colombians have been deported from neighboring Venezuela during the past two weeks.

In an interview with Jorge Ramos from Univisión Santos commented “A neighboring country shouldn’t blame us for their own flaws or for their problems, the shortages problem in Venezuela isn’t a problem caused by Colombians.”

“Mr President, when you saw Nicolás Maduro dancing to the Pollera colorá with his wife, did you think it was a joke?” Ramos asked.

“Yes I thought it was a joke. It made no sense to me. I didn’t like it, but of course we saw it on television.” Santos replied.

Ready to talk

Santos has expressed he is ready to begin talks with Maduro, following lack of the OAS involvement in the ongoing spat.

“I want President Maduro to know I’m willing to meet, but Colombians must have their basic rights respected and we need him to take steps in that direction,” Santos said.

Around 11,000 Colombians have left Venezuela since the partial closure of the border, whom Santos claims must be allowed to go back and claim their possessions.

A total of 2,000 children have also been unable to cross to border to attend school in Colombia.

“If those conditions, which are minimum humanitarian conditions, are met, I’ll sit down to fix this problem,” Santos concluded.

For now Maduro is yet to respond.

See more:

Maduro calls Uribe out in weightlifting video

Colombians face deportation as Maduro launches security crackdown