Alejandro Giammattei Is Declared President Of Guatemala Following A Disillusioning Race

As results from more than 90 percent of polling stations rolled in, conservative candidate for the Vamos party have declared victory with almost 60 percent of votes compared to opponent Sandra Torres’ 40 percent, reports Yahoo News.

As Guatemalans headed to the polls to pick the country’s next president, the reality of an election that will likely bring little significant change to a country overwhelmed with corruption, poverty, and unemployment has left its constituents disillusioned.

Former first lady Sandra Torres is the candidate of National Unity of Hope (UNE), a centrist party, and is running against Giammattei, former director of Guatemala’s prison system and member of the right-wing Vamos party.

The election is taking place “against a backdrop of broad voter disaffection,” according to Al Jazeera, as neither of the presidential candidates won a majority in the first round of the general elections held on June 16.

Giammattei’s platform emphasizes his conservative values. His wishes to reintroduce the death penalty and emphasize “family values,” which would target LGBT+ rights and women’s reproduction rights according to Jorge Santos, director of an NGO human rights group known as Udefegua.  

The presidential hopeful has also proposed extreme security policies to counter the gang violence seen in Guatemala, which include treating gang members as terrorists.

Torres wishes to militarize the streets of Guatemala in order to fight crime. This suggestion raises significant concerns as the 1996 Peace Accords, which ended the country’s 36-year civil war, found state actors guilty of acts of genocide and thus limited military presence in internal security.

Similar to Giammattei, she is a strong advocate for “family values,” which is reflective of a country where Catholic and Evangelical churches have established a strong foothold in internal politics and policymaking.

Women’s rights activist Brenda Hernandez told Al Jazeera that “Much of the population is disillusioned with the options,” a sentiment that is entirely understandable given the conservative background of both candidates and the accusations against them.

Giammattei was accused of extrajudicial killings of inmates when he was the director of the prison system, but was acquitted of all charges after his trial.

Torres faces allegations of illegal campaign financing as does sitting president Jimmy Morales. Both are likely to face prosecution after losing the race and leaving office in January, respectively.

Morales, Giammattei, and Torres have denied any wrongdoing.

The disheartening results follows President Morales’ signing the “safe third country” agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This widely condemned deal requires asylum seekers travelling through Guatemala to seek refuge there and not in the U.S.

Additionally, as Giammattei is inaugurated into his new position, the shutdown of the UN-supported International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) next month deals another heavy blow to those dismantling systemic corruption in the nation.

The CICIG is a trusted institution that has actively worked alongside prosecutors to bring down high-level officials such as the incumbent president, judges, and business people for corruption and other charges. The organization is named as a joint plaintiff in many ongoing criminal cases.

As Giammattei has not stated any desire to seek a new agreement regarding the CICIG, the uncertainty regarding Guatemala’s continuing battle with corruption remains.

With the incoming president having been accused of extrajudicial killings of prisoners under his charge and his strident opposition of gay marriage and abortion, the CICIG would have served as a comforting presence and a promise that criminal wrongdoings would not remain in the dark and unpunished.