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Guatemala: Controversial General Elected President

School of the Americas alumni and retired General Otto Perez Molina is the elected President of Guatemala after a tight and highly polarized election, where a large percentage of voters abstained or voted blank. Also, for the first time in Guatemalan history, a woman, Roxana Baldetti [es] – currently a member of the Guatemalan Congress and a public relations expert – was elected vice-president.

Election results were close with an evident advantage in urban areas for the elected candidate, a very different result from the past election when rural voters elected the social democrat President Alvaro Colom.

Presidential elections were peaceful but tense. Apart from isolated incidents involving irregularities with votes, especially with the transport of voters in rural or marginal areas, few violent incidents and murders were reported in the Ushahidi platform Mirador Electoral [es].

Otto Pérez Molina -Picture by Flickr user Lestermosh under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license (CC BY 2.0).

Otto Pérez Molina -Picture by Flickr user Lestermosh under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license (CC BY 2.0).

Bloggers like Luis Figueroa were inviting others to vote [es] from early in the morning.

Others were very disappointed as both candidates did not meet their expectations, and decided to express why they would not vote and the dark perspectives they have for the future of the country, like Fe de Rata [es] and Hunahpu Ixbalanque [es] expressed in their blogs and many others commented on different social networks.

Iván Morales (@ivancarrera) in his blog PoliticaGT points out in his article: “If they are there it is because they represent someone” [es]:

Después de conocerse los resultados de la primera ronda y hasta el día de hoy ha prevalecido un sentimiento de apatía y frustración por el hecho de que los votantes deben elegir entre dos candidatos que no los representan y por tener que verse obligados a votar por el “menor de los males”. Por otro lado, trato de recordarme a mi mismo que los guatemaltecos que participan en las redes sociales no son el universo de la población del país, sino una muestra pequeña y poco representantiva de la diversidad poblacional que es Guatemala.

After knowing the results of the first election round and until today, there has been a prevalent feeling of apathy and desperation (on social networks) because voters must elect two candidates who don't represent them and were forced to choose between “the lesser of two evils”. However, I remind myself that Guatemalans that participate in social networks do not represent the universe of the population at all, that social networks are just a small, non representative sample of population from Guatemala.

Amazingly, it seems that the samples from social networks were accurate, at least in the city. Voters interviewed by Plaza Publica in an urban area of Guatemala said they were very skeptical [es] of the future of the country and the change any elected president can bring.

Since the ruling party did not present a candidate for president after former first Lady Sandra Torres Casanova was banned by the Constitutional Court to take part on the electoral process, the two parties which disputed the presidential seat were right-wing and very similar, promoting strong fist policies, militarization, benefits for foreign investors, and replicating the errors of the state sponsored assistance programs.

The elected president was a member of the Guatemalan Army, an institution with a vast record of human rights abuses; he served in one of the areas most affected by torture, murder, and massacres of indigenous peoples. During his presidency, high rank officers will be prosecuted for genocide and crimes against humanity, as Global Voices recently reported.

You can follow the conversation about the elections by browsing the hashtag #eleccionesgt. Reactions from Guatemalan citizens and from people all over the world are expected today and tomorrow. There is hope that the situation will remain as peaceful as it it now, a sign of mature and responsible democracy and citizenry.

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