An Historic Moment for Guatemala

Events in Guatemala have moved at a fast pace since April, beginning with the extension of the mandate of CICIG, the UN Commission charged with uncovering and prosecuting Guatemala's clandestine criminal networks, and culminating in the resignation, arrest, and jailing of President Otto Perez Molina and much of his administration,  Click here for a timeline of events. Since April, almost all sectors of Guatemalan society have been protesting in front of the national palace, demanding these resignations.  For once, legal processes and public protests have reinforced each other.

 

But what's next? A regularly scheduled national election took place last Sunday in spite of calls to postpone it until after there was time to push through reforms. Many felt that because the corruption is widespread and systemic, they merely will be electing new criminals to replace the old ones.  However, the months-long protests appear to have awakened a spirit of public vigilance, and new public officials will have to be on their guard.

 

Sunday's election produced no clear Presidential winner--no one received more than 50% of the vote. At this point, a comedian with no political experience but with ties to the military, Jimmy Morales, has the most number of votes (24% of votes cast), with votes for former first lady Sandra Torres and businessman Manuel Baldizon currently too close to call who will come in second.  A run-off election in October between Morales and the second place candidate will decide who will be the next president, but what is clear is that the long-suffering Guatemalan people are the only ones who will decide how long that president will remain in office.

 

Below are some articles for more reading:

"Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala Is Jailed Hours After Resigning Presidency"   http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/04/world/americas/otto-perez-molina-guatemalan-president-resigns-amid-scandal.html

"Guatemalan Revolt Against Authority Extends to Election"        http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/09/07/world/americas/ap-lt-guatemala-election.html