Over the previous decade, Guatemalan presidential candidate Sandra Torres has been drifting rightward on the political spectrum as she repeatedly has tried to win the presidency.
Now, in her third bid, the previous first woman has drafted an evangelical pastor as her operating mate and is leaning closely on her agency commitments to protecting abortion and same-sex marriage unlawful in Guatemala.
Her opponent within the Aug. 20 runoff, Bernardo Arévalo of the progressive Seed Movement, additionally has stated Guatemala’s abortion ban ought to stay untouched. But he has declined to make any such declaration on same-sex marriage, saying solely that his authorities could be in opposition to any form of discrimination, with out elaborating.
Torres made a current marketing campaign cease in denims and a nationwide soccer staff jersey at a college in San Juan Sacatepequez, an impoverished suburban metropolis of greater than 250,000, the place she instructed a number of hundred supporters that she needed the federal government to respect life from conception. She promised she would by no means settle for same-sex marriage, shortly including that she wasn’t homophobic.
“I want to run this country with the fear of God,” she instructed the group.
Torres, 67, leads the National Unity of Hope get together that after was thought-about the nation’s social democratic get together however has moved rightward with Torres, although she additionally guarantees many social packages to learn the nation’s “forgotten” poor. Her get together is the second-largest within the unicameral legislature.
In the administration of her ex-husband, Álvaro Colom, Torres led the federal government’s social packages, giving her vital authorities expertise. His marketing campaign, plus three of her personal, additionally give her an extended historical past of attempting to court docket voters throughout Guatemala.
Torres was the main vote-getter within the first spherical of this yr’s presidential election on June 25. Both of her earlier defeats got here within the second-round runoff. So whereas it was no shock to seek out Torres in a runoff, her opponent absolutely has come as a shock.
In the times earlier than the primary spherical vote, Arévalo, who largely campaigned on rooting out corruption, was barely within the nation’s political dialog. He was polling under 3%, behind seven different candidates. But the outcomes gave him 11% of the vote — sufficient to provide him the second slot within the runoff.
In the primary spherical, Torres’ competitors got here largely from different conservative populists. Now, voters face an actual selection between conservative and progressive proposals, and Torres is interesting to Guatemalans’ conservative social values at each alternative.
Luis Mack, a political scientist with San Carlos University, stated that Torres’ present marketing campaign is a part of a pattern throughout the area of bringing faith into elections. “It is an open manipulation of politics and faith,” he stated.
Torres didn’t beforehand have the help of the nation’s evangelical church buildings, which had been extra intently related to the administration of outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei, stated David Pineda, president of the Guatemalan Secular Humanist Association.
But if Arévalo ought to win, the church buildings could be afraid of shedding the shut relationship they’d with the federal government, and would possibly face unwelcome scrutiny of their funds, Pineda stated.
Until he registered as Torres’ operating mate, 47-year-old Romeo Guerra was pastor of the Christian Sion Mission church based by his father in Guatemala City. An opposing get together tried to dam Guerra’s candidacy on the grounds that Guatemala’s structure bars clergy from operating for workplace. But the nation’s prime court docket allowed it.
Guerra has not been a fixture in Torres’ marketing campaign stops and appears uncomfortable talking exterior the pulpit. But he lately met with dozens of evangelical pastors alongside Torres, who has proposed making a ministry of spiritual affairs.
Evangelical pastors in Guatemala have a historical past of siding in opposition to leftists, with a few of them disseminating authorities propaganda in opposition to leftist guerrillas in late Seventies and early ’80s throughout the nation’s civil battle.
Shortly after Arévalo gained his place within the runoff, evangelical pastor Sergio Enríquez of Ebenezer Ministries instructed his congregation “we have to pray a lot to not allow this communist from (the Seed Movement) to make it.” Other pastors in mega church buildings throughout Guatemala have not been as specific however have emphasised points equivalent to abortion and same-sex marriage, as Torres has accomplished.
In San Juan Sacatepequez on a current Sunday, tons of of Indigenous girls lined up for a free reusable purchasing bag earlier than Torres was scheduled to talk. Four hours later the candidate arrived in a helicopter.
Torres’ marketing campaign is unabashedly populist, stuffed with guarantees for poor communities. She has stated that as president she would distribute 1 million computer systems to schoolchildren, scholarships to cowl faculty prices and massive baggage of primary foodstuffs delivered month-to-month to households’ doorsteps.
She reminds households that they acquired comparable baggage of merchandise when she was first woman, and heads nod.
“I remember her very well,” stated Azucena Sarpec, holding her 6-month-old in her arms. “When she was in government, years ago, because of her they brought us the solidarity bag” of food, Sarpec said, adding that the promise of more such bags was enough to earn her vote.
She said that since Torres’ ex-husband left power nearly a decade ago, the streets which are mostly dirt haven’t been maintained, and there’s more malnutrition, poverty and crime.
Now, her family has to pay protection money to gangs to guarantee their safety, she said. “They ask for $65 to start and then $45 every month. You can’t do it,” stated Sarpec, whose husband works for minimal wage in an meeting plant.
Lázaro Borror, 38, stated he got here to listen to Torres in order that he can resolve which candidate to help. He stated he believes Torres would distribute baggage of meals if elected, “but I don’t think she’s going to stop corruption.”
Borror stated he is accustomed to candidates making guarantees at election time, however then forgetting those that put them in workplace.
“They only do something the first few months, then they forget us,” he stated.