Saturday, September 24, 2011

The pundits of the cantina//Los politólogos de la cantina

So, the election campaign is back in full swing. Ads every five minutes on the radio, sound trucks making the rounds. Baldizón (he's the one who is not a war criminal, and the one who comes from a very rich family) is touting how much of his personal success came from hard work (what? inherited wealth had nothing to do with it? Puh-leese!), and how he believes in a Guatemala for everyone. He is also reiterating his support for the death penalty, pledging to make everyone's family safer by instituting capital punishment. These words have a particular resonance in the way of the Troy Davis execution, and the debate about capital punishment in the United States. I guess he hasn't read any of the many studies that provide evidence that capital punishment is not a deterrent to crime.

And then in the other corner we have the former general who authored and authorized atrocities and genocide against the Maya population, who gets his knickers in a twist when people make that a campaign issue and charge them with negative campaigning and smear tactics.

Not a very appealing set of choices. 

In the last couple of days I've started to ask Guatemalan friends what they think are possible outcomes of the election. My questions were not so much about who they thought would win, but what they thought would happen if Baldizón won or if Pérez Molina won. The title of this entry comes from a friend who is a keen observer of the political scene here, who recently described himself as a "political analyst of the cantina" (basically a tavern; cantinas usually serve liquor and food, but not as extensive a menu as a restaurant), since he and a group of friends meet most Saturdays in a cantina to discuss politics, among other things.

So far, most think that it is a pretty grim outlook in either case. No one expects either man to put much effort into promoting social programs. One friend said he thought that it would be extremely close, no matter who won. But if Baldizón won, he thought that Pérez Molina would ensure that the country became more violent and more insecure. Much of the violence is tied to organized gangs who are tied to traffickers of various sorts, predominantly narcotraffickers, and the military, he reminded me, is deeply, deeply invested in narcotrafficking. Many argue that narcotrafficking is basically a military operation: that when they had to stop the war in 1996, the military (former and current) turned their energies to other enterprises.  So, Pérez Molina and his cronies in the organized crime arena would do their best to ensure that the country would be ungovernable.

On the other hand, my friend thought, if Pérez Molina won, there might be a drop in violence due to organize crime since Pérez Molina "would find other ways of taking money out of our pockets and putting it in his."

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