Just a brief comment today on Sunday’s presidential election in Guatemala: Mexico’s southern neighbors gave some 60% of their votes to two candidates of the hard right who will now face each other in a November 6 runoff.
Retired General Otto Pérez Molina, whose campaign symbol was an iron fist (mano dura), is favored to win the runoff. He received some 36% of Sunday’s vote, while the second-place finisher, Manuel Baldizón, received 23%. Baldizón is a right-wing populist who not only promised to execute at least ten criminals a month as president of Guatemala, but also to make sure that Guatemala qualified for the 2014 World Cup futbol tournament. World Cup competition notwithstanding, it was disheartening to many Mexicans to see the mano dura emerge as a prominent symbol of the Guatemala campaign’s leading candidate.
The vote was held in the context of rising fear and insecurity. Several Mexican cartels, most prominently the notorious Zetas, have set up shop in Guatemala, transforming the country into a transshipment point for northward-bound Colombian cocaine (among other commodities like arms, people, and other illicit drugs).
As in Mexico, poverty and social disorganization have contributed to the narcos’ successes. In Mexico, militarization has proved to be an ineffective deterrent and has increased the level of violence. Alternative strategies—ranging from the legalization of marijuana to efforts to rebuild the “social contract”—have entered mainstream debates across the political spectrum.
Many Mexicans are therefore uneasy about the Guatemalan results. The unease focuses on the guarantees from both Pérez Molina and Baldizón that they will militarize the war against crime (aka the Drug War) in much the same way that President Felipe Calderón (and Colombia’s Álvaro Uribe) had done at a great cost of human life and with little success. Many Mexicans fear the success of a mano dura campaign in their own elections next July. Desperate situations, after all, provoke desperate—and illusionary—responses.
Read more from Fred Rosen's blog, Mexico, Bewildered and Contested at nacla.org/blog/mexico-bewildered-contested.