Just days after former President Otto Pérez Molina resigned and was subsequently sent to prison, Guatemalans took to the polls on September 6 to elect a new leader. FCN candidate Jimmy Morales — a comedian with no political experience, but who has marketed himself as a “new option” — led the presidential race, winning almost 24% of the vote. Initial counts have revealed an extremely close race between the two second-place finishers, Manuel Baldizón (LIDER) and Sandra Torres (UNE). Although the final numbers are not yet known, Torres seems to hold a slight lead, and will likely face Morales in a runoff election set for October 25.
The overall mood remained peaceful and calm on election day, although several complaints were reported, including vote buying, interference from political parties, and ballot burning in some municipalities.
Analysts warn that whoever assumes the presidency will face a multitude of challenges, including a looming financial crisis and a citizenry that is no longer afraid to demand reform.
This week, former Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina was indicted and will face charges of criminal conspiracy, fraud and accepting bribes. Prosecutors will have three months to continue the investigation, during which time Pérez Molina will be held in preventative prison — an order that Pérez Molina’s lawyers have since appealed. On Wednesday, a court also froze some $700,000 in Pérez Molina’s bank accounts.
The former president maintains that he is innocent, and has accused the US of meddling in Guatemalan politics, endorsing the CICIG, and of orchestrating a “soft coup” against him.
The Ministry of Finance has highlighted several obstacles to complying with the government’s reparations plan for communities affected by the Chixoy dam — challenges that may continue to interfere with Guatemala’s negotiation of loans from multilateral financial institutions.
Although Q107 million was allocated to communities in this year’s budget, the process remains stalled. The 2016 budget contains the same amount, but must still be first approved by congress in order to take effect.
In the first eight months of 2015, deportations of Guatemalans from the US dropped 44.9%; however, in the same time period, deportations of Guatemalans from Mexico have doubled. According to a report by the Migration Policy Institute, Mexico is on track to have deported 70% more Central Americans by the end of this year.