“Ni corrupto, ni ladrón” (lit. Neither corrupt, nor a thief). This is how Jimmy Morales introduced himself. Who’s Jimmy Morales? It’s the cherry on top a beautiful, fresh baked story of democracy.

Jimmy, the wise comedian

There’s a fresh breeze spreading all over Guatemala. It’s the breeze of change. On the 6th of September, new Presidential elections were held in the central-American nation, and Jimmy ended up leading the polls.

Where’s the big news? It’s Jimmy himself.

Just recently appeared on the political stage, he’s a manifold character. He’s well-known by long time to the Guatemalan audience as an actor in his own TV show Moralejas, which literally means “Morals”. Fond of scenic arts, he’s also a movie actor, as well as an entrepreneur in Guatemala and abroad.

Nevertheless, he doesn’t need to act, whether he’s put in charge. He holds a degree in Business Administration, followed by a Master of Strategic Studies – with focus on security and defense – and ended up with a PhD in Strategic Security. He worked as Professor at the School of Communication Science within the “San Carlo de Guatemala” University, and also gained a doctorate in Theology. It might be dared to say he knows how to make the most of his time.

He perfectly fits all the costumes of his wide wardrobe, but in the recent time, the one which best fits him is the pioneer one. Pioneer of a revolution he didn’t even start. He was just the right man, at the right moment.

Guatemala, Yes you can

As said, it’s the spring of democracy in Guatemala. Let’s catch up with the latest, thrilling political events.

The nation stepped into the new millennium still bleeding from the deep wounds of its long Civil War, lasted from 1960 to 1996. Western-backed dictatorships, genocides of indigenous populations as Mayan and Ixil, slaughters, kidnappings and disappearances of several hundred-thousand civilians lead this State through the decades. Unfortunately, a story we have seen also elsewhere in the Central and South America.

Moving forward, we arrive to Otto Perez Molina, the heir of this tradition. During the 1990s, before entering politics, he served as Director of Military Intelligence, Presidential Chief of Staff, and as chief representative of the military for the Guatemalan Peace Accords. He was elected President of Guatemala on the 14th of January 2012.

Otto Perez Molina, by Surizar

Otto Perez Molina, by Surizar

Although praiseworthy of progressive initiatives such as calling for the legalization of drugs, he basically personified the military, corrupted establishment; but Guatemalan people already had enough, and they decided to raise their voice.

They had a supporting tool rarely seen before: the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (Spanish: Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala, CICIG). It is an international body charged with investigating and prosecuting serious crime, created on the 12th of December 2006, when the United Nations and Guatemala signed a treaty-level agreement. Set up as an independent body, it supports the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Procuraduría General de la Nación), the National Civilian Police (Policía Nacional Civil) and other state institutions in the investigation of a limited number of sensitive and difficult cases. As the last one, regarding Mr. Perez Molina.

A cut to the Line

La Línea (lit. “The telephone line”) is a corruption case which began in Guatemala on April 16, 2015, when the CICIG accused a number of politicians within the Administration of President Otto Pérez Molina of having set up a customs corruption ring with the help of high-ranking officials within the tax and customs administration. Several demonstrations ensued, calling for the resignation of Otto Pérez Molina and his Vice-President, Roxana Baldetti.

Roxana Baldetti, by Surizar

Roxana Baldetti, by Surizar

Pushed by the crowds claiming justice and change, Mrs. Baldetti resigned first, on the 12th of May, and on the 24th she got arrested. While still celebrating this huge gain with the slogan “Sí se pudo!” (“Yes we did!“), citizens were already chanting “Otto Pérez, you’re next!“. Indeed, on the 1st of September the impunity on the President was revoked, and on the 3rd, shortly after the warrant for his after was issued, he stepped down. At the moment he’s in custody at the Matamoros military unit pending trial.

Along this path, we come back to Jimmy Morales.

Considered an underdog just two months before the election, with his fine strategic skills and the always smiling face, he has able to draw and capitalize the discontent of the people, and the consequential strong desire of a watershed with the dirty past. On the 6th of September first round of election, he gained the best results with the 23% of preferences.

Who were his contenders?

  • Sandra Torres, the First Lady of Guatemala from 2008 to 2011, as the wife of President Álvaro Colom Caballeros, probably sounded as new as a VHS Player. She gained the 19% in the first round, and is going to compete with Mr. Morales at the run-off oh the 25th of October;
  • Manuel Baldizón, a politician, lawyer, and hotel entrepreneur.  In 2014, he released a book called Rompiendo Paradigmas (Breaking Paradigms). He held a presentation in Guatemala City, only to have the book removed from the bookshelves, two days later, because evidence was found that a significant portion of the book’s contents had been copied from other sources without properly providing reference to them or asking for permission. Devout Christian, he’s also a proponent of the death penalty. With a slight bunch of votes less than Mrs. Torres, he’s likely to be out of the scene. Forever.

At the very end, the leading role has been played by the Guatemalan people. With over the 70% of turnout, and a roaring civil-society organizations as Jóvenes por Guatemala, they planted the seeds of change in their own land.

Guatemalan celebrating ousted President Perez, by  Moises Castillo/AP

Guatemalan celebrating ousted President Perez, by Moises Castillo/AP

For sure, walking on this way, with or without Jimmy they can smile at the future.