Ecuador and Guatemala Go to the Polls under a Shadow of Violence and Political Uncertainty

By Alejandra Garcia and Bill Hackwell on August 20, 2023

Ecuador’s Luisa Gonzalez top vote – getter in today’s election

 Today 2 important elections took place in Latin America with the general elections in Ecuador and the presidential runoff in Guatemala. Two countries with no common border, but shared problems and inhabitants longing for solutions. Today they are defining their political future after a whirlwind of corruption, accusations, and an entrenched violence.

The importance of these elections are because they reflect the contemporary period of struggle between the old neo liberal order of oligarchs and imperialism and the countries moving in the direction of regional integration and self determination.

Sunday, Ecuador ended a tense election day to designate president and lawmakers amid military deployment due to the recent murder of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio 10 days ago and the violence of drug gangs.

At press time, candidate Luisa Gonzalez, backed by the party of former progressive President Rafael Correa (2007-2017), remained the top vote-getter, with 32.22 percent of the ballots in her favor. However, a runoff election is expected next October between Gonzalez and right-wing candidate Daniel Noboa from National Democratic Action, who has obtained 24.74 percent of the votes so far. Gonzalez would of needed 40% of the vote to avoid the runoff but that scenario seems unlikely at this point in the vote count.

The electoral authority have until this Wednesday to give the final results. But the results are expected to remain unchanged. The candidate elected in the October runoff will govern for the next 18 months, only until the end of the term of outgoing president Guillermo Lasso, who called these early elections after being immersed in corruption scandals and facing an impeachment proceeding.

These elections in Ecuador were atypical. Although authorities insist that the electoral process took place without setbacks, the country experienced an unprecedented security scheme for candidates who voted with bulletproof vests and helmets amid a state of emergency. The substitute for the late Fernando Villavicencio, Christian Zurita, arrived at the ballot box surrounded by military personnel carrying shields as if he were reaching a war front, including wearing  helmets and bulletproof vests. “For Ecuadorians, normality is long gone,” the Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo reported.

The messages that arrived through networks and television warned the 13.4 million citizens summoned to vote to not  take backpacks or bags to the voting center. They also advised going to vote alone, according to El Universo. This is a clear reflection of the instability that exists at this time in Ecuador

For the winning candidate, a year and a half is too short for the challenges that lie ahead for Ecuador and that have become evident in this campaign. Insecurity is already the main concern of all citizens. Containing it will not be an easy task.

Guatemala and the Opportunity for a Better Change

Bernardo Arévalo De Leon, Semilla Party candidate votes in Guatemala election, photo: efe

This Sunday, Guatemala held the second round of its presidential elections, in which anti-corruption activist Bernardo Arévalo De Leon defeated former first lady Sandra Torres Casanova, aligned with the conservative political establishment. Preliminary results give the unexpected center-left front runner, who leads a crusade against corruption as the new leader of Central America’s most populous nation, a strong lead in a post he will hold for the next five years.

The vote comes after a tumultuous first round in June, in which judicial authorities suspended several progressive and indigenous candidates perceived as threats to the country’s archaic ruling elites.

Torres, a  former first lady had already lost in  the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections and, according to experts, her past linked to corruption cases generated a strong anti-vote in urban areas of the country; even though in the first round, on June 25, she clinched first place with almost 900,000 votes, which represented 15% of the electorate.

On the other hand, Arévalo De Leon, 64 years old, driven by an anti-corruption proposal and the image of his father, former president Juan José Arévalo Bermejo (1945-1951), surprised on everyone in the June 25 primaries by obtaining second place with more than 600,000 votes, even though polls had placed him in eighth place.

The winner of the election will replace the administration headed by Alejandro Giammattei, a conservative politician linked to dozens of bribery and corruption cases during his administration and who is in the pocket of the US. Today, Guatemala’s fragile democracy, constantly riddled with scandal-plagued governments, has gone from implementing innovative anti-corruption strategies to shutting down such efforts and forcing honest judges and prosecutors to flee the country for their lives.

“Arevalo is perceived in Guatemala’s conservative political environment as the most progressive candidate to make it this far since democracy was restored in 1985, after more than three decades of military rule. And that is not saying much because of his links with the US who he would remain beholden to. He has drawn much of his support from the cities, and his party is largely composed of urban professionals, such as university professors and engineers. He has made the fight against corruption and impunity the central focus of his campaign,” Guatemala’s national daily Prensa Libre described.

Among his campaign promises, Arevalo has positioned himself as a populist claiming he would alleviate poverty in Guatemala, one of the most unequal countries in Latin America, through a massive job creation program to improve roads and other infrastructures. He also promised to increase agricultural production by providing low-interest loans to farmers. While he certainly offers some hope after decades of presidents linked to the tiny oligarchy, it remains to be seen what he will be able to do to live up to his ambitious campaign promises.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English