Tue, Aug 13, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Giammattei wins Guatemala election

‘FOURTH TIME LUCKY’:After 12 years of ‘waiting to serve’ his country, Alejandro Giammattei won the presidency with 58% of the vote, beating the former first lady


Guatemalan presidential candidate for the Vamos party Alejandro Giammattei speaks to supporters at the party headquarters in Guatemala City on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Conservative Alejandro Giammattei has blazed a long, strange path to Guatemala’s presidency, which he won on his fourth try.

The 63-year-old spent several months in prison in 2008, when he was director of the nation’s prison system, after some prisoners were killed in a raid on his watch. He was eventually acquitted of wrongdoing.

Until courts prevented some of the more popular candidates from running in this year’s race, he also appeared to be a long-shot candidate in a tumultuous campaign season.

However, on Sunday, his get-tough approach to crime and his socially conservative values, including his strident opposition to gay marriage and abortion, finally parlayed favor with Guatemalan voters in a presidential runoff.

Leaning on the crutches he uses because of his multiple sclerosis, Giammattei acknowledged in his emotional victory speech that it had been a long road.

“We won. We are very excited, it is logical, it has been 12 years of struggle,” Giammattei said. “Twelve years waiting to serve my country.”

With about 98 percent of polling places reporting, the Guatemalan Supreme Electoral Council said that Giammattei had about 58 percent of votes, compared with about 42 percent for former first lady Sandra Torres.

About 8 million Guatemalans were registered to vote, but in a nation beset by poverty, unemployment and migration issues, turnout as low as 45 percent appeared to suggest widespread disillusionment with the political status quo in general.

“I just hope Giammattei keeps his promises and really fights corruption,” Guatemala City resident Leonel Regalado said. “We hope he won’t steal, because that would be too much for him to steal as brazenly as [outgoing Guatemalan president] Jimmy Morales has.”

The presidential campaign was marked by a chaotic succession of judicial decisions, intrigues, illegal party changes and accusations of bad practices that truncated the candidacies of two of the three presidential favorites.

Giammattei’s key rival, Torres, who had been married to and divorced from former Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom (2008 to 2012), focused on improving education, healthcare and the economy during the campaign.

She also proposed an anti-corruption program, but her Unity for Hope party came under fire because some of its mayoral candidates were accused of receiving contributions from drug traffickers for their campaigns.

She became a key contender after Chief Prosecutor Thelma Aldana was barred from the race on the grounds that she lacked a document certifying that she did not have any outstanding accounts from her time overseeing a public budget as prosecutor.

Unity for Hope party secretary-general Oscar Argueta conceded defeat on Sunday.

The new president takes office on Jan. 14 and will most immediately face the task of attempting to stem the large flow of migrants headed toward the US.

At least 1 percent of Guatemala’s population of about 16 million has left the country this year.

On July 6, the Morales administration signed an agreement with the US that would require Salvadorans and Hondurans to request asylum in Guatemala if they cross through the country to reach the U.S.

The new president will have to decide whether to nullify or honor the agreement, which could potentially ease the crush of migrants arriving at the US border.

In addition to migration, Guatemalans say they are most concerned about entrenched corruption.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top