Monday, 5 November 2007

New President for Guatemala.

The results are in from the Guatemalan Presidential Elections held yesterday.

Alvaro Colom is set to be the next president of Guatemala. The centre-left former businessman is being credited with just over 52 percent of the vote, five percent more than his rival in the second round run-off ballot. It's Colom's third attempt at the presidency. In a campaign marred by violence, he accused his opponent of wanting to take the country back to the dark days of military rule. Otto Perez Molina, a retired army general, had pledged to launch a military-backed crackdown on crime.

It was quiet here on the Rio yesterday with alcohol sales banned from Saturday 12 noon until this morning (Monday) 9am. We have seen this ban during elections across Central America and it appears to be rigorously enforced. Elections here generate high emotion and in a country where almost 6,000 people were killed last year, out of a population of 13 million, any measure to curb over zealous behaviour is to be applauded.

Violence is usually blamed on gangs of youths, but many analysts also point to the penetration of the state by organised criminal groups intent on eliminating rivals. There are also claims of social cleansing by death squads.

Guatemala has one of the highest murder rates in the world, and more than 50 political activists were killed in the run-up to the election.We noticed a high armed presence here with military helicopters flying overhead and boats full or gun toting soldiers patrolling the river. There certainly seemed to be a big show of 'policing' the democratic process.

The newly elected President, Colom, has said fighting poverty is the best way of tackling violent crime but has admitted that members of drugs cartels have managed to infiltrate his party.

Across Guatemala, turnout was light for yesterday's voting, after a nasty campaign that centered on the crime and corruption that have made a mockery of Guatemala's democratic institution.

We hope that Guatemala will make inroads into its many problems under the new leadership... it looks like being a long and difficult road.

I am continually surprised by the number of cruisers I talk to who have little idea of the realities of the countries that they stay in.To my mind one of the most fascinating aspects of this itinerant lifestyle we lead is to begin to understand the National Psyche of the places that we visit. Without that interest cruising can swiftly degenerate into just another island/beach/venue.
One day, hopefully far in the future, I look forward to remembering the many faceted aspects of the cultures I have been privileged to visit.

No comments: