Sunday, November 6, 2011

The second round, or la media vuelta

There is a beautiful Cuban song, "La media vuelta" (the half turn) that was set to a rumba rhythm some years back, I'm not sure by whom.  The persona of the song is man who is telling his beloved he wants her to go around the world and look for someone who is his equal, to kiss other lips ... but then, if she finds someone who loves her better than anyone, he will do a half turn and leave with the sun ("entonces yo daré la media vuelta, y me iré con el sol, cuando muera la tarde."). For some reason the refrain of that song and the image of the half-turn has been in my mind today as I have been sitting in the quiet, clean, modern comfort of a 1960s apartment building in San Diego, California (actually La Jolla), as I have been contemplating today's election in Guatemala, and wishing, vainly, that I could be there.

To what end, I don't exactly know. I cannot vote; there are no alternative parties that I would support in this round. But reading what my friends have been writing about their anguish, their mixed feelings, on this day, I guess I would want to be there just to be able to hug them, to sit and talk with them, to share a drink, to share  a laugh, a cry, a manifestation.  I don't know what I would do if I were there: scream, rage, cry, laugh, protest. The latter doesn't seem a very viable option; no one on the left is putting together any kind of alternative response. And so, I would probably sit in my home, or go out to one of the voting centers.

What I read in the paper was that they have sent 50 extra police to my little town, to try and prevent a reoccurrence of the mob that struck on September 11 (actually the early hours of the morning on September 12). And a total of 250 extra police or soldiers for the department of Quiché as a whole.  For the sake of everyone who is voting and the people working at the polls, I hope that the partisans of the major parties, who are the ones behind the violence, decide to allow the faulty and fractured democratic process, such as it is, to proceed without throwing up additional obstacles.  During the few days before my departure, there were news stories about meetings with the political parties asking them to keep their sympathizers in line, and also some ads from the Tribunal Supremo Electoral urging people to respect the results of the elections.

Another bit of electoral ephemera was a story on Guatemalan radio a few days ago, maybe the day I left, that in several municipalities where there had been violence around the September 11 election, the Tribunal Supremo Electoral  could not find anyone who was willing to help out with the vote count, because all the local residents were worried about retribution, and that these municipalities had had to appeal to the TSE to bring in people who were not residents of the municipality to work on the vote count.

I want to share some of the reflections of my beloved friends here, to give you a sense of how people are thinking. One friend, an activist with Winaq (the indigenous political party) late last night wrote that he was planning to cast a blank or null ballot. He just couldn't bring himself to vote for either party.

Another friend, who was in the armed resistance when he was young, and is also a supporter of Winaq,  wrote a series of updates on Facebook, and I'm going to translate:  "The polling place is very close, a block from my house; I wish that the elections were like something that is written on paper, like a story, like a document and that the crayon that I am going to use was an eraser to put an end to that which is written; but the reality is something else, I only dream that with the marker I can say to the one who committed genocide, that we continue being enemies and that with me, he will never sign  Peace Accords, because I don't forgive him for having killed my sisters and brothers, because I have dignity. So I will vote against [him]."  Later, he wrote, "I have passed the bad time, in the table [at the pollling place] they gave me another little piece of apper that says 'Proof of voting general elections 2011.' I asked them 'What good is this?' They said, 'For some transaction or procedure.' [the word 'trámite' is used to refer to official transactions, filling out paperwork, as in getting a license or taking money out of the bank]. I said to them, didn't it seem that this was they try to fool us, and they fool us... now we have to wait 4 years more in order to see if an alternative there is none."

My friend Gustavo's wall post. The text reads, "Justice: one
more product what we can purchase."
His last comment (as of now) was, "It is clear, my friend, that in Latin America, 'the military has been a great problem,' that's how it's been, and the worst os that in Guatemalan, the civilian rules are thieves, assassins, sons of .... Here in order to find one that is honest, incorruptible, one has to go out an search with the light of the sun and lighting our way with a candle."

Another friend, Gustavo (actually the 19-year old son of the person cited above), wrote a series of short updates yesterday and today, "It would be suicide to vote for the genocide," "I am going to vote against Otto," "Guatemala Never Again." The latter was the title of the massive report published in 1998 detailing the genocide of the 1980s; the chief author of the report, Monsignor Juan Gerardi, was killed in his residence two days after the report's publication, so the title "Guatemala Never Again" has a double significance.  This morning, Gustavo wrote, "I put on the t-shirt that my father brought me from NIcaragua, ready to go to the polls for the second time and for the first time. My ideology is very clear, my ideals are very strong, my dreams very grand. This one is the great devil, my vote is against the other one. We cannot change the country with either of these two who have trampled on us. It is sad to have to wait four more years to see if by some miracle a real political option will appear. The truth for me is that, it would be suicide to support the one who participate in genocide. But we have to be realistic and know that we are at the brink of a sad election for president. More than sad, depressing. Here we are always ready and prepared to struggle."

I am both heartened and saddened to read these missives. I wanted to reach out and hug both father and son, two of my dear friends, and share directly in their emotions of the day. But I am a thousand or so miles to the north, in California, only in Guatemala in my mind. Tomorrow I will arrive in the morning; since most of my journey will be at night, I don't know how I will find out about the results as the count will be overnight. Hopefully we will have some results.

Another friend and I were chatting online today, and he told me that he thought that the Partido Patriota was very scared (which might mean that they act violently). When I told him about the threats against the election observers from the Maya youth organization in four municipalities, he replied, "That means that the PP must be scared." And when I added that they had sent 50 additional police to Chinique, he responded, "Then they really are scared."

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