Guatemala's President Reaches His First Anniversary with Low Popularity Ratings | International

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The President of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, during a press conference held in Guatemala in February 2020.Luis Echeverria / Reuters

Alejandro Giammattei Falla, a 64-year-old doctor who very soon abandoned the white coat to dedicate himself to politics, assumed the presidency of Guatemala on January 14, 2020 after four failed attempts. And he received from his predecessor, the comedian Jimmy Morales, a country in ruins and kneeling before the mafias that have hijacked power. The popularity of the new president when taking office was 80%. Twelve months later, its acceptance is barely 25%, according to the latest surveys. The low effectiveness in the fight against corruption and its questionable management of the pandemic and the impact of the hurricanes are behind the fall, according to the analysts consulted.

Nobody thought that Giammattei could win. The average of his hard vote in the previous attempts was only 13%. But the frontal rejection that her contender inspired, the incombustible Sandra Torres Casanova, allowed her victory without a government plan and, much less, a team with which to face the enormous challenges of the position. Analyst Edgar Gutiérrez describes 2020 as a “catastrophic” year for Giammattei, for the Government and for Guatemala. "The lack of strategic action by the ruler to make the crisis an opportunity was lost, while the state apparatus continues to sink and, with it, the degree of acceptance among its governed," he points out.

Among the causes of the collapse of this acceptance, Gutiérrez points out that Giammattei lied when trying to mask the effects of the pandemic, as well as the failure to deliver the resources assigned to combat covid-19 and the destruction caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota (some 3,850 million dollars that 'disappeared' in the state bureaucracy) and, in less than a year, weakened the rule of law like never before. "We have never witnessed such a flagrant disobedience to the decisions of the Constitutional Court as the one perpetrated by Congress and the Supreme Court of Justice itself," says Gutiérrez.

Prosecutor Jordán Rodas points out that human rights are non-existent on Giammattei's political agenda. "They are not an issue for the Government," he points out. "Added to this is the opacity that has characterized his administration and the bad character of the president, who despises important sectors such as the indigenous population or the press, who have been humiliated on repeated occasions."

He attributes the government's loss of credibility to the erratic nature of its actions, the confrontational nature of the president towards any hint of disagreement and the fact that it has made no effort to amend any decision that causes controversy. "His rosca of sycophants paints a non-existent panorama for him and they are the only ones he listens to," says Rodas. And remember that Guatemala is one of the most unequal and corrupt countries in the world, structural problems that, far from subsiding, are growing every day.

Luis Linares, an analyst at the Association for Research and Social Studies, a think tank, abounds in the negative perception of the Giammattei government. “His biggest mistake has been joining the Corrupt Pact. Among other reasons, due to their need to reach a majority in Congress, where groups of parliamentarians linked to the mafias predominate, which has brought corruption to scandal levels. To this is added the deficient management in many areas of the public administration, due to the null capacity of many of the members of the cabinet ”.

The influential businessman Dionisio Gutiérrez, president of the Libertad y Desarrollo foundation, believes that an analysis of this first year of government should be done from two dimensions. "The first, the political reality of the country and, the other, the pandemic." And when entering the matter, Gutiérrez goes to the jugular: “How can you govern a country in which criminal groups, through political parties, have been capturing the political institutions of the State since the democratic opening in 1985? It is a huge difficulty. Regarding the pandemic, he points out that no government in the world, and even less those of countries like Guatemala, has an acceptable rating in handling this crisis ”.

Guatemala, says the businessman, does not have a development model, much less a State project in which it seeks to build democratic institutions governed by the rule of law. “We are a formal democracy, without substance or content. We have elections every four years, but with the institutional weakness that implies the criminalization of politics, the contamination of drug trafficking and corruption. Guatemala is sliding towards a criminal state, towards a narco state or a populist dictatorship with a democratic facade. In Guatemala we do not have political parties. What we have are criminal gangs that organize themselves as parties to come to power ”. To reverse this situation, the businessman demands to reform the electoral law and the justice system.

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