Friday, September 28, 2007
Mano dura (de) cabeza y corazón
Retired Brigadier General Otto Pérez Molina, whose campaign video shows that even Guatemala's right-wing reactionaries know how to mover el esqueleto, is in my view the man most likely to be elected as the country's next President − in spite of the fact that he trailed his opponent Álvaro Colom by around five percentage points at the conclusion of the first round.
This conviction of mine stems from my conversations with a number of middle-class voters, many of whom had supported Alejandro Giammattei (GANA) in round one. They have major reservations about Otto, but they simply can't stand Colom. If the General can proceed to grab most of the centrist vote, he'll convert his rival into a three-times loser.
Like the portrait photo on his campaign photo, the public face of Pérez Molina has been partially cast in shadow. His CV includes a two-year stint as head of Guatemala's notorious counter-insurgency unit G2 (from 1991-3) and the novelist Francisco Goldman has written a book called The Art of Political Murder which implicates him in the 1998 murder of Bishop Gerardi, which occurred two days after the cleric had published a report outlining the role of the military in civil war atrocities.
Though not to quite the same extent as Colom, there are also some serious questions about Pérez Molina's probity. What, some asked, happened to the funds deriving from cheques the general cashed at the end of the de León Carpio administration?
A recent article in the Prensa Libre suggested that Pérez Molina had made far superior use of modern media communications (especially the black arts of the Internet), whilst accusing him of showing "demasiadas ansias de poder" (Over keen-ness for power). Such is the nature of Guatemalan politics that even if Pérez Molina fails to win the Presidency on November 4, he is most likely to do so next time round (2011).
After the September 9 vote, the ads on Guatemalan TV returned to normal for a few days before a revised (and notably softened) version of the Mano Dura pitch started to run, considerably more 'Mano de Seda' than the vigorous fist punching evidenced in the clip below: