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Between these lines…It’s Torres versus Giammattei in Guatemala elections next week

Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2019. 11:22 am CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Glenn Tillett: A few days from today, next Sunday, August 11th, Guatemalans will go to the polls to choose either Sandra Torres or Alejandro Giammattei to be the next president of the republic.

Both candidates have been campaigning for the office for over a decade, this is Torres’ third try and Giammaattei’s fourth. Much has changed in that time where the conduct of Guatemala’s democracy is concerned, and it is not only possible but probable that that nation could have its first female president as of next Monday.

Although her lead in the opinion polls I have seen over the past month or so continues to steadily shrink, Torres was still leading Giammattei in nearly all by an average of several percentage points, after having won the first round of voting on June 16, 2019 by more than 11 percentage points, (25.54% – 13.95%), until today.

Both candidates have campaigned hard without any impactful or negative newsworthy incidents and are now on what the press there call their final campaign tour. Both candidates have formally met with civic, social and industry organizations and associations and even though it is not mandatory, it is as they say de-rigueur, which is to say expected and even demanded. Again, this is another aspect of their election process that I wish we would adopt.

Torres and Giammattei formally met with the powerful and highly influential national mayors’ association to discuss their views and perspectives on governance, social and development issues. In both cases, the mayors respectfully listened to their pitches and then closely questioned their proposed policies. It has been a long, painful, blood-spattered road but Guatemala continues to bend towards a more accountable, transparent social and political economy with meaningful participation by its citizens.

Yes, there will continue to be setbacks and steps back but overall their progress to this point in the past few years have been, in my opinion, has been remarkable. I like that Guatemala’s Electoral and Political Parties Law establishes that the electoral campaigns must conclude 36 hours before the day of the election, that is, by noon Friday, August 9th, and it is a law I continue to advocate should be adopted here in Belize.

I so wish that here in Belize we had even an approximation of their campaign finance reporting laws. The press reported that the campaigns certified to the Control and Control Unit of the Finance of Political Parties, that they spent a total of Quetzal (Q) 6.1 million on their campaign expenses for June. The Torres campaign spent Q4,462,513.44 and their biggest expense was for transportation since she traveled to several of her campaign stops by helicopter. These formed the bulk of the listing of her “non-cash expenses campaign” (Q2,346,628.45).

It is noteworthy that her campaign lists only Q56,972.16 in “Cash expenses” compared to the Giammattei campaign which lists almost five times that at Q255,899.81 in “Cash expenses”, but less than half of the Torres total overall, for their campaign expenses for June at Q1,792,671.46.

I surmise that Torres support in the rural areas particularly, but overall has been eroded by corruption charges, the decision to join with Jimmy Morales in opposing CICIG, her refusal to offer any comment on the disenfranchisement of Thelma Aldana, and her insistence on a partisan political pantry program.
Giammattei’s support has increased particularly in the urban areas but not remarkable so. He is the status quo candidate.

I do not know enough about Guatemala to make any prediction as to the result of Sunday’s election or what changes we could expect if either becomes the next president of the republic. Guatemala’s ruling military oligarchy has nakedly sought to incorporate Belize over the last 200 years but it seems to me there are today a few policies and practices that we could and should emulate.

A week or so ago students at San Carlos University refused to let their Deputies, the members of their Congress, the equivalent of our House of Representatives to use their library to meet. The congressional building is undergoing extensive repairs and renovation, but it is law in Guatemala that the House of Deputies MUST meet twice each month.

Here in Belize House meetings are called on a whim it seems, and there’s one representative who hasn’t attended a meeting in God knows how long …


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