While Canada’s new “cool” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was making news last week, it’s Guatemala’s newly elected President Jimmy Morales who is hitting the headlines this week.
In the final round of the presidential election that took place this Sunday, Jimmy Morales, who is a television comedian by profession and has no political experience and no concrete policy, won Guatemala’s Presidential election with 70 per cent votes.
The victory came as a surprise for many as just six months ago, Morales was not even in the running. Opinion polls reflected that he held less than 1 per cent support.
What seemed to have worked in Morales’ favour in the last six months is his simple campaign slogan: “Not corrupt, not a thief.”
The slogan seems to have really cut to the heart of his victory as the election was in large part a backlash to Guatemala’s deeply entrenched corruption and crime problems.
The issues were brought to the forefront earlier this year when outgoing President Otto Pérez Molina was indicted on corruption charges in September.
Morales would not have won the election had he been looked at for his political experience. But it seems, as one Guatemalan citizen put it, he presented one of “the least worst option” in a country which people think is terminally corrupted.
The next big question that Morales now faces is whether he actually has what it takes to be president and make the Latin American country comparatively less corrupt.
It needs to be noted that Guatemala is one of Latin America’s poorest countries and is also known to be a haven for drug traffickers.
Guatemala has the world’s fifth-highest homicide rate and it would be very hard for Morales to make progress in a country where political leaders routinely steal from public funds.
Addressing the issue Manfredo Marroquín, the head of Transparency International, Guatemala, recently told Latin America Goes Global:
“A series of corrupt presidents have left the Guatemalan institutions — and particularly its judiciary — broken, corrupted and dependent on the executive,which is the greatest challenge in Guatemala today.”
The situation has been so bad that in 2007 the UN had to step in to help deal with the problem and established the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, which is an investigative organisation aimed at prosecuting corrupt officials.
While the Commission has seen some real success, it has not been able to resolve the problem completely.
Due to this deep-seated political corruption, a massive protest movement against graft was carried out on a weekly basis demanding the resignation of outgoing President Molina.
It is this anger in the people that seemed to have made a total outsider, Morales, who was the least likely candidate to win, appear like the least likely candidate to be tainted thereby facilitating his path to the post of President.
Before his campaign, Morales was well-known as a television comedian, with his most famous political sketch being in which he as a cowboy becomes the country’s president.
Now the first and foremost promise that Morales needs to deliver on is on the anti-corruption plank. It seems to be really hard considering the fact that his party holds only a minority of seats in the parliament thus making it sure that he will face a fairly hostile legislature in his term.