Guatemala’s Utopian Dream of Democracy

By Carolina Vasquez Araya on August 13, 2019

Sunday’s presidential elections in Guatemala presented a choice between two ultra reactionaries; conservative former first lady Sandra Torres and Alejandro Giammattei, a right-wing former prison chief who won handily with less than 40% of the eligible voters participating. It was a damned if you do damned if you don’t election for the people of Guatemala with Giammattei’s world view resembling  that of Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro; he wants to expand corporate mining in Indigenous lands, has close ties to the military and factions linked to corruption, is virulently anti LGBTQ and more as this article points out. Editorial

Elections in Guatemala give a bitter lesson to its citizens and lay the foundations for the biggest historic setback experienced by a country in the region. The process repeated itself last Sunday; it was not joyful but painful and left more doubts than certainties. As a matter of fact, messages of deep pessimism abounded in the social media and the press. Democracy was notable by its absence since the moment citizens were forced to choose between two candidates suspected of electoral crimes, with links to drug trafficking, and extrajudicial killings under the shelter of a corrupt judicial system. This is to say, it was the worst of all possible scenarios.

Next on the agenda is for citizens to be on alert to prevent institutionalized abuses on behalf of a system completely separated from the goals of any political proposal. Such a system is not only indifferent to the nation’s interest but also divorced from the basic rights of the population because of its commitment to business cartels supported by major union organizations, whose maneuvers have distorted institutional bases resulting in the consolidation of a process that undermines democracy and the rule of law.

The greatest obstacle will be of course the lack of reliable information directed to a public that for the most part lacks evidence because a precarious education system and an increase in poverty have played a significant role in undermining people’s participation. As these new elected elements are inserted into power, perspectives are disheartening given their strong commitments to those who funded their aspirations to assume the presidency. It is more of the same but with a different face and it will follow the path marked by those who really control the State since long ago.

The destination of new generations will attract attention from this new replacement. There will be those endless caravans of childhood and youth fleeing north in the pursuit of a fresh breath, the hope of something different to a life marked by misery, criminal violence and abuse. If the inexplicable decision of making Guatemala a concentration camp for migrants comes true, the situation of children and teenagers will go from bad to worse due to the inevitable threats that will confront their integrity and because their current miserable opportunities would be reduced to zero.

The absence of discussions of new government programs during the election campaign remained as the symbol of identity for the contending political parties. Their populist platforms were full of threats, including the death penalty, extrajudicial killings, criminalization of human rights, and the setback of social achievements. This is what represents the new face of dictatorship disguised as nationalism. It is a harsh and openly threatening environment for disappointed and vulnerable citizens as expressed in the illegal and blatant authoritarianism boasted in the social media by some despotic mayors without any response of higher authorities.

To sum it up, the necessary and urgent change needed in Guatemala has been postponed for another four years, a term during which the bad aspect of the current administration may dramatically worsen. Focusing on the inspecting the citizenry is top priority in a country so punished by corruption and the abuse of politically and economically powerful sectors. Thus, unity and consensus of the people is the only option if democracy is to ever be restored. When the hope for change is lost, we have nothing but to insist until achieving it.

Source: Rebelion, translation, Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau