Guatemala’s next president has few plans for fixing rampant corruption, crime and injustice
13 Aug 2019

By Naomi Roht-Arriaza, University of California, Hastings

Guatemala’s next leader will be Alejandro Giammattei, a right-wing former national prison director.

With 58% of votes, Giammettei beat former first lady Sandra Torres by 16 points in the second round of Guatemala’s election on Aug. 11. It was his fourth presidential bid.

As a candidate, Giammattei spoke of creating jobs and fighting crime in the poor, violence-gripped Central American country. But his campaign offered few policy proposals beyond taking a hard line against gangs like MS-13 that operate with impunity in Guatemala, building new prisons and reimposing the death penalty.

Giammattei hasn’t yet agreed to implement Guatemala’s controversial recent agreement with the Trump administration to stop Central American migrants from crossing through Guatemala.

The 63-year-old Giammattei’s base includes former military members, the far right, evangelicals and business leaders – essentially the same electorate that put outgoing President Jimmy Morales in power. But polling suggests Giammattei won primarily due to the extreme unpopularity of his opponent, who has a history of corruption allegations.

Guatemalans were deeply unenthusiastic about both candidates. Just 42% of registered voters voted, the lowest percentage since the country’s civil war ended in 1996. Nearly 6% of them cast blank or spoiled ballots, apparently in protest.

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