Friday, August 5, 2011

Encuentro con las Patriota y otros escenarios/Encounter with the Patriotas and other scenarios

It seems this is turning into a blog that is as much about the Guatemalan elections as it is about community radio or my research. And actually the elections are turning into part of the larger picture of the research since they dominate the landscape and the preoccupations of the people closest to me.  So the drama about Sandra Torres continues. I don't want to get into a thoroughly byzantine discussion of the electoral system here, but her candidacy was denied on the grounds that she divorced her husband just to avoid the constitutional proscription against family members of presidents running for office. Since that denial, her backers have taken the case to the courts, but simultaneously have gotten their followers (one of the terms used here is "co-religionarios" or correligionists) to take to the streets in great numbers. So traffic has been a mess in many places. You can hardly drive anywhere in the country on the weekend without having to stop and let some cavalcade of political supporters of one or another party pass by.  This morning I was picking up Doña Fermina to go to Santa Cruz as I had an entire truckload of campaign material for her, Doña Mati and the other Winaq/Frente Amplio candidates, and she mentioned that she had heard that Sandra was gathering a large concentration of women in Santa Cruz, principally women who had been beneficiaries of one of the social programs she had championed, Mi Familia Progresa (My Family Progresses), which is basically a handout of either Q300 or Q600 to women in needy families. 

Later in the day I was talking with some friends about the likely outcome of this legal process -- and what those boded for the governability of the country. One of my friends had noticed what she took to be a veiled threat in a statement by Sandra Torres referencing the armed conflict and saying that there had been enough blood already. My friend thought it was possible that the there could be some kind of coup attempt, staged (I think this was her scenario) by the UNE, the party in power, leading to a Honduras-type situation. 

Most people think that Otto Pérez Molina will be the next president, although my friends in the Frente Amplio are campaigning vigorously and folks were very energized when the nominees of the party received their credentials as candidates. Therefore, the compañeras in Ixmukané have decided that they need to find ways of working with the Patriotas. So, they have invited the candidates for congress to a working meeting in a few weeks (and they very much want me to be there which means cutting short the trip to Tikal with my daughter and brother), and made a tactical decision to present the invitations in person. Which meant going to an event organized by the Patriota in Chichicastenango. There we were in a sea of orange shirts (the color of the party), listening to speech after speech by the candidates for congress and also Mayor of Chichi. I will report later on the content: hard to fault their description of the poverty, violence and uncertainty that characterize Guatemala today. It was an uncomfortable hour and a half, however. I felt very out of place and a bit uneasy, given that the party is headed by a genocidal war criminal. Doesn't exactly inspire a warm and secure feeling inside me.

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