Thursday, August 11, 2011

2011 Guatemala Presidential Elections: Otto Perez Molina


How are the Guatemalan genocides of the 1980's affecting the 2011 presidential elections?

One of the candidates that many of the people consider likely to win is Otto Perez Molina. But he comes with his own set of issues.

A writer from Guatemala, Miss Trudy who blogs The Innkeepers Tail says: "All seems to point to Otto Pérez Molina's being Guatemala's next president."

Why could this be a problem? To understand you have to go back to the 1980's mass killings of indigenous people in Guatemala by the Guatemalan military:

"Pérez Molina is broadly considered to have been one of the military officials involved in genocide in the 1980s. Although he does not categorically deny having been involved in many Mayan civilians being killed, he does deny that this was genocide per se. A matter of semantics, of course, but an important one. Genocide, as defined today by international courts and human rights, includes what was going on in the highlands at the time. It is correct. And if accused and tried for that, it would be equivalent to being guilty of war crimes."

Being president would change the consequences for any of his participation in the acts of genocide. This could, in turn, sway the future consequences for many of those people who were involved:

"...As president he would have complete immunity from being tried in court and, as some friends in international aid tell me, they are afraid that as president, he might limit access or even close down the Historic Police Archives, which has been the documentation source for the recent trials which have ended in the historic landmark sentencing of former soldiers for genocide. As it is, one former Chief of State for a previous military dictatorship, an octogenarian, is under trial right now. Since up to now only foot soldiers--scapegoats, to an extent--have been tried, this is a first."

Why would Guatemalans elect a man like this to the position of president? Again, Miss Trudy explains:

"I have no doubt he will end up being president, since for many hard-to-explain reasons, Guatemalans like slogans such as his, mano dura, "hard fist" and rigid, authoritarian figures. Mayans are at the bottom of the social totem pole here, and having been them the fodder for genocide, I guess it just doesn't seem to most Guatemalans as a big deal for not voting for Pérez Molina."

She wraps up her thoughts with this:

"So, as that silly saying goes, it is what it is, and people have the governments they deserve. In other words, people are the makers of their own versions of hell."

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