Guatemala’s turmoil ahead of parliamentary elections
Sunday, September 6th, 2015. Aaron Humes Reporting: As polls take place today in Guatemala, the turmoil that toppled a president may not enough, protesters fear, to prevent a return to status quo.
Resigned Otto Perez Molina has denied allegations of a conspiracy to defraud the state by accepting bribes to let businesses evade import duties, and says he turned down ten to fifteen times the amount he is alleged to have been offered from escaped Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
While a judge deliberates whether there is enough evidence to charge the former leader and keep him in jail, Guatemalan voters must confront the spectre of no alternative as represented by the candidates in Sunday’s election.
Interim leader Alejandro Maldonado, 79, told Al-Jazeera that his short term in office will be dedicated to restoring confidence in state institutions and selecting a government balanced between mature leaders and young social activists.
But young voters may not believe him. One activist said younger voters in particular feel that voting is just to confirm who will loot the country, and want a reset of politics in the country.
Leading candidate Manuel Baldizon’s running mate is accused of influence tracking and voters have rejected his campaign slogan of “It’s my turn,”; his most competitive rivals are a comedian with no political experience, a former first lady and the daughter of an ex-dictator accused of genocide.
If none of the 14 candidates reaches 50 percent, a runoff will be held October 25.
According to a UN commission, Guatemalan politics are heavily financed by drug traffickers and other criminal networks in return for protection and favours.
Perez Molina himself faces likely charges of criminal association, taking bribes and customs fraud, prosecutors have said.
He is also being investigated for money laundering, after being elected in late 2011 on a ticket to fight crime and corruption.
Under Guatemala’s constitution, he was not allowed to seek re-election in Sunday’s presidential vote.
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