Those wacky Guatemalans; Those wacky Democrats

So it’s election time again in Guatemala, a country often on my mind, and we have the usual choice between a mildly corrupt centre-left candidate and a retired general from the military dictatorship era. The URNG, the left-wing reincarnation of the former guerrilla army, seems to be basically out of the running now that a more centrist alternative has presented itself. This year’s centre-left guy is up on this year’s retired general guy 27% to 25% in the first round of voting, which the European Union’s observers praised for being far more fair and peaceful than last time; so far only 50-odd candidates, staff, and their family members have been killed. (Then again, as Guatemala rates as one of best countries to visit if you want to get yourself shot, this sort of thing happens all the time and not just during elections.) Last time, this same centre-left guy lost in the second round by just 4%, so he could well win, making him the first left-wing president since that nasty CIA coup in back in 1954. However, retired general guy is running on the always-popular “tough on crime” platform (slogan: “mano duro” (“the strong fist”)), so it’s pretty much a coin toss. Ah, well. At least Ríos Montt’s political career seems to be dead (for now).

In other news, the Democratic candidates held the first-ever Spanish language televised debate. (The Republicans have no plans to follow suit.) This strikes me as rather late in coming, since here in Canada running for head of state without being able to express yourself bilingually is unthinkable, and the minority language here isn’t all that more prevalent than in the US (24% francophone vs. 14% Latino), just better entrenched. Mind you, none of the candidates actually spoke in Spanish; they responded to questions via simultaneous translation (try getting away with that here!), and they pretty much ignored such reasonable questions as “if you’re building a fence on the Mexican border because of security and not racism, why isn’t there one on the Canadian border?” Nice of you to make a token effort, guys. Pero pueden hacer un poco más, ¿no?

Oh, and speaking of the centre-left and elections, the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair (a popular former provincial Liberal cabinet minister) is 5% up in the polls for today’s by-election. Good luck! The NDP may piss me off, but they usually piss me off less.