Thứ Sáu, Tháng Sáu 2, 2023
HomeNewsGuatemalan immigrants will vote for their country's president

Guatemalan immigrants will vote for their country’s president

As election season rolls around in Guatemala, politicians make bombastic speeches about how migrants are national heroes for settling in the United States, with great personal sacrifice and sending back home. Millions of dollars in remittances help sustain the economy of this Central American country.

But in reality, these migrants are often treated like second-class citizens by their homeland, deprived of the right to participate in national elections. Although Guatemalans living in the United States were allowed to vote for the first time in the 2019 presidential election, many complained on social media, WhatsApp chats, and via letters and emails to officials. voting that they are being hindered by a lack of polling stations. and difficulties accessing the voter registration website for the June 25 election.

Alba Rojas, a Quetzaltenango-based clothing designer who settled in Los Angeles in the late 1990s and voted in 2019, said: “We were the least of the people.

Rojas and other Guatemalans living in the United States have denounced Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) for what they say is its repeated mishandling of the electoral process. And they are furiously criticizing the appointment of Hugo Mérida, whom they see as a partisan political ally of President Alejandro Eduardo Giammattei, as the electoral commission’s coordinator and liaison for the voter process in the country. foreign.

Mérida and other Guatemalan officials responded that they had invested significant resources in the foreign voter process this year and that critics were unfairly downplaying these efforts and themselves political motives.

Like many of her countrymen, Marta Castillo, a Guatemalan native and activist who settled in the New York City area in 1969, is highly suspicious of election administrators and highly skeptical that the whole the process will proceed freely or fairly. Her fear was further compounded when she learned that only expatriate Guatemalans in the United States were allowed to vote, not those in Canada, Mexico, Spain, and Central American and European countries. Other Europe.

“It’s a hoax, a dirty and corrupt political maneuver, because it’s not convenient for us who are abroad to vote,” Castillo said.

The 2019 election received little advertising in the United States, where there are only four polling stations, in Los Angeles, Houston, New York City and Silver Spring, Md., outside Washington, D.C. Despite immigrants in June will be able to vote in more than 12 cities, activists here believe that number is still not enough and the electoral council did not adequately promote the event.

In 2019, Guatemala’s electoral roll had about 63,000 external voters. For this election cycle, as of March 25 – the last day to register – the number is 89,554.

In the first round of elections in 2019, only 734 votes were counted for Guatemalans living in the United States; even fewer, 521, vote in the second round.

“In this way, the elections will look like a failure [as in 2019], because I don’t think the TSE did a proper job,” said Ben Monterroso, 64, president of the Vote of Guatemalans Resident Abroad, an organization set up in 2021 to promote electoral participation, and co-founder of Mi Familia Vota. He attributed the limited participation in part to the fact that many foreigners lack the identification (DPI) issued by the Guatemalan government, which is required to vote.

“From the very beginning TSE did not do the job of profiling and registering people, and to this day there is no campaign to inform and motivate people to sign up,” said Monterroso. “From the beginning, the party went badly.”

Four years ago, the TSE invested a total of 47 million quetzales ($6 million) to cover the entire overseas voting process. For the June 25 election, the budget is $2.5 million.

Last August, Walter Batres, president of the Guatemalan Migrant Network, a nonprofit advocacy and advocacy group, proposed that the TSE and many other Guatemalan government agencies organize a large-scale document day large in Los Angeles. But his idea did not appeal to the Guatemalan government, he said.

Batres said of this year’s election process: “It’s just make-up. “Postal voting and electronic voting work, but they don’t want the people of Guatemala to vote, because if everyone votes in unison, we will say goodbye to the corruption treaty.”

Equally troubling for US activists is the role of Mérida, who helped fund Giammattei’s 2019 presidential campaign and who has been contracted by the TSE to “provide technical services” for approximately $2,000 per month.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mérida said that local activists were simply jealous. He attempted to justify his financial support of Giammattei four years ago by asserting that he also supported six other presidential candidates.

“We organized meetings and entertainment for each of them,” says Mérida, a professional accountant who was then president of the National Alliance of Guatemalan Immigrants in the United States.

Mérida also said that as his coordinator, he will oversee the selection of the approximately 900 volunteers needed at US polling stations for the first round of voting on June 25. Otherwise. If any candidate receives a majority of votes in the first round, a second round vote will take place. will take place in August.

In an interview with The Times, Mérida also confirmed that at least four of the five TSE judges are friends with him. The TSE office did not respond to The Times’ request to speak to the TSE chairman. Two TSE judges did not return phone calls from The Times.

Activists worry about Mérida’s vast influence.

“This is a date with Giammattei. How do you want the community to accept something from a president we don’t respect? Juan Carlos Méndez, a Guatemalan community leader and bishop of the Centro Cristiano Bet-El church in South Gate. “When they say this nonsense, it is an insult to the diaspora.”

What some US activists fear above all is the suspicions caused by this year’s foreign voter process will feed apathy among expatriates, leading to their disenfranchisement. and further alienated from their homeland.

“It was a fraud situation and created suspicion with something so special. Aoldo Ramírez, a native of Izabal and an advisor to Misión Guatemala USA, which provides aid through social projects and protects the rights of immigrants, said the purity of the ballot was immediate. lost. “My request is to appoint a suitable person, someone who creates a lot of trust and honesty, who is not directly related to the official party.”

Alicia Ivonne Estrada, professor of Chicano Studies at Cal State Northridge, says corruption in the TSE reflects the broader corruption of Guatemalan politics, which dates back to the 1960-1996 genocidal civil war.

“Guatemala is a co-opted country, it was co-opted by corrupt people,” she said.

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