Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Illegality and immorality of Guatemala´s election process

(This is an important commentary on an upcoming election in a country that has virtually been forgotten by the international media, but where I have watched a fragile civil society struggle against organized crime and drug traffickers since my first visit there in 2003. Some of my own articles on Guatemala can be read here, here and here. MD)

Illegality and immorality of Guatemala´s election process

By Barbara Schieber in the Guatemala Times

March 2011

(Read the original article here)

The long expected and for some dreaded announcement of the divorce proceedings of the Guatemalan Presidential couple came today. The divorce is a strategy to legalize the candidacy of First Lady Sandra Torres de Colom according to the Guatemalan constitution. For many months now, there have been constant violations of the constitutional laws of Guatemalan by the political parties. All parties have violated the law in one way or another; there are no innocent politicians in this election year. Our question is what is illegal and what is immoral or is it all the same in politics?

Today in Guatemala, the most frequently used description for the divorce strategy is that it is immoral. The churches, catholic and evangelical mega-churches (both a very powerful influences in Guatemalan politics) have already declared that the divorce is to be condemned and immoral. It is unacceptable before the Catholic Church.

Since last year there have been constant violations of the constitutional laws of Guatemalan by the political parties. All parties have violated the law in several ways, illegalities and disrespect for the law has been the main signature of the election year so far. It is feared it will only get worse. There are no “innocent” politicians in this election year.

The gravest violation of the laws have been:

1. Promoting anti- constitutional candidates, or promoting changes to the constitution to change the laws stipulating the presidential candidate’s requirements, which is a crime according to the Guatemalan constitution.

2. Election propaganda before the commencement of the legally established election period (May 2011).

3. Refusal of political parties to disclose their financial records.

There are and have been several “illegal” candidates this election year

1. Mayor of Guatemala City, Alvaro Arzu, ex-president of Guatemala. Article 186 of the Guatemalan Constitution states that the person who has been president by democratic elections or coup d'état, can not be eligible as presidential candidate. His decision to run for the presidency caused alarm in the right wing sectors of Guatemala. After a “no” answer to his inquiries at the Guatemalan Congress to legitimize his candidacy, Alvaro Arzu has now decided to promote his wife Patricia de Arzu as the presidential candidate of his party. The PR campaign is up and running, the picture shows Patricia de Arzu alone now (a week before it was the couple) with a slogan of kindness and order.

She is still the wife of Alvaro Arzu, meaning a relative of a Guatemalan ex-president, maybe they will decide to get a divorce too? Patricia de Arzu is a prominent member of Opus Dei (Catholic Church sect); they have a very powerful and rich constituency.

2. Parliamentarian, Zury Mayté Ríos Montt Sosa de Weller is the daughter of ex- military dictator Efrain Rios Montt. Se was proclaimed the official candidate for president of the FRG party in October 2010. She is legally barred as a candidate according to the Guatemalan Constitution that bars presidential family members from running. Her brother, ex-military Enrique Rios Sosa has been found guilty of serious crimes and is currently in jail. She has very powerful friends in AIPAC, Washington. D.C.

The decision to determine the legality of a candidate rests in the hands of Guatemala’s Constitutional Court, a court that once ruled that Efrain Rios Mont had no legal impediment to run for presidency. A decision that later was overturned. General Efraín Ríos Montt seized power in a coup d'état in 1982.

Illegal Propaganda Activities

Basically all the legally registered political parties are guilty of early promotion of their political parties and presidential candidates. The official date to start election propaganda by law, according to the Supreme Electoral Court of Guatemala, is in May 2011. Several parties have been fined because they infringed the law. Some candidates publish paid pages of informative messages in the printed press and spots on national TV, cable and radio stations. The printed press, Cable, TV and radio stations accept these payments. The Guatemalan Supreme Electoral Court claims that their budget is far too small to monitor and detect all the illegal political propaganda activities.

The political propaganda issue shows that none of the political parties or candidates have respect for the law. It is a mayor issue of show of character and probable future attitudes towards respecting any law of the country. Every party accuses the others of infringing the law that includes the official party UNE.

Is this illegal or immoral?

Lack of transparency in the financing of the political parties

The law of political parties in Guatemala is obsolete; it has a series of flaws that impede the possibility to seriously audit the parties’ sources of income. Since large amounts of cash transactions are possible, the books that the parties keep to comply with the law of political parties can in theory exclude the cash transactions and therefore may not be a reflection of the reality of financing. The date to present the most recent financial statement of the political parties came and went without any of them presenting the required information, including the ruling party UNE.

In our perspective, this is the most serious and ominous infringement of the law. Money is the determining factor in this election as in most elections. The persistent lack of disclosure of the origins of the financial support to the political parties is the greatest danger to Guatemalan democracy.

Is this illegal or immoral?

The Narco scenario

It is no secret that 60 % or more of Guatemalan territory is in the hands of the narco business. Guatemala has been invaded by narco - gangs and drug lords, also drug money, a consequence of the drug war strategy of the US, not noticing that Guatemala and Central America have to exist between Colombia’s and Mexico’s war on drugs. As an exact replica of the cold war period, now the superpowers realize that if Guatemala goes, all Central America goes as a narco - region. Such was the saying during the cold war such is the saying now in the “war on drugs”.

From our perspective all political parties in Guatemala have committed numerous, repeated illegal and immoral acts. There is no “better” political party, there is only “worse”. The political parties have no ideology except power. Left and right does not exist anymore, it is power for power sake. This is a struggle for the economic resources of the country. The elections are a pretext to see who will keep what is left over from Guatemala, which is not much. Democratic principles have nothing to do with it.

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