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Guatemala Constitution Dismissed for Elections

April 5, 2011

The 2011 Guatemalen presidential elections are out of constitutional whack. According to the Guatemalan Constitution’s Article 186, no presidential family member may run as a candidate, nor can a former president run for elections again if he/she previously held office. But this hasn’t stopped a host of candidates from running in violation of this rule.

President Alvaro Colon and his wife Sandra Torres

Guatemala’s First Lady Sandra Torres de Colom announces that she will divorce her husband, President Alvaro Colom, so she may by-pass the Article 186. Even though it has not been announced, many analysts believe Ms Torres will run as a candidate for the Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza, the current ruling party.

The Mayor of Guatemala City, Alvaro Arzú, a former president of Guatemala, had previously announced that he would run for the presidency, but due to the restrictions of Article 186, it appears that his wife Patricia Escobar de Arzú will run in his stead—even though she is also barred under this same article.

In addition, Zury Mayté Ríos Montt Sosa de Weller, the daughter of ex- military dictator Efrain Rios Montt, has announced that she will run as the presidential candidate for the Frente Republicano Guatemalteco party. As with her counterparts, she may not legally run due to her familial relationship with a former president.

The ineligibility of candidates however is not the only constitutional violation. Also illegal is the widespread use of electioneering propaganda before the official commencement of the election period in May 2011, as well as the refusal of political parties to disclose their financial records. These parties have been fined for their actions, but the penalties are insignificant to have any real effect.

The Guatemalan people are rightly becoming disenchanted with these corrupt elections. For democracy to move forward in this historically unstable country, leaders will have to at least attempt to follow the constitution.

Written by COHA Research Associate Michael Reaney

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 16, 2011 2:58 pm

    This very interesting post it highlights many of the topics that are currently debated by Guatemalans. I guess Guatemala’s court will have to solve many issues, and I just hope they solve them with transparency.

    One point that I would like to shed light with recent information is the record number of registered voters. The official count is not out yet, but preliminary counts indicate that the number is above 7 million, which is about half of Guatemala’s total population. This number, to me indicates that there is no disenchantment with the elections and the democratic participation. However, I do concur that the great majority of the individuals that have been elected are perceived by the population as corrupt.

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