Sunday, October 23, 2011

Visual imagery and rhetoric of the campaign

So now we are in the second round of presidential campaigning and the two candidates have made new billboards and posters. Manuel Baldizon's billboards are almost all just a photo of him, with some text. "Vamos hacia un futuro mejor" (we are going toward a better future) is the most common slogan. However, the angle of the photograph is different -- and by the way, the photographs are just of his face. In the earlier posters and billboards, he was looking slightly upwards, so the angle of the camera seemed to be just a little bit below his chin. He looked, a friend thought, like Buddy Holly. Now, in the new billboards, the camera is level with his face and he is looking straight forward. But there are no other people in the photos -- just Baldizon. Not even his running mate. Curious about what this represents in terms of a strategy -- just slam the candidate's face everywhere?

Otto Pérez Molina, on the other hand, and his running mate Roxanne Baldetti, have billboards that are intended to show the warm and fuzzy side of each of them. In one billboard photo, Pérez Molina stands smiling, embracing two young Maya girls, one on each side. I don't remember what the slogan is; the image itself is enough to make me vomit. Here, someone who supervised genocide in Maya communities, whose soldiers raped and tortured and murdered Maya women, presenting himself as the great friend and protector of Maya females (note that they are girls and not women; not sure how much to read into that). In another billboard, he is surrounded by 4 or 5 young people, mostly wearing casual clothes but I think there is one young woman in traje típico. I have only seen these billboards along the highways where there is not really any place to pull over and take a closer look. This one talks about opportunity and education. Then there is one billboard of Roxanne Baldetti also surrounded by Maya females -- but in her photo, there is one woman with a baby strapped around her back, and then girls of different ages. So clearly they are trying to present themselves as the ones who will take care of the Maya.

Then in today's paper, there was an article noting that Pérez Molina has announced that if elected he will work on behalf of Guatemala migrants in the U.S.  This should have some resonance (I am not sure he or any president will actually DO anything, mind you) in light of this week's news announcing the number of Guatemalan deportees from the U.S.  Since so many people have migrant relatives, and everyone knows that the U.S. economy is not in good shape, improving conditions for migrants will strike a chord for many people.

Of course, I hope that people see through the smokescreen of Pérez Molina's rhetoric. Not that I think Baldizon is any kind of knight on a white horse, but at least his hands are not drenched in the blood of the people of the altiplano.

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