Presidential election in guatemala: cheating didn’t help him

Conservative Baldizon withdraws his candidacy for the presidency. Now a social democrat is running against the military candidate.

Until now, conservative Manuel Baldizon was considered the favorite in the race for the presidency in Guatemala. Photo: reuters

Sandra Torres will run against political newcomer Jimmy Morales in the runoff for president on Oct. 25. This has been certain since the withdrawal of Manuel Baldizon. This was confirmed by the electoral court on Wednesday.

With the words "Everything is a fraud," the 45-year-old entrepreneur, who comes from the northernmost administrative district of Peten, said goodbye to the race. On top of that, he gave up the post of secretary general of the conservative party of "Renewed Democratic Freedom" (LIder) and also wants to resign his mandate as a deputy. In Guatemala, this has brought a wave of schadenfreude, as Baldizon has been particularly outraged by irregularities in the elections in the rural regions.

But it is precisely there that his party, along with the social democratic "Unity of Hope" (UNE) of candidate Sandra Torres, is exceedingly well represented. Torres is benefiting from the decision of her competitor, whom many Guatemalans are calling an insulted liverwurst on social networks because his plans to assume the presidency have not come to fruition. Yet the multimillionaire, who has been able to acquire public land in Peten for ridiculous prices and calls the local Internet service provider his own, has not played by the rules himself.

A man with dubious business practices

According to the Supreme Electoral Court, he spent almost twice as much money on his campaign as was allowed and also used election gifts to lure the poorest of the poor to the polls. This is evidenced by photos and videos on the Internet showing envelopes with up to three hundred quetzales banknotes (the equivalent of 35 euros) being handed over. They were posted by Guatemalans who did not allow themselves to be prohibited from documenting irregularities in these elections.

The fact that Baldizon received around half of his election budget from a network of companies was only recently revealed by the online magazine Nomada. According to research by the UN Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), the other half could come from drug cartels that operate in Guatemala, especially in the north on the border with Mexico. This is where Peten – Baldizon’s political base – is located.

With the departure of the conservative string-puller, the decisive round begins in Guatemala. It remains to be seen whether Guatemala will have a woman in the presidential palace for the first time or a comedian on the military’s collar.

Jimmy Morales is backed by a group of ex-generals who founded the right-wing conservative Front of National Convergence (FCN). First on the list is ex-general Edgar Ovale, who is blamed for several massacres in the early 1980s in the Ixil-Maya settlement area. Human rights lawyers are currently considering filing a lawsuit against Ovalle. This would be a blow to traditional power structures.