SAN JUAN SACATEPEQUEZ, Guatemala — 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 girl has drafted an evangelical pastor as her operating mate and is leaning closely on her agency commitments to conserving abortion and same-sex marriage unlawful in Guatemala.
Her opponent within the Aug. 20 runoff, Bernardo Arévalo of the progressive Seed Motion, additionally has stated Guatemala’s abortion ban ought to stay untouched. However he has declined to make any such declaration on same-sex marriage, saying solely that his authorities can be in opposition to any form of discrimination, with out elaborating.
Torres made a current marketing campaign cease in denims and a nationwide soccer group jersey at a college in San Juan Sacatepequez, an impoverished suburban metropolis of greater than 250,000, the place she informed 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 wish to run this nation with the worry of God,” she informed the group.
Torres, 67, leads the Nationwide Unity of Hope social gathering that when was thought of the nation’s social democratic social gathering however has moved rightward with Torres, although she additionally guarantees many social packages to profit the nation’s “forgotten” poor. Her social gathering is the second-largest within the unicameral legislature.
Within the administration of her ex-husband, Álvaro Colom, Torres led the federal government’s social packages, giving her important 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. Each of her earlier defeats got here within the second-round runoff. So whereas it was no shock to search out Torres in a runoff, her opponent certainly has come as a shock.
Within the days 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 beneath 3%, behind seven different candidates. However the outcomes gave him 11% of the vote — sufficient to offer him the second slot within the runoff.
Within the first spherical, Torres’ competitors got here largely from different conservative populists. Now, voters face an actual alternative 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 College, stated that Torres’ present marketing campaign is a part of a development throughout the area of bringing faith into elections. “It’s an open manipulation of politics and religion,” 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 Affiliation.
But when Arévalo ought to win, the church buildings can be afraid of dropping the shut relationship that they had with the federal government, and would possibly face unwelcome scrutiny of their funds, Pineda stated.
Till 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 Metropolis. An opposing social gathering tried to dam Guerra’s candidacy on the grounds that Guatemala’s structure bars clergy from operating for workplace. However the nation’s high court docket allowed it.
Guerra has not been a fixture in Torres’ marketing campaign stops and appears uncomfortable talking exterior the pulpit. However 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 in the course of the nation’s civil conflict.
Shortly after Arévalo gained his place within the runoff, evangelical pastor Sergio Enríquez of Ebenezer Ministries informed his congregation “now we have to wish loads to not enable this communist from (the Seed Motion) to make it.” Different pastors in mega church buildings throughout Guatemala have not been as specific however have emphasised points resembling abortion and same-sex marriage, as Torres has completed.
In San Juan Sacatepequez on a current Sunday, tons of of Indigenous girls lined up for a free reusable buying bag earlier than Torres was scheduled to talk. 4 hours later the candidate arrived in a helicopter.
Torres’ marketing campaign is unabashedly populist, full of guarantees for poor communities. She has stated that as president she would distribute 1 million computer systems to schoolchildren, scholarships to cowl college prices and large luggage of fundamental foodstuffs delivered month-to-month to households’ doorsteps.
She reminds households that they acquired related luggage of merchandise when she was first girl, and heads nod.
“I keep in mind her very effectively,” stated Azucena Sarpec, holding her 6-month-old in her arms. “When she was in authorities, years in the past, due to her they introduced us the solidarity bag” of meals, Sarpec stated, including that the promise of extra such luggage was sufficient to earn her vote.
She stated that since Torres’ ex-husband left energy practically a decade in the past, the streets that are largely grime haven’t been maintained, and there’s extra malnutrition, poverty and crime.
Now, her household has to pay safety cash to gangs to ensure their security, she stated. “They ask for $65 to begin after which $45 each month. You’ll be able to’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 luggage of meals if elected, “however I don’t assume she’s going to cease corruption.”
Borror stated he is accustomed to candidates making guarantees at election time, however then forgetting those that put them in workplace.
“They solely do one thing the primary few months, then they neglect us,” he stated.