Low Turnout Farce: Alvaro Colom Takes the Presidency

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(Esteban Felix / Associated Press)

Center-left candidate Alvaro Colom beat out right-wing candidate Otto Perez in what should largely be interpreted as a victory for the rural poor of Guatemala.  This picture (left) from the Prensa Libre election special (pdf) says it all:

Guatemala Election Results 2007.PNG
(Click to see the picture in greater detail)

The picture above shows that Colom won the vote in every single rural, poor, and indigenous department in Guatemala.  While there were problems with the election I can safely say that I am proud to be a Guatemalan citizen.  In my life I have only known a democratic Guatemala, and soon the country will be led by people that have known freedom instead of war. 

Renata Avila of Global Voices has a compilation of the challenges Guatemalan bloggers have for the next President.  Colom does not have a cakewalk in front of him, that's for sure.

It's been difficult to follow Guatemalan politics from abroad, but it doesn't take much digging to highlight problems with the international press coverage of the country.  U.S. press has misinterpreted a narrative of low-voter turnout that has effectively undercut the legitimacy of Colom in the eyes of the international community.

I just voted in Cambridge today in municipal elections that will be lucky to have 25% voter turnout and MSNBC has an entire story dedicated to low voter turnout at 41%?  Give me a break.

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10 Comments

kyledeb said:

I cross posted this on Daily Kos and Blue Mass. Group

RickB said:

I expect that narrative took greater shape when it appeared a down the line right winger (and SOA alumnus) was not going to win! Changes are afoot, I wish your country well.

kyledeb said:

Turnout was 13% in Boston and in Cambridge, where I voted turnout fell 33%, from 29% to just below 20%.

kyledeb said:

You said it, Rick. I'm not sure the narrative was malicious just shoddy reporting. Guatemala was reporting low turnout in comparison with the first round, but it doesn't make sense to say that when turnout is so low in the U.S.

Clip said:

The worst day for an election is a Tuesday, best day is Sunday.

Renata Avila said:

I was glad! Really happy beacause the people of rural areas who suffered the most the cruel civil war voted against the former general of Guatemalan Army, trained of course, in Fort B, SOA, etc.

kyledeb said:

I completely agree, Clip. I have been talking with friends in MA about how ridiculous it is that elections are held on Tuesday in the U.S. Who does such a thing? It was actually pretty nice, though, this is the first time I've voted non absentee, and I got to do so on my walk to work in the morning. It's gotta be the best way to start your day, doing your civic duty. I just wish others would do the same.

I'm glad to see your comment Renata. I can't thank you enough for keeping in touch with me. You give me a lifeline to my roots in Guatemala and it's because of you're inspiration that I will continue to post on happenings in the country. I'm sad to say that my Guatemalan readership has dwindled but I will regain it, eventually.

http://bookarmor.com/?p=550

This is a picture featuring an anti-Molina photocopy job that I found in a parking garage. You'll probably find it interesting and I am sure it's the only recorded example of this on the web.

After reading the Francisco Goldman book, I am not convinced that either scenario, Colom or Molina makes a genuine difference, in that the military benefits from a weak civilian leader and would perhaps have enjoyed a Molina presidency too. In terms of violent rhetoric and a ramping up of police numbers and the military thinking they can just do what they want, then yes, Colom helps prevent that.

Also, I thought previously that Molina would walk the Presidency in four years, now I do not. I feel that the military rejected him, behind the scenes, and that in four years he will have less support, not more, as other figures consolidate their position. From what I hear, Colom has more of an inside track than Molina with the narco traffickers (both were condemned by election observers for taking money from organised criminals) and he won Escuintla at a stroll (draw your own conclusions). I have to agree with Renata, great to see that out there in the villages that people rejected Molina, but with regard to the city, where some of the problems, with regard to security are coming off-the-scale, I can understand the appeal of the Mano Dura brand.

I have to laugh at Colom being reported as the first centre-left leader here. Firstly, because actual policy seemed to make no appearance in the election coverage, outside of El Hueso (that skinny guy with the bad hair who is always receiving death threats) and secondly, as I don't see relations with Washington changing anytime soon, I doubt very much that a raft of 'centre-left' policies are going to be rolled out.

One Mano Dura 'promotion' I caught was the sight of two indigenous women dancing for their lives to a tiny ghetto blaster at a traffic island in the city as night fell. It was surreal and shabby, two terms that sum up my feelings towards what I have witnessed here in the last four months.

I did meet Berger during this time, as a side note, and had a few words with him. A very relaxed and friendly guy in the flesh.

kyledeb said:

Hey Jason,

Always appreciate a perspective from inside of Guatemala. Thanks for the link to the poster. I had heard about nasty campaigning but the picture above really illustrates it. The Francisco Goldman book is also a good one and I've been setting up an interview with the author whom I've met through an acquiantance. I'm adding bookarmor to my blogroll.

Thanks Kyle, I will reciprocate with a link.

Around University of San Carlos there were good spray paint protests "No mas militares" and a skeleton holding a rifle with a red line through it.

Excellent news about a Francisco Goldman interview, there's also a good podcast he did for NY times book review - 09/28/2007 but can't find it now on their site, have file but is 22mb.

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This page contains a single entry by Kyle de Beausset published on November 6, 2007 9:47 PM.

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