Guatemala at a Crossroads: The Elections of 2011
Date and Time
Wednesday, October 19, 2011 from 12:15 p.m. to 1:45 a.m.
Institute for Peace & Justice, Rooms A/B
San Diego, CA 92110
Nery Rodenas and Carlos Alarcón Novoa, representatives from the Archbishopric’s Office for Human Rights in Guatemala (ODHAG) discussed the prospects of the two major candidates for the November runoff elections in Guatemala, as part of a conversation sponsored by the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice at the University of San Diego.
Guatemala is a country enduring an unfortunate legacy of violence and human rights violations due to its previous internal conflict between the government and the guerrillas. Today, it is among the countries with the highest murder rates, and approximately 98% of murders in Guatemala go unpunished. Additionally, there is a growing inequality of wealth due to high poverty, gross acts of violence are inflicted against women, and the health of the population is more comparable to African countries than the rest of the world. The winner of the upcoming election will face these challenges.
The two candidates are Manuel Baldizón of the LIDER party, a businessman who claims to identify with the youth and elder citizens of Guatemala, and Otto Pérez Molina, the former head of military intelligence. Both men plan to address criminality by taking a firm hand through punitive measures, which may repress, rather than address, the security issue. Human rights advocates fear Molina, in particular, whose unyielding military stance may lead to a rise in human rights violations.
During the talk, the representatives from ODHAG discussed the candidates’ political strategies, including their ties to drug trafficking groups, their manipulation of the media, and their inability to confront the country’s problems. The representatives argued in favor of reform in the electoral system and for a political party that best represents the different social groups of Guatemala—rather than the candidate with the most money for publicity. They asked the international community to support these changes, as the current candidates compete for the presidency.
—Connie Dang, USD Law School 2013
Joan B. Kroc Institute For Peace and Justice