Giammattei Wins Guatemala Presidential Election

Elias Hubbard
August 14, 2019

With results from 95% of polling stations in Guatemala's presidential runoff counted, the Supreme Electoral Council has announced that 63-year-old Alejandro Giammattei has won nearly 60% of votes, compared with about 26% for former first lady Sandra Torres.

Ex-first lady Ms Torres was running for the third time, while Mr Giammattei was making his fourth attempt.

On July 6, outgoing President Jimmy Morales signed a pact with the United States that would require Salvadorans and Hondurans to request asylum in Guatemala if they cross through the country to reach the U.S. The next president will be forced to decide whether to nullify or honor the so-called "third safe country" agreement, which could potentially ease the crush of migrants arriving at the U.S. border.

Three of the last four elected presidents have been arrested after leaving office on charges of graft, and Morales himself made a decision to disband and bar a United Nations -supported anti-corruption commission after he became a target for alleged campaign finance violations.

Alejandro Giammattei, 63, a conservative former prisons director was elected Guatemala's president on Sunday.

The new president takes office January 14 and will most immediately face the task of attempting to stem the large flow of migrants headed toward the United States.

As none of the 19 candidates in the first round held on 16 June got the 50% of votes needed to win outright, the top two candidates progressed to a second and final round, with voting held on Sunday. She married and divorced former President Alvaro Colom who was Guatemala's president from 2008 to 2012.

With 84 percent of the votes counted, Giammattei, of the Vamos (Let's Go for a Different Guatemala) party, garnered 59 percent of the ballots, or 1,650,976 votes.

Investigative website Nomada branded him as "impulsive... despotic, tyrannical... capricious, vindictive", among other undesirable traits.

Prior to his win, she said he "would face a lose-lose scenario" regarding the migration pact.

In a poll by Prodatos for the Prensa Libre newspaper, 82 percent of respondents opposed it. That compares to Guatemala's export revenue of $10.5 billion. According to the World Bank, remittances account for 12% of the country's gross domestic product.

The new president will be under enormous pressure from the United States to implement its controversial migration pact.

Giammattei noted that since a USA judge had already suspended a separate safe third country accord, there was a chance that the deal with Guatemala could change.

Giammattei will also take on a country struggling with a 60% poverty rate, plus widespread crime and unemployment, which have led hundreds of thousands of people to migrate north.

Around half the killings are blamed on drug trafficking and extortion operations carried out by powerful gangs.

"Whichever of the two wins, they should focus on combatting corruption, because this administration (of current President Jimmy Morales) has been robbing us", he said.

He urged his replacement to reduce undocumented migration, improve education and tackle chronic malnutrition in the under-fives, which affects 46 per cent of infants.

Guatemalans aren't subject to Mr Trump's proposed migrant measures, but given that poverty in some indigenous areas reaches 80 per cent, many embark on the journey in search of the "American dream" despite the dangers. At least one percent of Guatemala's population of some 16 million has left the country this year.

And in June, a woman and three children died from heat and dehydration in Texas.

Adding to his challenges, Fitch Ratings said the divided political landscape will make it harder for the president to reverse declining tax collection that the agency cited in April when it revised Guatemala's sovereign outlook to negative.

More than 250,000 Guatemalans were detained between October 2018 and July this year for trying to enter the USA illegally, Washington's embassy said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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