13 January 2008

Episode 6: A New Hope

It just happens that tomorrow is the "Toma de posesión" (the equivalent to what in the U.S. they call "Inauguration Day" or something like that) of the new Guatemalan President, Alvaro Colom. As I said in my pre-run-off post[es] I am just too happy to be 3,000 Km away from my motherland. That is because even though there seems to be a new hope, well, that the official party is called the National Unity of Hope (UNE for its initials in Spanish), there is also a lot of expectation and uncertainness. As it has been portrayed within and without the borders of Guate, the future government will be the "first social-democrat" government of the new era of democratically elected presidents since 1986. It will actually be the sixth such president of what some call the Second Republic (cf. "La Tercera Republica"[es]). I've been "without" Guatemala for too long and now I don't recognize any of the names of the new cabinet and have to rely on what my relatives tell me about political figures.

I do remember Alvaro Colom and his first bid for the presidency back in 1999, and before that as the head of one of the social funds the government created as a short-term solution or as part of the commitments with the international community previous to the signing of the peace agreements of 1996. I remember all the hoopla when he was ordained a "Mayan Priest", which coming from the ladino ethnic background (not really Mayan, not really White, not really nothing, the group to which incidentally I belong) is not only uncommon, but at the time probably even "frown upon" by the dominant elite. So he might have had a good start on stepping on people's toes, or on knowing what to do to get the favour of the many, whom eventually elected him. Again, being outside the borders of the unreality that Guatemala is, (to borrow a phrase from Nothing is permanent[es]) might give me a skewed view of my beloved motherland. Thus I rely on two sources: My relatives and online Guatemalan newspapers (mainly Prensa Libre and elPeriódico). From the first source I can tell that one of the most fierce critics of the new government, my mom, already gave me a couple of hints that there might be reason for "hope" or at least to give the future president, "the benefit of the doubt".

From the second source I selected a few headlines from today's Prensa Libre(PL), the original articles are in Spanish and I have loosely translated the headlines:

The country gets political relevance
Here PL makes a description of the previous "pass of the torch" events in the recent history of Guatemala and the international delegations that have been present. Comparatively it seems Guatemala is the place to be for the who's who of Latin American politics. Even the president of Venezuela... imagine Hugo Chavez himself, the saint or devil that negotiated recently the release of hostages from the FARC, one of the last of the guerrilla groups in the continent. You would think that North American media would be all over Guatemala... but no headlines yet. Also, the president of Taiwan, who just had a political defeat back home is already in Guate for tomorrow's event. So, indirectly, yes, Guatemala is in the news "up" here, just not mentioned by name.

Uphill road begins for Colom
This was the main article of the print edition (pdf) of PL for today, Sunday 13 January. It is an extensive piece on all the promises and expectations that a left-leaning government made and will have to live up to. I like the picture of Alvaro Colom getting a haircut that accompanies the article. It makes him look like a little kid preparing for a recital or something. I think this is the right time for an inside joke: You would think that a social-democrat leader would look like Jack Layton , but really, Alvaro Colom looks and feels more like Stéphane Dion. The Air Farce would have a field trip with a government lead by someone like Colom. And Guatemalans in general actually do. Just look at some of the other headlines:

The end of the reign of the mustache
It seems that the head of state of Guatemala for the past 40 odd years has always had a mustache. Go figure. More interestingly, when I checked this article earlier today there was a full essay on why this could be, including a great insight that mentioned the Spanish Conquistadores and now it has been reduced to a simple bland paragraph sprinkled with factoids. Hopefully the print edition kept this good insight that the digital version lost.

Nicknames haunts presidents & Sparrowhawk will succeed Rabbit
Two almost identical pieces of journalism, but with different titles. The art of redundancy at its best. Both (or either) of the articles fail to be as funny as their titles promise. I would have never thought, though, that I will read on a respectable publication that the nickname of a former president was Marrano (Pig), which it was, but hey show some respect. Oh, yes, this president tried to abolish the congress and become supreme dictator and then had to run to Panama to avoid being tried for corruption and whatnot. Still, he was voted in by the people at some point. History aside, it seemed very tamed to call the future president "Sparrowhawk" because it is his nahual or guiding animal (remember that Alvaro Colom is an ordained Mayan priest after all). Where is the irreverence shown towards former presidents? PL is no fun!

Ok, so good luck Guatemala and congratulations to the new government and now is time to take care of business. Since I haven't been called back to occupy any ministerial position I guess my time to be repatriated hasn't come yet (wink wink). Maybe on the next government...


Hop said...

ha ha ha, don´t hold your breath!

Your mom is a wise lady though!!

The Black Wizard said...

pues veremos que es lo que pasa en esta transicion, me ahueva el hecho que es una incertidumbre lo que podamos esperar del nuevo gabinete. Con respecto a lo que decis de cuando colom se lanzo en el año 99, creo que a mi por lo menos lo que si me impacto era que su compañero de formula Vitalino Similox era una persona con un buen perfil para el cargo, me pregunto que hubiera pasado si hubieran ganado esa vez. Bueno a ver como transcurre la transicion al primer presidente sin mostacho en años, saludos.

pd. Te encontre de nuevo en la blogosfera pues ni enterado que te avias mudado al toronteco.

CarmenDeBizet said...

Some thoughts about the before (as opposed to the now): I was in Guatemala during the campaigning of both candidates and I was disappointed (to say the least) of the terms thrown around, particularly toward Colom. Then again, mud slinging is global probably like smog. I was also blown away by the lack of historical conscience. A lot of the persons I spoke with were quick to draw conclusions and equate slogans with ability to govern. They (the people I spoke to) either did not know or suffered from a distinct form of amnesia since a whole chunk of Guatemala's history was neatly (and quietly) swept under the rug...particularly when it involved the general. With a quick "Con mano dura!" people were invited to "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" (reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz, 1939). But again, snappy slogans have become the bread and butter of politics worlwide for some time now. One-liners, punch lines, dubious information...all part of the political machine. With our Latinamerican countries (and our political histories), we have more than enough material to create a musical like the one I have mentioned or perhaps, -more appropiately- a drama. These are just some thoughts running in my head as I read your post...it's just that my thoughts are running around in English.

Manolo said...

hop My mom can come across as a conservative radical sometimes, but is more practical-objective.

black wizard Pero vos si estabas patojo en el '99, ¿no? Ya tenías los ojos bien pelados desde entonces. Al menos sabemos que a Colom no le va a costar un bigote mantener a todos los sectores contentos. Bienvenido a mi nueva aventura bloguera; generalmente no me meto a temas como este, pero ahora sentí que tenía que dar mis dos centavos.

Carmencita Not everyone suffered from that amnesia, otherwise we wouldn't have hope in the government now. (Now I am just being smart). I really long for the "death of ideologies" kind of school of thought of the '90s and not this polarized Guate I see from my ice castle up here in the cold. Don't worry about using English; this is after all a pluri-lingual and multi-ethnical blog after all :-D I started to notice that my posts in English are getting more attention/comments I wonder why that is...