Guatemalan politicians are often contemptuously referred to as payasos (clowns) by many of their fellow citizens and at no time does it become more apparent as to why they earn this nickname than during election season. Whether it’s making ludicrous promises that they could never be able to fulfil (more on that in a moment); making up fake melodramatic stories for their campaign videos or fake endorsements for their adverts (also more on that in a moment); plastering cringeworthy but utterly meaningless slogans on huge billboards with gigantic, photoshopped faces on them; or literally turning over every rock in the country so that they can be painted with the rainbow of party colours, as if that one extra painted rock will be the thing that sways your vote on election day; the parties and their candidates come out of the woodworks for a full-frontal assault on your senses in the few months that lead up to elections.
And so in the interest of guiding our readers through all the craziness, this month we present to you XelaWho’s Election Special Editorial, featuring the all new XelaWho Election Campaign Awards for the parties that have wowed us the most with their election campaign extravaganzas. So without further ado, let us begin…
Líder. Winners of the “Most Nauseating Campaign Videos” Award. The bookies’ favourite are headed up by the textbook definition of a populist, Manuel Baldizón. Baldizón came runner-up to Perez Molina in the last elections in 2011 and so this time round he has decided to run with the slogan “Le Toca Baldizón” (“It´s Baldizón´s Turn”), which has the effect of making his entire election platform sound like a petulant child demanding that now it´s his turn to play with the toys.
Perhaps most famous for making outrageous election pledges, such as promising that Guatemala would make it through the Football World Cup qualifiers if he became president, Baldizón’s antics were quick to earn him the “Baldizón Payazón” nickname online. This year, his campaign has already been busted for paying people to have photos taken of them holding up placards with his slogans on (they didn´t even bother writing different ones, so social media users were quick to point out that different people were posing with the exact same placards written in the exact same handwriting), as well as for making up fake stories with actors in his campaign videos, such as the one that was filmed in Xela that involved a woman who owned a panaderia and was being extorted by criminals, who then turned out to be an actress that was filmed in a shop that wasn´t even a panadería. For stunts like this, Baldizón wins our “Most Nauseating Campaign Videos” award – we highly recommend checking them out if you haven´t already: the cheesiest, most melodramatic Mexican soap operas ain´t got nothing on Baldizón’s campaign videos.
At the time of writing, Baldizón’s campaign has managed to get itself into a bit of an awkward situation: just a few months ago Baldizón publicly came out in support of the CICIG´s work in shining a light on high-level corruption in Guatemala (CICIG had just revealed the huge corruption schemes in the Guatemalan tax office, high court and social security institute), promising to extend its mandate to 2019 if elected. Unfortunately it wasn´t long until the CICIG´s corruption spotlight found its way to Líder, implicating Baldizón´s running mate, Édgar Barquín, and numerous Líder candidates to Congress in a money laundering network. If the Supreme Court decides there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial, it could put Baldizón´s candidacy in doubt as Barquín would be forced to withdraw his candidacy and Baldizón is constitutionally barred from running without a Vice-President and would not be able to select another to replace Barquín as candidate registration has now closed. So Líder have now organised massive “protests” against the CICIG, claiming their actions are “politicised” and are solely aimed at preventing Baldizón from winning the Presidency. It´s so much easier to speak out against corruption when you´re not the one being accused!
UNE. Winners of the “Best Photoshop Job” Award. UNE´s leader is Sandra Torres, who comes in a close second place to Baldizón for burning desire to win the race: she actually divorced her own husband, & ex-President, Álvaro Colom, just so that she would not be constitutionally barred from running for president herself. Now that´s dedication! Torres fancies herself as a bit of a Guatemalan Eva Perón: having perfected her political image whilst she was First Lady, when she also acted as the national coordinator of the National Council of Social Cohesion, she is now running on a campaign focused on social programs for Guatemala´s poor. UNE wins our “Best Photoshop Job” award – some seriously impressive work that makes a 59 year-old women look little more than 30 (see right).
FCN-Nación. Winners of the “Best Campaign Slogan” Award. Next up we have Jimmy Morales, the Candidate for the FCN-Nación Party. Jimmy Morales, a favourite on the social networks that has consistently been topping (voluntary) online polls over the past few weeks, is actually an actor & comedian who thought he´d try his hand at politics, because why the hell not? He´s running on a ticket of not being like the rest of the politicians that so much of the country is fed up with, to the extent that his campaign slogan is “Ní corrupto, Ní Ladrón” (Not Corrupt or a Thief) – a definite winner in our eyes of the best slogan of the election (with Fuerza coming in a close second place with their bewildering slogan “Los Buenos Somos Más” – the good guys are more, whatever that is supposed to mean). Whilst Jimmy seems pretty set on what he´s not, he hasn´t yet quite decided what he is: his own website says nothing about his proposed policies & the closest thing his party´s website gets to doing so is a list of convoluted “principles” concerning what it means to be a “nationalist party”.
Partido Patriota. Winners of the “Well, You Can´t Blame Them For Trying” Award. The disgraced Partido Patriota really don´t have much chance of being re-elected, having been implicated in corruption scandal after corruption scandal this year, causing their then-presidential candidate, Alejandro Sinibaldi, to resign & forcing them to come up with a replacement in a matter of weeks. Still, they´re trying their best, bless them. In fact, some of their candidates have become so desperate they actually took to putting endorsements by none-other than Lionel Messi on their campaign posters, who can be seen encouraging voters to vote orange. Leo Messi Management quickly released a public statement denying such an endorsement had ever been given to the PP & threatening legal action unless they removed the incriminating posters.
VIVA. Winners of the “Thanks, but no thanks” Award. Viva´s presidential candidate, Zury, does seem like a nice enough lady. But it is genuinely hard to get over the fact that she is Efrain Rios Montt´s daughter, who in 2013 was found guilty of the genocide of more than 1700 indigenous Ixil Mayans during his 1982-83 rule. The Supreme Electoral Court rejected Zury´s candidacy, but she is launching an appeal.
CREO. Winners of the “Best Campaign Poster” Award. It would appear that Roberto Gonzalez, CREO´s candidate for the Presidency, decided it would be a good idea to model his campaign poster on Frank Underwood´s famous pose as President of the United States for the latest season of House of Cards (see right). We´re not sure he actually watched the show…
Todos. Winners of the “What The F*ck Were You Thinking” Award. So Todos thought it would be a good campaign strategy to recruit ex-President Alfonso Portillo into their party as their selection for their national congressman. Portillo had recently returned from U.S. claiming to be a new man after serving jail-time for money laundering & bribery. The strategy didn´t really work out for Todos: the Supreme Electoral Court rejected Portillo´s application for candidacy, twice. We´re guessing the whole convicted criminal thing he has going for him didn´t really help with his application.
Well, unfortunately we´ve now run out of space so we can´t give any more XelaWho Election Campaign Awards to the myriad of parties that we missed: we´re sure they´re all absolutely gutted. Next month Guatemala goes to the polls, & we sure hope they use this historic day to vote wisely or risk being ruled by more payasos for another 5 years.