Monday, September 12, 2011


While many in the world were commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the US, September 11th was the day that Guatemalans lined up to vote for the country's next leaders.  Around 11 parties were running for the presidency, although of those there were only about 3 that stood any chance of winning.  
This election year was an interesting one.  During my 11previous years here I never took too much interest in the country's politics, until this year.  Politics here is definitely not boring.  There is a lot of drama, corruption, etc.  For instance the country's first lady decided to challenge the constitution and run for president.  The constitution states that a close family member can not run for president in the next election.  To try and subvert the constitution  she divorced her husband for "love" of the country thinking that she would be free to run for president.  Thankfully, the constitution was upheld and several weeks ago it was ruled that she could not run.  Since the deadline had passed to register for the running her party suddenly lost any opportunity of running the country once again. 
In Guatemala elections are much different than that of Canada and the States.  The first big difference is the number of political parties.  I counted at least 14 parties.  The second is that elections are for all levels of government from top to bottom. For instance the local mayor belongs to a political party.  This makes voting challenging.  As one Guatemalan said to me that you need to vote for a person and not for a party.  The mayor you vote for might belong to a different party than the president you vote for.  Presidential candidates and party officials often do not do a good job of screening who runs for their party.   
The way it looks so far is that no party has the majority of the votes.  This will mean that in November Guatemalans will again have to go to the polls to vote in the second round between the two parties that have the highest percentage of votes in the first round.   Right now the Patriot Party is in the lead with 36-38% of the votes.  The party in second place trails with 25% of the votes.  The Patriot Party (formerly known as the "Heavy Hand Party) lost in the second round during the previous elections.  Their leader is an former general and he has vowed to use "heavy hand" tactics to deal with organized crime and gangs.  He plans to combat violence with military might.  In general people here in Guatemala welcome this kind of strategy since they are tired of living in fear.  Most people here have been affected in one way or another by the violence.  Just last week in AMG we saw the effects as a girl in the office had her brother gunned down in front of her.  
We know that in the end the only thing that can really bring about lasting change is the Gospel of Christ.  Therefore, we ask you to pray for the country of Guatemala and the party that will run this country and that God will use us to minister to the people of Guatemala.

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