Monday, November 7, 2011

Tragedy, farce, a bit of both? Bad news in any case

I started this Sunday evening, November 6, when I was still in California:

The vote count is not yet final, but with over 90% of the ballots scrutinized, Otto Pérez Molina has over 54% of the votes for president, and Baldizón has about 44%. I am not surprised -- although there were some polls in the last week that showed Baldizón as the winner, others that showed Pérez Molina as the winner, enough so that it didn't seem a done deal. But it is deeply, deeply disappointing and disturbing nonetheless. I've started to look at the results in Quiché, municipality by municipality, and it seems that in a few of the communities where OPM was responsible for massacres, at least the PP did not get a majority, but as a friend pointed out, they still got around 40% in most places.  Here are some of the breakdowns:  Chiché (58%), Zacualpa (51.98%), Chajul (56.3%), San Antonio Ilotenango (63.46%), San Andres Sajcabaja (62.96%), Sacapulas (62.47%), Canilla (50.49%), Chicaman (51.36%), Ixcan .  (66.02%), Joyabaj (57.31%), Nebaj (55.51%). Chajul and Nebaj were sites of massacres for which Pérez Molina was directly responsible (as a commander), Ixcan is where a lot of ex-combatents were settled after the war. In my town of Chinique, the PP got over 60%.

The final vote count was 53.74% for Pérez Molina and 46.26% for Baldizón.  When I arrived today (we are back in the present tense now), I half expected to see orange banners flying in the streets and a lot of jubilant people. Life seemed much as normal -- well, as normal as I could tell from the little I see of Guatemala City, which is the road from the airport and then Calzado Roosevelt out of the city. Nothing much was happening, people were waiting at bus-stops, street vendors were carrying baskets on their heads, the women on the side of the highway north of Chimaltenango were fanning the flames to grill ears of corn. On the surface nothing seemed different, at least as much as could be seen through the window of a car. I would venture to say that most ordinary Guatemalans do not have very high expectations of politicians or of the political process and that people were probably just glad to get the elections over.

The general was on the radio several times giving interviews on different radio stations as I flipped through and nauseatingly enough thanked Radio Sonora, one of the major news stations, for their support.  Apparently he will be doing a victory tour, traveling around the country thanking people for voting for him. I am not looking forward to his forays into Quiché, but I suppose I will have to observe some of them.

So this still leaves a burning question about why a majority Maya population would vote in someone whose hands are drenched in the blood of their cousins, neighbors, parents, friends... It is true that the general received more votes from the areas with a higher concentration of non-Maya and wealthy people, but as my friend notes, even getting 45% in predominantly Maya communities in Quiché is not good -- that is, if one's interest is in seeing Maya communities have a forceful voice for themselves, and be able to push for the compliance with the Peace Accords and other national and international conventions that guarantee indigenous people's rights. We know that votes were purchased on a massive scale in the first round, and I would assume that the same was true this round.

We have a lot of work cut out for us in the next four years -- and I say "we" because I intend to stay involved with the Guatemalan left (such as it is) and see what I can do to be helpful so that 2015 might have a different outcome -- at least in some congressional races if not at the presidential level.

One of my friends wrote a long and somewhat painful reflection about why there was such as rejection of Winaq, the indigenous political party, which only became a political party in April of this year.  It is worth quoting at length:
I don't know why they are so repelled by Winaq
It took something away from them
It left them with something
But it only has 9 months of being a party
And they atack it as though it were the worst thing in the country.
Winaq is just one more party
The difference is that it has a Maya name and the majority of those who direct it are Mayas
And of course, since we are mayas, we are not good
But Adela Toerrebiarte [candidate for another party] is a ladina,
And it doesn't bother us that she has her party
And that she came in last place
Who criticizes her? No one...
or is the problem with Rigoberta?
The commentaries that I have heard about her outside of the country are very good and they
appreciate her a lot.
And so,
I, why can I not appreciate her.
Why can I not believe in her?
Why can I not be one of her followers?
Why can I not follow her to the ravine
And jump into it with her?
Because they make me feel that she is the worst thing...
Enough already with so much Malinchismo

The word "malinchismo" needs a bit of a gloss. Malinche was the indigenous Mexican woman who was Cortes' lover and translator. She is often criticized by Mexican nationalists (mostly male) for betraying her people. She is often referred to very crudely as "la chingada" (the one who was fucked). In the last few decades, Latin American feminists have critiqued the gender politics of this characterization of Malinche-as-traitor. So when my friend refers to Malinchismo here, he is saying that there is a lot of machismo in the rejection of Rigoberta; she is a Maya woman who has "stepped out of her place".

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