Manuel Baldizón. (Image: Youtube, screenshot)
Central America, Guatemala, Latin America: Week in Review

Guatemala Establishment Candidate Exits Presidential Race

September 15, 2015 By Staff

Top Story — Guatemala’s presidential runoff on Oct. 25 will have one fewer contestant, after the leading establishment candidate dropped out on Monday.

Jimmy Morales, a comedian with no political experience, and Sandra Torres, the ex-wife of former president Álvaro Colóm, will contest the presidency on Oct. 25 without the participation of Manuel Baldizón, who finished some 6,000 votes behind Torres. Baldizón said in a radio interview on Monday that the results were “illegitimate” and that he could not continue with the race, The Associated Press reported.

The AP noted that Baldizón’s loss in the first round on Sept. 6 was viewed as “a rejection of the status quo.” The first round of the election came at a time of high drama for Guatemala; Otto Peréz Molina resigned as president late on Sept. 2 after months of protests calling for his resignation and, ultimately, the issuance of a warrant for his arrest on corruption charges.

Those charges came as the result of an investigation by the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which uncovered a massive customs fraud scheme known as “La Línea,” named for the phone line businesses would call to arrange the bribery of officials. The investigation which ultimately brought down Peréz Molina’s government prompted massive street protests which, along with demonstrations in neighboring Honduras and elsewhere, have prompted commentators to ponder whether a “Central American spring” is underway.

Baldizón came in second to Peréz Molina in 2011. In first-round voting on Sept. 6, Morales won 24 percent of the vote; under Guatemalan law a candidate must win more than 50 percent of votes in order to avoid a runoff.

Torres, who will face Morales on Oct. 25, divorced her husband, the sitting president, in 2011 in order to attempt her own run, which a court later rejected. Her National Unity of Hope party has been accused of campaign finance irregularities by the CICIG.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • The lawyer of a Mexican woman who was arrested for using false identification at a gynecologist’s office in Texas said her client’s arrest could have a “chilling effect” that would deter other immigrants from seeking healthcare.
  • Egypt publicly apologized for mistakenly attacking and killing 12 Mexican tourists who had received permission to travel to a remote region of the country’s Western Desert.
  • Eight Hispanic representatives of U.S. Congress urged the Treasury secretary to ramp up efforts to address the debt crisis in Puerto Rico and push forward two pending bankruptcy bills in order to prevent “economic catastrophe” on the island.


  • The Ladies in White, a largely Roman Catholic dissident group in Cuba, plans to protest Pope Francis’ visit to the island because they are unsatisfied with the Catholic church’s failure to stand up to the Cuban government.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama extended Cuba’s designation under the Trading With the Enemy Act, effectively giving him more control over how strict sanctions against the island will be.

Central America

  • Taxi drivers in Costa Rica staged a protest against the car service Uber last weekend, saying the app threatens their jobs.
  • Money laundering still persists in Panama despite the country’s efforts at reform, according to a new analysis by InSight Crime, in part due to relatively lax regulation of corporations.


  • A Colombian air force commander said during a news conference that a Venezuelan aircraft invaded the country’s airspace for the second time in two days, the latest development in an ongoing border dispute that threatens to further destabilize relations between the two neighboring countries.
  • Peruvian drug kingpin Gerald Oropeza, detained on Saturday in Ecuador after avoiding capture for five months, has been extradited back to Peru to face charges.

Southern Cone

  • The administration of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced tax hikes and spending cuts on Monday — one day after prominent daily newspaper Folha de São Paulo argued that such a move was Rousseff’s “last chance” at staying in power — in an attempt to reduce the country’s massive budget deficit.
  • Argentine military officers tortured their subordinates during the Falklands War between Argentina and Great Britain in 1982, recently released military documents reveal, including subjecting them to beatings and mock executions.

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