The total vacuousness of Guatemala’s election

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

arsenal-bolt-logo

In the aftermath of a corruption prosecution that brought down the President, Vice President, and much of the cabinet, a mildly popular former first lady with a vague platform looks set to lose this weekend’s presidential election to a conservative comic actor promising virtually nothing.

“The candidates vying to be Guatemala’s next president” – France24.com:

Jimmy Morales, a 46-year-old comedian and actor, rose to fame playing the role of a simpleton cowboy who almost ends up becoming president. […] The final opinion poll before Sunday’s run-off election gave him 68 percent, against 32 percent for [former First Lady Sandra] Torres.
[…]
Running for conservative party FCN-Nacion, Morales has led a light-hearted campaign, cracking jokes at rallies but giving few concrete details on his policy plans. […] In his 2007 film “A President in a Sombrero,” Morales played a hayseed named Neto who nearly gets elected president by making a string of empty promises…
[…]
In real life, the current race is his first foray into national politics, though he once ran unsuccessfully for mayor of his hometown. Morales briefly studied management at university, but never finished his degree.

 


Previously from AFD on this topic:

– AFD by Kelley: “Guatemala has a lot to celebrate this independence day”
– AFD Radio with Bill and Kelley: Episode 144, Guatemala’s political upheaval.

AFD Radio Ep. 144 – Fr. Tony Akinwale on Nigeria’s Future

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

AFD-logo-470

Guest Interview by Bill: Fr. Tony Akinwale, Nigerian political philosopher and theologian of the Dominican Institute in Ibadan Nigeria. How Nigeria could become a world power very soon and what Americans should know about that country. Then: Kelley covers Guatemala’s political upheaval. Produced: September 18th, 2015.

Episode 144 (53 min):
AFD 144

Related Links

Fr. Tony Akinwale’s website
Nigeria Guardian: “The Real Name Of Corruption”, by Tony Akinwale
Nigeria Guardian: “Naming and renaming” (Public nomenclature under military rule), by Tony Akinwale
Nigeria Guardian: “A kingdom of warlords”, by Tony Akinwale
AFD by Kelley: “Guatemala has a lot to celebrate this independence day”

Subscribe

RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video game blog of our announcer, Justin.

Guatemala has a lot to celebrate this independence day

Today Guatemala celebrates its Independence Day and it is quite a different country than it was just 365 short days ago, or even six months ago, when I left Guatemala after finishing my two years of Peace Corps service in the rural, western highlands of the beautiful country.

Photo taken by Kelley in Cajolá, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala at a girls' leadership camp hosted by Kelley and local health center staff.

Photo taken by Kelley in Cajolá, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala at a girls’ leadership camp hosted by Kelley and local health center staff.

When people ask me if I am glad to be back, I sincerely respond that I am not sure if I’m glad to be back in the United States, but I am definitely glad that I am not in Guatemala anymore. You see, Guatemala is an extremely difficult place to live. Bus drivers are frequently shot by cartels when bribes are not paid; men present a real and constant danger in the street and at home because of an oppressively “machismo” mindset that persists in the country; and 50% of children are chronically malnourished, an unfathomable and heartbreaking statistic.

Not only is Guatemala a hard place to live, it is a really hard place to get things done, Decades of impunity, staggering inequality, and corrupt governments make Guatemala a perfect storm of inefficiency and the people of Guatemala, particularly the large indigenous population, are the ones who suffer. According to the World Bank, of every country in the world, Guatemala spends the least on health, education, and infrastructure, proportionate to its economy. The Executive Director of the Foundation for the Development of Guatemala (Fundesa), Juan Carlos Zapata, reports “We believe that 30 percent of the budget is lost to corruption.”

However, today as I think about Guatemala, I am able to reflect more softly on my experience and I have brighter hopes for what’s ahead in Guatemala. Maybe that’s just because my months at home have allowed me to physically and emotionally begin to recuperate from an exhausting two years.

But I think it has more to do with the political revolution that is well under way in Guatemala. Guatemalans in the capitol, Guatemala City, and around the country, have begun to say “enough is enough”. Maybe, like many other countries, this is because of the smart phone revolution, allowing people to spread pictures and ideas more easily. Maybe Guatemala is finally shedding the yoke of a 36-year-long civil war, which ended in 1996 but still stains every part of society. Whatever the reason, the actions taken by ordinary Guatemalan citizens in the past few months make me proud of the time I worked in the endlessly fascinating country of Guatemala.

Protests began in April after the Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala (International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, CICIG), an international body backed by the United Nations and responsible for prosecuting serious crimes in Guatemala, charged the Vice President and others in the administration with taking bribes for reducing import and customs taxes.

The first big victory for Guatemalans seeking a less corrupt government was the resignation of Vice President Roxana Baldetti on May 8, 2015, who prosecutors claim took $3.7 million in bribes as part of the customs scandal. At the time, President Otto Pérez Molina claimed no wrongdoing, but CICIG and the Guatemalan people were suspect.

So, protests continued with the simple phrase “Renuncia Ya” (Resign Already) at the heart of it all. For nineteen weeks, concerned citizens protested, employing only nonviolent protest tactics, even going to far as to offer flowers to police. Then the unthinkable happened, on August 31st, the 132 members of Congress who were present for voting (out of 158 members total), voted unanimously to rescind the presidential immunity, which had formerly protected Perez from prosecution. In a country where lawlessness abounds because people are not held accountable for their actions, 132 members of Congress and tens of thousands of protesters decided that Guatemala needed to change.

Then, on September 2nd, the embattled president, Otto Pérez Molina, finally resigned.

Now, with the former Vice President and President in jail, the world’s eyes are watching what Guatemala does next. In Guatemala’s first round of voting for a new president, which occurred on September 6, Jimmy Morales, a comedian with no political experience won the first round. (This election had already been scheduled before Molina’s resignation.) A run-off election will occur on October 25, between Morales and former first lady Sandra Torres. Morales is running on a simple platform of “Not corrupt, not a thief” and is touting his position as an outsider, while Torres is reminding the country of the social work she did as First Lady. There are lingering questions about each of their abilities to continue to rid the government of corruption.

The battle against corruption is far from won, but today, Guatemala’s Independence Day, is a day to celebrate the hard work done by men and women over the past 365 days to ensure a better future for the citizens of Guatemala. Guatemala has been referred to as one of the worst places in the world to be a child, but the progress made in the past few months makes me hopeful that the impoverished, indigenous children I worked with in Guatemala might grow up to live in a country whose government strives to serve them and their families.

Unaccompanied minors forced to defend themselves in court

America is a special place where we make 6-year-olds who can’t speak English and don’t understand the concept of international borders represent themselves in court because the right to a court-appointed attorney does not include immigration court and they were abandoned by smugglers without adult accompaniment in the country.

Juan David Gonzalez was 6 years old. He was in the court, which would decide whether to expel him from the country, without a parent — and also without a lawyer.
[…]
The young people, mostly from Mexico and Central America, ride to the border on the roofs of freight trains or the backs of buses. They cross the Rio Grande on inner tubes, or hike for days through extremes of heat and chill in Arizona deserts. The smallest children, like Juan, are most often brought by smugglers.

The youths pose troubling difficulties for American immigration courts. Unlike in criminal or family courts, in immigration court there is no right to a lawyer paid by the government for people who cannot afford one. And immigration law contains few protections specifically for minors. So even a child as young as Juan has to go before an immigration judge — confronting a prosecutor and trying to fight deportation — without the help of a lawyer, if one is not privately provided.

So far this year, more than 11,000 unaccompanied minors have been placed in deportation proceedings, nearly double last year’s numbers.
[…]
Judge Achtsam postponed Juan’s proceedings, but he warned the boy and other minors in the courtroom.

“If you do not have a lawyer,” the judge said, “you need to be ready to speak for yourselves at your next hearing.”

Juan left holding the social worker’s hand, grinning proudly when she told him he had done well. But his case was just beginning. Most likely it would end with a final order for his deportation.

Central American toddlers are existential threat to USA, say militias

Red areas denote the degree of presence of MS-13 (Credit: Gabagool - Wikimedia)

Red areas denote the degree of presence of MS-13 (Credit: Gabagool – Wikimedia)

In a new fusion of irrational hatreds, American “militia movement” members are now rushing with all their guns to the U.S. border to fend off a flood of unaccompanied young children from Central America, whom they believe to be members of MS-13.

In addition to the orchestrated hate rallies in Murrieta CA capturing national headlines as screaming fanatics force U.S. government buses full of the undocumented children to divert, a militia leader has called for members “To Go Armed” to the border in Texas.

The main purported concern for the Texas operation is the rising tide of Central American immigrants they believe are tied to the group the FBI once called “America’s most dangerous gang”, MS-13:

A spokeswoman for the group, Denice Freeman, told the Brownsville Herald the operation is a call for civilian militia members to guard private property in Laredo and other parts of Texas where owners feel threatened by “drug cartels and from gangs, particularly MS-13 gangs,” referring to a Salvadoran street gang with Los Angeles roots that now has a presence in 46 states.

 
Interesting. What’s the typical profile of the recent wave of undocumented Central American immigrants?

Questioned by the agents, a boy from Honduras said his name was Alejandro and that he was 8 years old.

“Who are you with?” asked Raul L. Ortiz, deputy chief of the Border Patrol for the Rio Grande Valley, speaking in Spanish.

“By myself,” Alejandro said, looking up at the man in the olive uniform and pulling a birth certificate, carefully folded, from his jeans — the only item he carried.

“Where are your parents, Alex?” Chief Ortiz asked, using a nickname to put the boy at ease. “In San Antonio,” he said.

But the child had no address for his family in the Texas city 250 miles to the north, or for an aunt in Maryland, which he thought was just as close. The agents gave him water and the boy smiled gratefully…

 
Look at these manly men playing dress up bringing assault weapons to fend off unaccompanied Central American children because MS-13.
militia-against-unaccompanied-minors

In a bit of mixed messaging, alternate proclamations have advised members to “avoid violence” while protecting local property from the roving gangs of Honduran 8-year-olds … and to use lethal force to stop people crossing the border unlawfully:

“This is not a ‘go-in-guns-blazing’ kind of thing,” Freeman said. “This will be handled with the utmost professionalism and security and safety for everyone involved.”

But in a YouTube video posted June 14, a man who identified himself as commander Chris Davis said militia members “need to go armed” and incited them to “start the next 1776 right there on the border” if they are confronted by local law enforcement and federal agents.

In the 21-minute video, the man also accused “illegal immigrants” of “invading” the country and said, “It is time that we start taking back our national sovereignty.”

“How?” the man asked. “You see an illegal. You point your gun right dead at him, right between the eyes, and say, ‘Get back across the border or you will be shot.’”

 
I believe this loophole of threatening lethal force while avoiding violence is known as the “Some People Aren’t People Doctrine.” Not violence if you believe the people you shot aren’t human. It’s very convenient for white supremacy.

It’s also a demonstration that they have no understanding of why most of the current wave of immigrants has been fleeing to the United States. Hint: they’re not trying to join MS-13 here; they’re trying to escape MS-13, which we exported there.

Many gang members living in the United States have been deported back to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

To Americans, that may look like a problem solved. In reality though, it only adds to the already serious social problems in those countries.

The returning gang members bring back with them crack cocaine. Predictably, drug-related crimes are soon on a steep increase.

Those gang members deported from the United States enlarge the local groups and find easy recruits among the local disenfranchised youth. Today, most of the members are in their twenties, while their leaders are in the late 30s and 40s.

The gangs’ battles with the police for control of working-class neighborhoods involve in each case heavy-handed tactics by the police.

They also prove unproductive, since they unleash more random violence and terror.

 
Another short-sighted U.S. policy comes home to roost and the militia crowd decides to blame the desperate, foreign, ethnic minorities instead — as usual, but this time the targets are under 10 years old.

Oh and: Good plan about giving one single warning in English to Spanish-speaking children before you shoot them in the head.

“You see an illegal. You point your gun right dead at him, right between the eyes, and say, ‘Get back across the border or you will be shot.’”

Seems really compassionate and logical.

‘MURICA.