Torres and Giammattei: the two options for Guatemala's presidency

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These two conservative candidates will dispute at the polls for the second round amid general disillusionment over the inevitable continuation of the old policy

On June 16, Guatemala was on election day to decide who will occupy the presidency in the period 2020-2024. It has not yet been scrutinized all the tables two days later, date of writing of this article, but with 98% revised the candidates who will face the next August 11 in the second round are already clear: Sandra Torres of the UNE and Alejandro party Giammattei de Vamos, both conservative trend.

Leer en español: Torres y Giammattei: las dos opciones para la presidencia de Guatemala

On the one hand, as reported by the newspaper República, Torres acquired 1'112.559 votes, which earned her the first place with 25.74%, but still far from the 50% needed to take the presidency in the first round. On the other hand, Giammattei was in second place with 600,653 votes, 13.89%. It is worth mentioning also the high level of abstention: there was a participation of 4'981.899 people of the 8'150.221 enabled, that is, 3'168.322 decided not to vote, almost 40%.

Although the country's biggest challenges are corruption and migration, candidates' proposals seem to be focused on other fields. According to the BBC, Torres promised that his government would focus on four axes: "the economic reactivation, (...) work to guarantee security and justice, (...) social protection (...) and maximize efforts to guarantee the transparency of its management". Giammattei is not far behind in dealing with these challenges since his campaign emphasizes the conversion of Guatemala into an exporting country and dignifying the forces of order, especially the police, an aspect in affinity with the policy of hard hand he wants to apply.

Faced with these candidates who represent the continuation of the status quo, the reformist mood of the population remained on the floor, even lower than with the disappointment of the current president of the country, the humorist Jimmy Morales, who had promised to reform the institutions, but that didn't do much and even worsened things.

Among the most criticized things that he did, was to de-legitimize one of the most important organizations in Latin America to fight against corruption: the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), created in 2006 after the signing of an agreement between the UN and the Government of that time, and whose terms expire this year. This same prevention against the organization has the candidates, not only because they have already been accused by her in previous years, but because, as El País recalls, "none speaks, even remotely, of the return of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, which was projected as Guatemala's great hope for the establishment of an authentic State of law. "

In contrast to the position of politicians, the CICIG has great approval by the Guatemalans. At least 70% of the population, according to surveys consulted by Infobae, approves the commission and its work against corruption whose results have been the prosecution of 100 cases and the imputation of 700 people with links to more than 60 criminal networks. " Daniel Zovatto, director for Latin America of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, says on Twitter, "if the exit of CICIG materializes, this would represent a serious setback and a terrible antecedent in the fight against corruption not only in Guatemala but also in the entire Central American region. "

It may interest you: Guatemala: corruption scandals mark the presidential elections

Where do Torres and Giammattei come from?

The candidates for the second round are already old acquaintances in the traditional politics of Guatemala since she was a finalist in the previous presidential elections and he has thrown himself four times in office.

At the age of 63, Torres has a degree in Social Communication and is known for her business side, but especially for having been the first lady of former President Álvaro Colom, who governed between 2008 and 2012. On this occasion, she launched with the National Unity the Hope (UNE).

Although she herself calls herself a social democrat, her form of government is considered closer to the center-right, as she is recognized for not granting dialogues and being a firm hand. As political scientist Renzo Rosal for the BBC said, "Torres has emerged as a relatively strong political leader, characterized by being authoritarian, with a strong personality in which the whole party revolves around her, tax and little open to dialogue ", Rosal tells BBC Mundo."

It is also important to mention that she has been involved in corruption problems since the Public Ministry and the CICIG sought to judge her for alleged illicit financing in her 2015 campaign. However, this was not possible due to the political immunity that she acquired when she launched herself as a candidate, even after the previous institutions demanded that the Supreme Court of Justice be annulled.

Giammattei, also 63, is a doctor very interested in power for a long time, always with a different party, this time with Vamos, which has right-wing trend and with promissory, authoritarian and open-ended proposals in a quite conservative society, " according to Rosal. He also remembers that Giammattei "clearly is not a man of the party, but a man who is very interested in being president at all costs, who is defined as someone authoritarian, operative and of strong character".

He has gone through various positions in public bodies such as the Fire Department or the Superior Electoral Court, but he is mainly known for having directed the Penitentiary System between 2005 and 2007. This last recognition does not come from a job well done, but rather the scandal of Operation Peacock, a 'recovery' operation of the Pavón Penal Farm in which seven inmates were killed. Years later, thanks to investigations by the Public Prosecutor's Office and the CICIG, it was determined that this had not been more than a smokescreen for social cleansing with the good looks of top officials such as Giammattei. However, after a while, the trial did not remain at all because of the lack of evidence.

Probably, as has already been seen on the radar of the CICIG, Giammattei has publicly expressed that he does not support the renewal of the commission. As he affirmed in an interview for the BBC, "you can not renew something that was defeated, you would have to sit down with the organs of justice to evaluate the procedure of the CICIG"


LatinAmerican Post | Juan Gabriel Bocanegra

Translated from "Torres y Giammettei: las dos opciones para la presidencia de Guatemala"

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