November 10, 2003

Guatemalan Presidential Results

Preliminary election results have been released and it appears there will be a Dec. 28 runoff election between Oscar Berger and Alvaro Colom. Despite many legitimate concerns, it appears as though the election was fairly smooth with only a few problems. Fears of violence if Rios Montt did not win have not materialized. Thus far, however, the FRG party has not made any formal announcements or concessions.

Yahoo News - Rios Montt Defeated in Guatemalan Presidential Race
Reuters - Maya Villagers Vote for Change
Testing Guatemalan Democracy

Prensa Libre reports that Oscar Berger of the Gran Alianza Nacional (Great National Alliance – it is a coalition of three formerly unrelated parties) came out in first place with 47.6% of the vote. Since a candidate must win over 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff election, it appears as though Berger fell short of that goal. Berger (pronounced “bear jer” – the animal plus “Cher” with a “J”) is a former mayor of Guatemala City and has been the front-runner during the entire campaign. He is known as the pro-business candidate and is the favored candidate of the United States. So far as policy is concerned, it is likely that he will support the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, which current President Portillo announced last week he was leaving for the next president.

The second place candidate (26.4% of vote) who will also be in the runoff is Alvaro Colom of the Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza party (National Unity of Hope). He is an engineer and an ordained Mayan priest. Colom had traditionally been a more leftist candidate in the past but moved more towards the political center-right this campaign. He still garners the support of the former guerilla fighters from the civil war and his campaign slogan was “a real president”.

The third place candidate with 11.2% of the vote, who will not proceed to the runoff, is Efraim Rios Montt of the FRG party (Guatemalan Republican Front). He is commonly known as “The General” because of when he seized power in a military coup toward the end of the civil war. Montt’s candidacy was controversial from the start because of a constitutional law which states that no former dictators can run for office. In two prior attempts he was not permitted to run but this time, following days of riots now known as “Black Thursday”, his candidacy was permitted when it was decided that this law could not be retroactively applied. Montt is most known for the atrocities that were committed under his scorched earth policy while he was dictator. Even though his tenure lasted only 18 months, the impact of his rule was significant as countless indigenous villages were destroyed. Montt is the current head of the legislature and many believe that he has been the true president, with Portillo being more of a figurehead than anything. Once Montt is no longer in office, he will no longer have impunity from prosecution for his past alleged war crime. Because of this, many feared that he will not leave office without a struggle. Montt is also an ordained Evangelical preacher.

It is not known what impact the future president will have on adoption as it has not been a major campaign issue. Most likely, it will not have a significant impact since the attacks on adoption are coming primarily from outside sources. It is logical, however, to assume that adoption will not be at the top of the future president’s priority list since there are many more significant issues to be addressed.

While the community of adoptive families naturally tends to view the election solely from an adoption-related perspective, it appears as though we should all be very happy with the election. The defeat of Montt is an important sign for the people of Guatemala and their attempts to get beyond the death, pain, and sorrow of the civil war. During the course of the campaign, over 20 opposition candidates were murdered. In addition, there were widespread stories of attempts to buy votes, intimidate voters, and otherwise jeopardize a free and fair election. Despite these attempts, the Guatemalan population came out in huge numbers (some estimates say that 80% of eligible voters cast a vote) and defended their country’s insecure, developing democracy. They refused to fall prey to the attempts to influence the election and voted for Guatemala’s future. So whether the next president ends up being more friendly to adoption or continues on the current path, all of us who care for the people of Guatemala should be relieved!

{The above information/comments were provided by Kevin who has joined the team...Thanks, Kevin}

**In other news, I (Kelly) am SOOOOO close to finishing the calendars. I will still need to review the drafts before being sent out. I expect that next week, those that want a calendar will be able to order them.

Posted by Kelly at November 10, 2003 08:52 AM

First I want to thank you so very much for all of your wonderful updates and work that you are doing. I look forward to reading what you may have to say or report every morning.

I don't know if the site below is where you find some of your information, but just came upon it and thought if not - it's a great source.

Thanks again Kelly,
Jeni Mahon

Posted by: Jeni at November 10, 2003 12:41 PM

We are currently in Guatemala with our little one and will be headed home next week. We arrived early in the morning on Friday and have been here since. There was nothing noticeable that occurred down here over the weekend. The streets were very quiet on Sunday and everything in town remained open per usual schedule on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Newspaper down here also spoke of no disturbances rather celebration complete with fireworks at 11 pm on Sunday! Just thought some would like to know from those in the country right now.

Posted by: Michelle Rogge at November 11, 2003 09:07 PM

The word this evening is that Rios Montt's running
mate has conceded defeat.

Posted by: jay at November 11, 2003 10:22 PM

Was browsing through blogspot when I stumbled here

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